The moment B was born he was placed on my chest — his skin to my skin. He was not rinsed off or wrapped up. He was given to me just as he was. It was exactly what I wanted.
I held him close while he wailed. After a little bit, C cut his umbilical cord and the baby nurse came in. She showed B how to latch on and gave me some guidance on how to hold him while nursing.
It was difficult.
A few hours later when we were in our room, after another nursing session, it downright HURT. Nursing made me cry. The next morning my breasts were bruised.
I did not recall any of this hurting business as material from the three-hour breastfeeding course C and I took before we had B.
On day two the hospital sent in a lactation consultant at my request. I’ll call her Janice to protect her identity because I was not her biggest fan. The first time Janice came to my room I was in the shower and C was holding a sleeping B. She told C to tell me that my “days of leisurely showers are over” and that she’d be back.
When she returned, Janice shoved my breasts around and pretty much jammed B’s mouth onto my nipples. He was crying. I was crying. Chris was helplessly watching.
I left the hospital sore, but satisfied that B was doing well and had a proper latch. He’d only lost 2.3% of his body weight during our stay and the normal is anywhere between five and ten percent. I felt confident that I knew what I was doing.
Then my milk “came in.” I suffered nearly immediate engorgement.
Holy cow. It was awful.
C and I were panicked that we may have to go to the emergency room because the pain I was experiencing seemed so severe — heightened by nerves and hormones. I began frantically writing Facebook messages and emails and texts to nursing friends for advice and to see what on earth this was all about. The hospital did not warn me about engorgement and what to do to help myself when my milk came in.
I looked all over the internet for guidance. Hot compresses before feedings, ice packs after. Make sure the baby keeps nursing. What if the baby can’t latch on because it’s too hard for him because there is so much milk? Just keep trying. Pump if you need to, but don’t pump too much otherwise you’ll stimulate over-production. How much is too much when it comes to pumping?
I pumped. I iced and warmed. I put a cabbage leaves in my bra. The engorgement went away within 40 hours, but the pain didn’t stop for a few weeks and sometimes I cried while nursing, especially at night.
Then one day, at about two weeks, we turned a corner. Things became easier and calmer. B and I fell into a routine. He knew his favorite position and I understood how it was supposed to feel–not exactly comfortable, but definitely not painful.
Janice, for all her short comings as a very aggressive lactation consultant, did give me one piece of good advice I’m glad I took. ”Get a My Brest Friend.” It’s a nursing pillow with lumbar support that clips around your torso. It’s like a wearable shelf for your nursing baby. B loves it. I love it too. It’s hilarious looking.
Overall, at the beginning of week four, I feel much better and am enjoying our quiet time nursing every few hours. It is my favorite time of day (and night). It is intimate and loving and I have a sense of incredible purpose knowing I’m giving B the very best of me.