Friday, November 09, 2007

Toil and Trouble

Having weaned Rachel off the nipple shield, almost three weeks ago, I recently had to go through that lovely stage of motherhood where you first start breastfeeding and it is incredibly painful while your body adjusts to being sucked on 24/7. For me this involved a lot of pain, lanolin, blisters, chaffing, oozing, and a bunch of non-enjoyable things altogether.

This is my story. I will try to be as aloof as possible, but if you think you might not want to read it from the words I wrote above, namely: lanolin, blisters, chaffing, and oozing, you might want to stop right here.

For about a week, nursing was incredibly painful. I expected it to be, even though the lactation consultants that spoke with me said it shouldn't hurt one biddy bit. I really have issues with lactation consultants because it seems that everything they tell me is contradicted by what every mother in the world experiences. That, and they never say anything useful.

In our breastfeeding class, we skipped over the "problems" you could experience while you breastfeed because we'd "learn about them as they come along." The movie the consultant wanted to show us wouldn't work, so what, she couldn't tell us about mastitis, milk blisters, and engorgement herself? Apparently not. The best part, which happens to be my least favorite part, was that she laughed at us,

"Ah, yes," she laughed heinously, "You'll experience them all yourself."

The nurses in the hospital were supportive, although not very helpful. I delivered Rachel on a Friday night. I just started to attempt breastfeeding at around 6:00--shift change. The nurse who helped deliver Rachel actually stayed late in order to help me learn how. "The weekend nurses tend to not take as good of care..." she explained.

She was really nice, but I don't blame her for going home to her family. And it's not that the nurse who took her place was horrible. She was nice enough. She got the nipple shield for us, which helped immeasurably since I was flat on one side and inverted on the other. It was the nurses that took over for her that were horrible. The weekend nurses did nothing but ignore me. My mom did more to help me learn to breastfeed than any lactation consultant ever did.

Oh, yeah...and then there was the time I called the "warmline" about weaning Rachel off the nipple shield and the nurse asked, "Did you try taking it away?"

Not that I want to be ungrateful, but...Thanks for the help, lady!

So, about a week ago, my nipples had all but gotten used to nursing. But it was still incredibly painful to nurse Rachel on the left side. Did I say "incredibly" painful? I mean "agonizingly" painful. My nipple was hard and painful. It looked like I had a giant blister and/or pimple on my nipple and it felt horrible. But I just plugged on through it. After all, mothers I talked to said to give breastfeeding a few months before it felt "natural" and wasn't painful anymore.

Well, not last night but the night before, I grabbed my breast in the "sandwich" position to help Rachel latch on. I heard a popping sound and my nipple started oozing puss all over the place.

Obviously not good. Utterly painful (no pun intended!), and yet relieving all at once. Naturally, I didn't nurse Rachel on that side and started to flip out. It was 10 o'clock at night and what was I supposed to do? It wasn't really an "emergency," so going to the emergency room would be pointless. But really, I had a feeling that oozing large quantities of puss wasn't a good thing.

The next day, which was yesterday, Karen took me to the InstaCare facility to get it checked out.

As it turns out, I had an abscess on my nipple, right where it connects to the breast. In other words, Rachel had been sucking on a boil for the last week. No wonder it was excruciatingly painful.

What the nurse thinks happened was that my nipples were all cracked and sore, and Rachel got some icky bacteria inside one of those sores from her mouth and that's what caused the boil. Brand new babies don't have much bacteria in their mouth so that isn't likely to happen if you go through the cracking and pain when the baby is new. But since Rachel was so old when I went through that, she had an ample amount of bacteria to share with me. How pleasant.

So, now that it has popped, I'm supposed to take nice, long hot showers to help finish getting the infection out. That was in my plan yesterday, but it didn't happen because someone, and I don't know who, woke up as soon as we got home from the doctor's and didn't go to sleep again until midnight. Now, who could that be?

As a side note, the nurse who examined me said that if you ever notice a pimple/blistery thing, go have it looked at sooner rather than later. The doctors can drain it for you, taking away all the pain. Heat helps to alleviate the pain as well. Also, you shouldn't nurse the baby on the side of the boil for at least 24 hours after it pops, to make sure that it is fully drained. Instead, pump your milk from that side and discard it, and try to feed the baby only from the non-infected side. And it's always good to have anything abnormal breast-wise looked at by a health care professional. Would you believe that I couldn't find anything on the internet about this? I searched long and hard while I was wigging out on Wednesday night, trying to find out what was wrong with me. Sheesh!


  1. It's stories like this that almost make me glad that Karen decided to quit nursing before she would let go of that stupid shield! However, it also makes me nervous because I'm 'looking forward' to that again in only a few months... Hopefully my Rachel will be better? I hope you're feeling better!!

  2. Wow Nancy that was gross. Really, really! When Ezra was new he sucked the skin right off both my nipples. They became scab nipples or how about just scipples. At the time I was ungrateful but now that I've read this story and realized they could have been nimples of pusimples I'm very thankful we got that over with the first few weeks. I guess a little perspective is always helpful. Hope you feel better soon.

  3. Poor Nancy. I hope things get better for you really soon.

  4. It's things like this that the doctor doesn't tell you, or nurses or consultants. You have to find out from other people. All these people need to get together and write a "what I wish I knew about having a baby before I had it" or something like that. That's what I'll need, my poor mother and mother-in-law are going to be hearing a lot from me during the first month or so I'm sure.
    I'm sorry for you! that sounds so painful!

  5. ouch! Wow, I really hope nursing goes better for you Nancy.

  6. I had nursing woes too with Matthew - it was excruciatingly painful. Especially (and excuse the details here) when he basically bit a little chunk of my nipple off. I couldn't handle the pain of it, it was too much with everything else going on, so we bought a cheap pump. It was still painful but MUCH better. By the time I was healed he was too used to a bottle. So I continued to pump and we eventually borrowed a nice pump from my sister-in-law.

    So I ended up pumping for eight months with Matthew (after that I was done dealing with pumping too). There's definitely extra hassles with pumping but it was totally worth it for me with Matthew. I'll try nursing again with our coming baby and hopefully she'll be more gentle than Matthew, but if not we will invest in a nice pump. It's worth it to me not to deal with the pain.

    So good luck with the nursing, I hope it continues to get better for you! But if not, I recommend pumping. It makes it nice because the hubby can do some night time feedings too. ;) And you can leave her more often with babysitters since you can pump ahead of time. :)

    By the way, I know what you mean with the lactation specialists - I was very frustrated too. They kept telling me it only hurts for like the first 10 seconds. They would check the latch and say it looked great...then why is it so painful the entire time he is sucking....oh it'll get better...whatever.

  7. I find pumping way more painful than nursing! Of course, we just have a little cheapola pump and I'm probably doing it all wrong :)

    Things are already going much better for us. Almost pain free now (I guess it eventually really is pain-free).

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who struggled starting out. :) It's tough! I am determined to stick with it though because I think it's worth it.

    From what I hear, the second baby is much easier. :)