I Closed My Eyes As I Bit Down On My Gum And Waited For The Latch

My daughter, “little L,” was born a healthy 8.8 pounds, exactly on her due date in late September, several years ago. Like most new moms, I had spent all 9 months months studying up for my new job as a parent. And all the literature out there agreed that “Breast is Best!”.   I read and believed the unfounded claims that children who were exclusively BF had higher IQs, and were healthier than formula fed babies. I read that I should NEVER, under any circumstances, feed my child formula. I decided to leave work and stay home for a solid 6  months to exclusively breastfeed. After all, the books and doctors made it sound so magical, easy, and most of all, crucial. I had no idea what I was in for.

My problems were not related to supply. My milk came in roughly 8 hours after she was born, and by the time I left the hospital, I had enough milk to feed a village. (Her growth stayed in the 90th percentile for that entire year.) My problems were depression, loneliness, and sleepless nights,  all stemming from the unbearable pain I had with breastfeeding. 

When I left the hospital, I had several blood blisters already on both nipples, and at home, my nipples became black and  blue and cracked. They were open sores that bled constantly. I went without a shirt for a month, basically becoming a shut-in because wearing a shirt was excruciating. I couldn’t even shower because of the pain. 

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Feedings became an hourly torture. (And by hourly, I mean every 30 minutes.) The book said to feed on demand, even if she wasn’t hungry because if she’s crying, I’d need to pacify her at my breast. I vividly remember being 2 weeks postpartum and getting set up to feed little L. I sat propped up on pillows on my bed, with a glass of water, some ice, and several sticks of gum. (I would cram a bunch of gum in my mouth before feeding so I’d have something to bite down on.) My husband stood across the room, dressed in his uniform, about to start his shift. I closed my eyes, bit down on my gum, and waited for the latch. When she took it, the pain was as if I had stuck my nipple in a pencil sharpener. A few seconds in, I noticed I had been drooling, and my face was wet with sweat and tears. I opened my eyes to my husband’s alarmed face, and he quickly called the doctor.

The doctor said I shouldn’t be having pain at all, and the books agreed. There should be no pain if little L was latching correctly. I watched videos and read articles about the correct latch, and became increasingly frustrated because I seemed to be doing everything correctly, but I was still suffering.

The pain went on for months and I became depressed and resentful. I felt so alone since I couldn’t get dressed and leave the house, and my husband was working long hours. It was just me, L, and my chronic pain. I became desperate enough to get dressed and go to a LLL meeting. Little L fell asleep in the car, so I brought her into the meeting, strapped in her seat. That was my first mistake. The women chastised immediately me for not putting her in a sling or baby carrier, and assumed that this was the root of my “problem”. (I hadn’t told them my problem yet, they just assumed I had low supply). When I finally got a chance to discuss my pain issue, they all agreed I was “doing it wrong,” echoing my books and my doctor.

The top 3 reasons for stopping breastfeeding are difficulty with infant feeding at the breast (52%), breastfeeding pain (44%), and milk quantity (40%). 

I left the meeting in tears. I cried all the way home. I remember having to pull over in a parking lot to feed little L, and cried harder when I realized I had forgotten my gum. So I bit down on my sleeve. I had never experienced such despair and isolation before. At little L’s 3 month check up, I decided not to mention my pain. I said everything was great and there were no problems. I was tired of being told I was doing this to myself. 

Sometime after that, at around the 3.5 month mark, I was setting myself up to feed early in the morning. Ice, water, pack of gum, pillows, and baby. I closed my eyes, bit down on my gum, and waited for the latch. I felt the latch, but miraculously, no pain. I looked down and saw little L peacefully nursing as if for the first time. It was like a pain switch was flipped off and suddenly, I was better. I watched her nurse with my eyes wide open and thought it was the most amazing, beautiful thing I had ever witnessed. 

I went on to exclusively breastfeed little L for 6 months. And continued to breastfeed until a week before her 2nd birthday. It became as natural and painless as breathing. 
I wish I had known back then that it was okay to allow myself to heal by using nipple shields or bottles. Turns out, formula would have been perfectly fine too! I did things very differently with my second. I was working full time, so I invested in a good pump. I also stocked up on formula, pacifiers, and nipple shields. Since he was my second, the pain was less intense, and ended quickly because I allowed myself to heal by bottle-feeding. And to my surprise, I still produced enough milk to feed a village of thirsty children!  He is 5 now, and just as happy, smart, and healthy as little L. I hope my story of the struggles and success of breastfeeding will help a new mom. I am so happy parents have the Fed Is Best Foundation for support. 
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HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST?

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
  3. Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
  4. Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
  7. Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
  8. Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child.  Your messages of support keep us all going.
  9. Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
  10. If you need support, we have a private support group– Join

We believe all babies deserve to be protected from hunger and thirst every single day of their life and we believe that education on Safe Infant Feeding should be free. If you would like to make a donation to support the Fed is Best Foundation’s mission to teach every parent Safe Infant Feeding, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation to our organization.

Donate to Fed is Best

Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!

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