From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 4, July-August 2007, pp. 157-158
Breastfeeding is definitely something that did not come naturally to me. Nursing my daughter seemed like a lost cause. I had inverted nipples and she never latched on properly. By my six-week postpartum check up, she was completely on formula. Every trick in the book could not get my child to the breast. My body didn't seem to like the pump at all, and I felt like a failure as a mother for not being able to provide my child with the most basic of needs -- sustenance. When I found out that I was pregnant with my second child a mere 14 months later, I was determined to do whatever it took to nurse my baby longer than I was able to nurse my daughter.
I honestly can't remember if I attended La Leche League meetings during my second pregnancy. I know I went during my first, but this second pregnancy is all a blur in my "mommy memory" now. What I do remember is that at 40 weeks and six days pregnant, after a day of inconsistent contractions, my labor was induced. Three-and-a-half hours later, my son, Gabriel, was born without the aid of pain medications.
He was beautiful and alert and found his way to the breast within his first hour of life. Nervous that he wouldn't latch on, I made sure to have two nurses and the hospital's lactation consultant next to me for that first nursing attempt. Much to my surprise, he latched on like he had been doing it for years! A little under two days later, my milk came in and all was going as I imagined breastfeeding should. Then we were released from the hospital.
It was the middle of December and a lot of people were sick. I was no different. While in the hospital, the doctor prescribed amoxicillin for me for a respiratory infection. About a week later, I started to notice some pain when Gabriel would nurse. The pain increased and I started to dread nursing. I would put it off as long as possible to avoid the pain. It wasn't until almost a week after that, two weeks into my son's life, that I finally decided to call one of my local LLL Leaders. Less than two days later, Gabriel and I were on medication for thrush. Allison, one of my Leaders, assured me that we were latching on properly and gave me the confidence to work through the pain and allow the medication to work. Within a week the pain was gone and everything was smooth sailing again.
The next few months were a fabulous blend of adjusting to parenting two children and getting comfortable nursing anywhere when my son was hungry. I passed the six-week mark and then some. We learned how to nurse in all kinds of positions, but my favorite was lying down. Once we mastered that art, we began co-sleeping. I was finally able to rest a little! It was fabulous, as I just had to lie there and he could root and latch on whenever he had that rumbling in his tummy. At about the five-month mark, we hit another stumbling block.
One morning I woke up with pain in my left breast. At first I thought that maybe it was thrush again, but it was a different kind of pain. The lower part of my breast felt hard and warm to the touch. It didn't take long for the warm feeling to turn to hot and the fever to kick in. Not knowing what was going on, I once again turned to my local LLL Leaders. Mastitis! With the information given to me by my Leader, along with what I read online, I decided to call my doctor. He prescribed medication, but I chose to wait it out for a day or so to see if it would clear up on its own using the treatment and comfort recommendations. Fortunately, our family lives nearby and I think every one of them helped with our daughter over the next few days. Gabriel and I were in bed most of that time -- nursing constantly and just resting. The fever subsided, as did the pain, but the tissue in my breast remained hard for another few weeks before clearing up. After that, everything returned to normal again.
With the exception of the occasional bottle, Gabriel didn't have any other food until after six months. We nursed everywhere we went: at the mall, on vacation, and even at amusement parks. Breastfeeding became especially important and handy when our town was flooded and left without safe drinking water for a few weeks. Even as he gets older and nursing becomes less frequent, we still look forward to those times when it is just us, connecting the way only a mother and child can. It is nice to know that even though he has been outside of my womb for almost 14 months, I can still provide him with the perfect combination of nutrition and nurturing.
Editor's Note: When symptoms of mastitis do not clear up with recommended care, or if they worsen within 24 hours, please consult with your health care provider. La League Leaders do not diagnose medical conditions such as mastitis, and will refer mothers to their doctor or other health care provider as needed. Whether you are coping with a breast infection or a blocked milk duct, the initial care is similar. Nurse frequently, rest, and apply heat to the tender area.