Three weeks into her breastfeeding journey we had the privilege of meeting this sweet momma and her precious little boy. Our first contact was November 15, 2011. She was our fifth client but our first real challenging case. Over the phone, she described that she was having some pain and nipple damage with latch and decided it was time to get help as she suspected what she was experiencing was not normal. This was her third baby to breastfeed yet the first time to experience this situation.
Baby was ready to eat soon after we arrived, so we had her proceed with breastfeeding in her normal fashion. As she readied herself and the baby for latch, she was relaxed and calm. We then got our first look and could hardly believe what we saw. To date, we have yet to encounter nipple damage as severe as hers! There were actual craters in the center of each nipple. Leah and I could not believe she had made it this far.
Our assessment revealed that the baby had
a very shallow latch. His mouth would stay open no longer than a millisecond to achieve latch, and once he did latch, his lips stayed pursed on the breast. Our impression was that his jaw and mouth were hypertonic (increased muscle tone). At rest, he kept his lips tight, and we could not even properly assess for tongue-tie (which we suspected right away because of the nature of mom's damage) because his mouth was so tight!
Over the course of the next five or six weeks
we worked with Linda in person, via email and over the phone to assist her in getting to a comfortable and enjoyable place with breastfeeding. Using a combination of breast rest, APNO, pumping, finger feeding, bottle feeding, chiropractic, time, and a lot of patience and determination, we were thrilled to hear from her late December that healing was complete and breastfeeding was finally pain-free!
Sweet, little Sam is now six months old. He never had one drop of formula...how did she do it? Keep reading for his mom's advice:
1. Let it go: I had a hard time accepting that my house wasn’t always tidy, the laundry and dishes piled up, and gathering my hair into a ponytail was as close to “styling” as I could manage. It took me a while to figure out that it is OK to not be able to accomplish everything I could pre-baby. None of those tasks are as important as being able to meet the basic needs of my family and myself.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Asking for help doesn’t come easy for me but I learned to not be shy about telling others what needed to be done. My husband was great at taking over the jobs he could do while I concentrated on my needs and the needs of the baby – but I needed to be sure to ask! Something as simple as asking someone to look after the baby (and my 2yo and 4yo!) so I could take a shower or just have a few minutes to myself to eat a big bowl of ice cream in peace made all the difference in my outlook on life.
3. Trust your instincts: I think everyone who knew I just had a baby had an opinion on how I should be feeding the baby. I had to believe in myself and my ability to know what will work for me versus what doesn’t feel right for my family. My grandmother probably meant well when she told me that babies do just fine on evaporated milk, but after thanking her for her concern, I forgot she ever mentioned it. I also had to trust my instincts enough to know that I needed outside help. I figured that since this was my third, I should have known what to do on my own when he had problems – I didn’t. My only regret was not getting outside help sooner. I could have saved myself some addition pain.
4. Find a cheerleader: Having immediate family members and lactation consultants to tell me that I was doing a good job was priceless. Affirmations are important – I needed to be reminded that I am strong and I could do it and that the sacrifices I was making were for the new little person I just brought into the world.
5. Set short term goals: Even though it was baby number three for me, I was feeling overwhelmed about surviving the whole newborn period. So I aimed to just make it through the week, the day, the next feeding session, or past whatever other hurdles were getting me down. Once that was behind me, I would give myself a pat on the back, consider it an accomplishment and set a new goal.
6. Believe that does get easier: It can be so hard to see past the present, but the first few weeks really are the most difficult. I knew that if I could just make it past the hump, things would start to get better. I had to cling to the knowledge that one day soon I would feel human again. Six months down the road, I am grateful I stuck it out.
What most helped you get to where you are in your breastfeeding journey?