Chapter 2. (Read Chapter 1 here.)
It’s now just over an hour after Reid’s birth and I’m still smarting from the after-effects of the drugs. A lactation consultant arrives to help me put Reid to the breast – but I am so loopy that I literally fall in and out of slumber as she instructs me. Since I still have no feeling from the waist down, Reid is laid on the bed alongside me and is literally pushed on to my breast.
“Does that feel alright?” the consultant asks. “Humph…” I breathe in response.
That is literally the only memory I have of the first lactation consultant I met with, and I was shocked to learn from Mike that she actually spent about an hour with me, talking and instructing me on feeding positions. So much for my quality time with an expert immediately after delivery…
“Couldn’t you guys tell I was out to lunch?” I demanded hours later, when the fog finally lifted. He raised his hands in defense and told me I actually looked quite coherent, other than falling asleep a few times while she was talking. Gee, that’s not a red flag at all (rolls eyes).
So at that point I was back at square one – I had one baby, two boobs, and absolutely no idea what to do. Nix that – I had an idea of what to do, just no plan on how to follow through without pain and frustration. I thought I’d wing it and brought Reid to my breast, only to pull him off after about 5 minutes. Ow. How can it feel like biting when he doesn’t have teeth?
New plan. Call a nurse every time I’m ready to feed to get help with the latch. So that’s what I did over the next 5-6 feeds: before I put Reid to my breast, I made sure a nurse was present to guide me into positioning, latching and holding the baby the correct way. Mike watched on and thought I was doing just great, but inside, I was reeling. Every nurse had a different technique – and the amount of conflicting advice I received was just staggering. Specifically:
1. Two nurses told me to “scoop” the baby onto the breast, while demonstrating something that looked more like a three-point turn. I can tell you this; the only thing I scoop is ice cream, thank you very much. Scooping did nothing to lesson the pain of latching and actually had me considering running out to Walmart for some formula. (To add insult to injury, I later learned that “scooping” was an outdated technique and proven to be ineffective at establishing a good latch.)
2. One nurse told me to create a “boobie burger.” I kid you not. She literally grabbed my breast and compressed it horizontally between her hands until it resembled a beef patty. Then she proceeded to let Reid take a bite. Um, FAIL.
3. Two others took one look at my left areola and cautioned it was a “problem” nipple. Slightly thicker and larger than the right (sorry if too much info), this was the very reason I quit breastfeeding with Ryder – I found it impossible to establish a firm, painless latch.
“What can I do?” I asked them helplessly.
“You may not be able to breastfeed on that breast,” they both replied. “Instead, you can try breastfeeding on the right only and pumping the milk out of the left.”
I wanted to cry.
Now it may seem like I’m slamming the nurses, but I’m not. I LOVED everything about my hospital stay; unfortunately, the reality is that you really need to see a qualified lactation consultant for the correct advice. The nursing staff, while helpful, all have their own ways of suggesting tips to make breastfeeding easier, but for a boobie novice such as myself, I really had to bring in the big guns.
I spent the rest of Saturday fumbling through a combination of techniques – the good news: Reid had a strong suck and seemed content with the amount of colostrum he was extracting. The bad news: I was still positioning him incorrectly and it hurt, hurt, HURT… especially on the left breast. I stayed up through the night and started to make excuses (the problem nipple strikes again; maybe I can supplement with formula and just give as much milk as possible; perhaps I was a fool to try this all over again). All I knew is that I wanted out.
How do women do it? How do friends, family, strangers, even those African women who breastfeed while harvesting wheat do it???
Sunday morning arrived, and with it came the promise of a new lactation consultant. The nurses informed me that “Denise” was in and would stop by my room within the hour. I sat in the corner with Reid on my lap, clearing my head of all the excuses I made the night before. I wanted this, and I wanted it bad. It had only been 48 hours, and I all but slapped myself, willing my mind to focus; to remember the guilt and frustration that I felt when I didn’t breastfeed Ryder. To start over and stick with it.
There was a knock on the door and Denise, a beautiful woman with a kind face, walked in. I didn’t know it then, but she would prove to be one of the most positive influences on my experience with breastfeeding.
To be continued…