Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Breastfeeding Diaries: Chewing While Nursing

I was so excited after my initial post about the breastfeeding diaries to see that some other lovely ladies wanted to share their stories and experiences. I've learned a lot from other Mamas, especially at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey. Today's post comes from Jess from Sparkles and Crafts, Jess is one of the inspirations for this series, so I'm excited that she wanted to share her experience.

Hi! I’m Jess from Sparkles and Crafts and I’m so thrilled to be here sharing my story.

My son is now ten weeks old and I can very proudly say he has never had a drop of formula...but that doesn't mean breastfeeding has been easy.

In my early nursing days, I was in excruciating pain. I hoped the would just go away on it’s own since I had always heard, “If your latch is correct, breastfeeding should not hurt.” and from what I could tell, my son’s latch was great!

He was born weighing 8lb 9oz and weighed only 7lb 12oz when he went for his first visit to the pediatrician two days later. In the first few days he didn't latch well and wasn't very interested in nursing, so I had help to learn the latch and encourage him to eat.

Thankfully, our pediatrician is an advocate for breastfeeding and shared motivating words to keep at it, neither one of us wanted him on formula at all.

By the time my son Billy was two weeks old I was battling mastitis for a second time and no longer had any original skin left on my nipples. I didn't understand why it was happening, I swore his latch was right! Why did it hurt so badly?? Why was I bleeding, feverish and brought to tears every time my son nursed?

I sought professional help with a lactation consultant at the hospital to get to the bottom of these breastfeeding woes. I had a personal goal to deliver my son naturally with no drugs and since I wasn’t able to, I was committed to breastfeeding. I would not be defeated and give him formula because it was easier.

Once I showed the damage to Jill, my lactation consultant, she cringed and explained this is the result of a chewing infant. My son wasn't effectively nursing when he reached the breast, he was chewing to get the milk to flow. No wonder it hurt so badly!

Jill checked Billy’s latch and confirmed that he was definitely lazy and only took in the smallest part possible into his mouth. I was shivering, with tears were running down my cheeks from pain and she immediately “fish hooked” him to remove him from the breast.

From there, Jill, Billy and I spent ninety minutes practicing a proper latch. Feeling what a correct latch is after weeks of tears and pain is like wearing glasses for the first time after struggling to see. FINALLY! Relief!!

I learned how to “fish hook” Billy when he began chewing, which happens if he is tired or doesn’t have enough of the breast in his mouth. Every time he chewed, he was removed and the feeding was over until he was able to focus and effectively nurse again.

Over the next few days I visited Jill several more times to keep practicing that proper latch, fish hook to remove Billy when he chewed, then re-latch him.

I joined the breastfeeding support group at the hospital for additional support in this breastfeeding journey. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and knew it would only get easier from here.

More than a handful of people (including lactation consultants running the BF support group) told me that “normal” moms would have given up from the excruciating pain I experienced. I am so happy I stuck with it because it has now been ten weeks and Billy weighed in at 12lb 10oz last week.

Maybe it is my stubborn attitude or my confident personality, but I know now I can do it for the long haul. I am still healing from the extensive damage that resulted from those first two weeks of lazy nursing and chewing but I am no longer brought to tears when Billy latches. I don’t have anxiety every time I know it is time to feed him and thanks to a schedule, I always know when he will need to eat next.

As far as healing goes, I found non-stick bandage pads with adhesive tabs with some coconut oil worked the best for me. It keeps my clothes from rubbing on the sores and provides a lot of relief!

My goal is to breastfeed Billy for at least one year. I know when he gets teeth it will be a new adventure again because he will still chew from time to time if he gets sleepy. I use the same methods now as I did when he was a tiny infant; fish hook and re-latch him when he is ready to focus.

I absolutely love the bond Billy and I have through breastfeeding and seeing his weight exceed the 50th percentile and approach the 75th makes my heart swell with pride. I stuck with it and Billy is proof of the success!! 

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