The Breastfeeding Diaries: Jess from The Newly

October 30, 2013

Hi, sweet readers! I'm Jessica and I blog over at The Newly. I started reading Julie's blog several months ago, and was immediately intrigued by the stories shared through her Breastfeeding Diaries series. As a new mom, who was currently navigating the somewhat murky waters of breastfeeding, I found the stories and information so relevant and helpful. I couldn't wait to be a part of the series to share what I've learned so far...

I became a Mother on May 16, 2013. 

Caleb Monroe was born at 3:18 pm that day. It was a picture-perfect delivery with absolutely no complications, resulting in a beautiful, healthy baby boy. My son was laid on my chest immediately, and we enjoyed skin-to-skin cuddling for well over an hour together. Within just a couple of hours after his birth, he was latching on and nursing. From what I could tell, all was well. I was content and happy. Proud of us and our accomplishment. I was nursing my son. My baby was being nourished. I was a mom. It was a great feeling.

And then we went home.

A few days into our first week at home, nursing Caleb around the clock, my nipples became raw, red and started to crack. I would rub lanolin over them between feeding sessions, but as soon as they started to look like they were softening up and healing again, it would be time to nurse. And the cracks would burst open again. The pain was almost unbearable. It felt like tiny knives were tearing through my sensitive skin. I would hold my son to my breast in agony, and cry silently as I fed him. I could feel my body tensing up when the time came for him to eat. And Caleb could feel it too. I could tell that the torture I was going through was starting to affect him. Instead of being able to cuddle my son close during nursing sessions, and kiss on his soft head, and snuggle his tiny body to me, all I wanted to do was rip my searing nipple from his sweet mouth and run away with my soothies pads and lanolin. I wanted to lick my wounds and hide until all was well. 

But I couldn't. I had a little man. And he needed me.

During this time, I also experienced severe emotional withdrawals. Though I don't think I could say that I experienced true post-partum depression, I definitely had the 'baby blues,' and nursing didn't help. In fact, in the beginning, nursing made the baby blues worse for me. My body confused me - my breasts were huge and leaked milk, no matter what I did. I felt unkempt. I went from being a full-time, perfectly groomed employee with a busy schedule, to being a full-time mom who could barely get her teeth brushed before noon. Caleb was a healthy eater, and ate every 2 hours or less, so I felt like I had no time in between feedings to get anything done. I felt chained to my home. I was scared to leave the house because I wasn't prepared to try to nurse in public. As a new mom, I also felt very isolated and alone. My husband went back to work after just three days, leaving me at home alone with our newborn. He was a great support system, and my biggest breastfeeding advocate (still is), but I didn't have any women around me to lean on. None of my friends have had children yet, so none of them were resources that I could go to for help. My mom never got an opportunity to breastfeed my sister or me, so her ability to help me was very limited. She saw it as a huge sacrifice and big inconvenience for me. And in some ways, it was. My body was no longer mine. My breasts were definitely no longer mine. My life was no longer my own. The weight of the responsibility of becoming a mother crushed me. I felt unprepared, adrift, and scared.

Everything I read told me that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. That if we were doing it correctly, it should be pain-free. And yet, whenever Caleb latched, I felt like I was dying from the pain. My lactation consultant told me one thing. Our doctor told me another. I was scared to ask too many questions out of fear that I would look dumb. I felt like I should have known these things before having a baby. I was sure that it was my fault that the breastfeeding wasn't going according to plan. One day, while perusing new mom forums on BabyCenter, I stumbled across a reference to a nipple shield. I remembered seeing one in the breastfeeding class B and I had taken before Caleb's birth. I called the lactation consultant to ask about it. And was told that it wasn't a good option because it could cause Caleb to resist the nipple. The lactation consultant was kind and informative, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that she was subtly trying to convey the message: "You're doing something wrong." So, feeling completely ashamed for even asking about it in the first place, I put the nipple shield out of my mind. And continued to keep trying to feed my son without any assistance. I tried different holds, different positions, new latching techniques, breast massages, hot showers...nothing worked, and the pain continued.

One day, about a week and a half into this experience, things came to a head. I knew something had to change or I was going to have to stop breastfeeding altogether. My nipples weren't healing. Caleb's suction was just too strong and my body couldn't take it. The agony was unbearable. As a last-ditch effort, I asked my husband to go out and purchase a nipple shield. And what a difference a thin piece of silicone has made. All the difference in the world, in fact. With the shield, I could still feel the pressure of Caleb's sucking, but the friction from his tongue and tiny little mouth working was deflected from my sensitive skin. The shield encouraged the milk to flow more freely, which meant that Caleb didn't have to work quite as hard (and I didn't get as beat up in the process!)

Caleb is almost 6 months old now, and we are still exclusively breastfeeding. With a nipple shield. 

Yes, we still use the shield. Every. Single. Time. Being able to breastfeed successfully with the nipple shield gave me the confidence I needed to keep trying. It worked for us, so we've kept at it. Our initial breastfeeding goal was 6 months. However, as that goal is quickly approaching and we are still going strong, I think we are going to try to go to at least a year now. I went back to work when Caleb was about 2 months old, and I now have to pump daily to feed him and keep up my supply while he is at daycare. I breastfeed in the mornings, in the evenings, and all day on the weekends. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. The time I spend breastfeeding my son each day is some of the sweetest time we share.

Fellow mamas out there who want to breastfeed: Don't give up. Be patient. Listen to your body. Listen to your baby. And do what's best for you both. Don't be afraid to ask for help. And always trust your mama intuition. Against the advice of lactation consultant, we started using the nipple shield, and it's been the best thing for us. My son is happy, healthy and growing. Breastfeeding is no longer painful for me. It no longer feels like a big sacrifice or inconvenience. It's the best thing for my son. And that's all that matters.

Such beautiful advice from one of my favorite blog friends! I promise you will love Jess and her blog The Newly! And if you would like to share your story please email me at thegirlintheredshoes @ gmail. Be sure to catch up with the rest of the Breastfeeding Diaries series at the top of my navigation bar. girl Tamara from The Workout Mama has an amazing online bootcamp that I am participating in during the month of November! I'm excited to work my booty off! If you want to join us click here to register. 

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14 Responses to “The Breastfeeding Diaries: Jess from The Newly”

  1. Love you Jess! So proud of you and thank you for sharing.

  2. Jessica thank you for sharing your story with us! The first days and then weeks after coming home with a new baby are the hardest, and then when you add in the pain of cracking, sore nipples you increase that stress so much.

    I wish you had had an experienced friend or someone to be there with you at that is the biggest help to have someone who has been there and done that to tell you it will be okay -- and that they know how you're feeling. I had that in my sister-in-law Kelly and I am forever grateful for her support.

  3. Ahhh! So great to see you share your story on Julie's blog! Kudos to you for going so long and being so patient and persistent! That little angel boy is definitely worth it, I'm sure! :)

  4. Keep on rockin' it Mama! You are doing great!

  5. I HATE when people say if you're doing it right it shouldn't hurt. Um. Ok. Except for the fact that someone is constantly sucking on your boob. It's going to get raw and it's going to hurt somewhat. Sure, it probably shouldn't be excruciating pain. But I really feel like that statement kind of sets moms up for failure.

    Thanks for sharing your story! I'm so glad that you were able to work through the difficulties and that you found what works for you!

  6. Sometimes you have to trust your mommy instinct when you know something is wrong. Thank goodness you found relief with the nipple shield. I can't imagine how hard it must have been in the beginning! Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Great Post! More new momma's should hear real stories like this one! I had the same experience with the lactation consultant when I called for the same reason. It was terrible. I felt like the worst momma in the world, we did the whole nipple shield eventually too, once the pain was too unbearable. It helped SO much, I recommend it to all of my new momma friends now. I love that you are still able to breastfeed exclusively! When I went back to work, my milk production continued to decrease until I was unable to produce any more milk at six months. I was devastated. Keep going as long as you are able to, I miss those special little bonding moments. They grow so fast!

  8. I also used a nipple shield to the day I stopped nursing (almost 6 months). It's kind of a pain to have to have it with you all the time and keep it clean, but you have to do what works!
    Your little man has the prettiest blue eyes! :)

  9. This was pretty much my experience exactly.

    Crying(me) during feedings, tensing and crying(me) when it was getting close to feeding, unbearable horrible awful pain when she would first latch on. Just excruciating.

    My mom told me to give it two weeks. Just two weeks and I would turn a corner. And it was true. It still hurt like heck, but it started to still hurt for a good 6 weeks, but after that it was smooth sailing and we successfully nursed for 13 months.

    Thank you for sharing your story!!

  10. we used a shield too and it was the only way we could breastfeed at all! What works for you is what's right, bottom line!

  11. Jess, Thanks for sharing your story.

    Julie, Thank you so much for the mention!

  12. Love that you shared your story, Jess! While I didn't end up using a shield, it was SO painful for me the first two weeks and I kept feeling like I was doing it wrong because the LC's say that it shouldn't hurt if it's done right. We need to have other women to be able to talk about this with so that we feel normal and not isolated. I am so glad that you are still breastfeeding now and know you will make it to your next goal! xo

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story Jess! My little guy 4 months old I was lucky to have an easy start to breastfeeding but the last month has been really hard with supply issues. No one ever tells you just how hard breastfeeding is physically and emotionally!

  14. Thank you Jess for sharing your nice story about Breast feeding. Really i like it


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