The first few days of Lawson's life were spent nestled under the bed covers in just a nappy, blissfully content, against my bare toasty chest. One positive of being cooped up in hospital after a surgical birth is that you have no other place to be than resting and bonding with your baby. I knew all too well that mothers of babies born via Caesarean statistically have a harder time bonding with their little ones and have lower success rates with breastfeeding. So with that in mind, I did what I knew would help prevent me from adding to that very statistic; I kept my son close, against my skin, so he knew where ‘home’ was; where his senses were met with all things of his mama; and I nursed him at my breast frequently (and I mean frequently!). Because of this, my breastfeeding was off to a great start in those first few days. I had loads of colostrum, my milk came in easily on the night of day two and my little man was attaching and feeding very well. I had no damage to my nipples in those early days despite expecting to (because of my anatomy and skin type) and went home from hospital feeling hopeful it would stay that way.
When Lawson was four days old I went to my girlfriends wedding. Many of my family and friends thought I was crackers attending a wedding the day after being discharged from hospital, but this was a very dear friend of mines nuptials and I simply wasn’t going to miss it. The wedding itself was just beautiful and a very unforgettable occasion; a country wedding on a stunning property, celebrated under two adjoined tipis, for a gorgeous couple who were very much in love. This all made the enormity of getting my 96 hours post Caesar self there all the more worthwhile. On the night, my Prince did all the hard yards in wrangling the pram and our two tonne nappy bag (since my tummy incision meant I couldn’t lift a great deal), so all I had to do was cuddle and feed our newborn son throughout the evening. When we got home at 11pm that night my boobs ached…badly, so I took my dress and bra off to reveal my best ever Pammy Anderson impersonation!! Considering I’ve wanted knockers my WHOLE life, you would think this would have been grounds for celebration, but my mammaries were ragingly hot and throbbing and I knew action was needed; and relishing my air bags wasn’t it (although I do recall a quick smirk to my reflection in the mirror). I tried a feed but the skin on my norks was tort and shiny, so when Lawson eagerly tried to attach to my nipple (his head bobbing around for dear life), his little mouth just slide off my breast like he was trying desperately to suck on a drum. We made it through a feed but what I didn’t realise at the time, was that very night was when my dreadful nipple damage first began.
Several days later and my cans had still remained very full and engorged. I persisted with tricks of the trade to help with attachment including warm compresses, hand expressing, and massage, all to make the nipple area softer and more pliable so my little pumpkin could feed, but attachment became problematic. I had so, so, so, so much milk, that Lawson was inundated with my supply each time he fed. He would slurp and slosh his way through that first let down, gulping milk as fast as he could, while it flooded out the corners of his mouth. I frequently squirted that liquid gold in his face, into his eyes, up his nose, well absolutely everywhere! Two small cracks formed on my right side when Little Duke was 14 days old, and breastfeeding went from what started out as a pleasurable, easy experience to a toe curling, teeth clenching, Lamaze breathing event. I applied Lansinoh cream (pure Lanolin) liberally post feed and paraded around our pad topless, but no healing to the area occurred and instead those damn cracks deepened. I contacted our brilliant Lactation Consultant, TheBoobWhisperer and developed a feeding plan over the phone to try for a few days. I didn’t want to introduce a bottle in those important first six weeks, (when I knew it could negatively interfere with Lawson learning the correct technique at the breast) but I was at a point where I dreaded each feed with a passion. I continued to worked tirelessly on my technique and made Prince Charming be physically and emotionally present for each feed so I could lock eyes with him and huff and puff my way through it – may sound odd, but it really helped. In supporting the healing process, I ordered some aloe vera impregnated breast pads from my local pharmacy and had Holly track down some Calendula nipple cream from her supplier. I kept hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel, but to my devastation the cracks worsened, becoming deep fissures. My nipples were red raw and the painful fissures seeped haemoserous fluid constantly, and suddenly nothing of my tatas resembled Pammy’s…
By week three of breastfeeding I contacted TheBoobWhisperer again since my attachment woes had moved out of my knowledge base, and I needed an expert. She came over and did a two hour home consultation. I don’t exactly remember the ins and outs of the consult (since I was too sleep deprived!) but what it felt like was TheBoobWhisperer was my Breastfeeding Fairy Godmother who sprinkled her magic fairy dust and made everything better. Since my attachment clearly was not right, TheBoobWhisperer’s magic fairy dust included teaching me a technique called Baby-Led Attachment (BLA), something I had heard of but didn’t know much about. BLA is the term used to describe the process of a baby seeking out his mother’s breast in the most natural and instinctive way. It includes skin-to-skin contact, and watching your baby’s cues as they show readiness to feed, search for the breast and self-attach. When learning, it is best done in a semi reclined position with your baby facing you, sitting upright straddling your thigh, like a little bear. Interestingly, I had only developed damage to my right side, giving weight to TheBoobWhisperer’s theory that Lawson may have had soreness in his neck when he turned to feed that side (likely from his position inutero). She thought the upright position of BLA would solve this problem (plus a trip to our brilliant Paediatric Osteo played a big part here).
Two days later and while I had some successful feeds doing BLA, the ongoing pain from my fissures wasn’t improving. I was so stuck what to do, since I still wasn’t willing to give Lawson expressed milk via a bottle, but each and every feed was pure agony and it was wearing me down. We had some baby photos taken of Lawson during this time and he needed a feed during the shoot. While I breastfed, our photographer Leanne casually snapped away trying to capture a beautiful moment between mother and son. On the outside I did my best to look serene and besotted with my bundle of joy, but on the inside I housed my torture filled reaction to what felt like having a Piranha locked onto my nipple. When the shoot was over I called TheBoobWhisperer in a blubbering mess, feeling quite sure I had reached my limit. She talked me down and went over our options here on. TheBoobWhisperer was concerned I may have had a bacterial staph infection in the deep crevices of my fissures, preventing them from healing, and an antibiotic ointment was her suggested line of treatment. I loathed the idea of Lawson indirectly getting antibiotics, knowing it would do his natural gut flora nothing but harm. I pleaded there must be another way. Through our phone consult TheBoobWhisperer determined I wasn’t doing the BLA quite right, incorrectly letting Little Duke do too much of the attachment himself. TheBoobWhisperer gave me a few more pointers to work on (since she thought the pain did sound more like an attachment issue after all, and not a bacterial one), and our chat gave me the confidence to keep trying, because success may have been just around the corner.
On April 26th, something happened. Not sure what, but Lawson all the sudden started to open his mouth wider and together we finally coordinated BLA. A few days passed and although the fissures where not healed, there was a marked improvement in the pain during feeding and, well, I guess we finally found our breastfeeding mojo!! A mix of elation and relief followed, when I remember spending a few days ecstatic to have made it to this point. A week passed and I was fairly confident with my feeding by then, even proudly showing off my new found skill at places like the hairdresser and Bunnings. Breastfeeding returned to being the precious bonding experience it had started out as, and I was immensely happy.
By week six my confidence in my ability to successfully breastfeed had returned. “I’ll be absolutely fine now” I thought to myself. Wrong. One night that week, when Lawson was cluster feeding during witching hour, I felt some pain on my left side, on the outer aspect of my breast. As the tingling sensation of my let-down took place, a stabbing feeling in that localised area took over and I immediately knew this equalled bad; it was a blocked duct. I suspected the culprit was a cheap and poorly designed feeding top I had become frustrated by earlier that day, where the window to access my breast was very small and off centre, so I had slung the whole neckline under my boob for a feed. The top must have dug in on that left axillary side, blocking the flow of my milk and clogging the duct, and jeepers it was sore. I spent the night using heat and massage to try unblocking the duct, but by morning the lump had doubled in size; the surrounding wedge of breast tissue was hot and red in appearance; and by then it was fiercely painful. For the next few days I did lots of massage, applied heat and feed in all sorts of wacky positions (including hanging upside down)to try and drain the duct fully. The feeds at this time were mind-blowingly painful as the milk hit the blocked duct from behind, sending shooting pain all through my left bazooka. After a week of this, coupled with a Physio appointment for some ultrasound/vibration treatment, thankfully the duct finally began flowing freely again. Fortunately this blocked duct was the last hurdle I had to overcome in establishing breastfeeding and from there on, things have been smooth sailing for my darling Lawson and I.
The experts will tell you, it takes four to six weeks to establish breastfeeding. When you are recovering from giving birth, adjusting to motherhood while caring for a newborn, and are sleep deprived like there’s no tomorrow, committing to this time frame (especially if it’s filled with hurdles), is a colossal undertaking. However, this is the all-important time when it comes to mastering breastfeeding. If you make it to the golden 6 week mark post birth, chances are, you and your baby have got the hang of it and from here on it’s going to be super easy! For some women, conquering breastfeeding is stress-free and effortless, for others it is filled with challenges. In the end, I personally found it such a huge sense of achievement, to have gone through some really rough days and made it through the other side. I felt victorious, triumphant, even like some sort of champion, to have gone through the torrential thunderstorm, and made it to the glorious rainbow on the other side. I stuck at it for an abundance of reasons, but above all, I did it for my little pot of honey – my gorgeous baby boy.
Special thanks to the website 138 slang words for breasts, who made this blog possible!