I was forewarned that breastfeeding is hard and not to get my hopes set on it.. I was naive, believing breastfeeding would be easy and natural for me and my baby. What I had no way to anticipate was how breastfeeding nearly ended my relationship.
As a first-time mother I’d done lots of research and knew the unquestionable benefits to breastfeeding, breast is best after all… so I was determined to make it work yet also shrugged other’s off, telling them I wouldn’t be stressed out if I had to use formula. Boy, was I wrong.
A Baby is Born
When Jocelyn Lee was born she latched instantly, I remember the two nurses in the room oohing at how we were naturals. I was high on all the adrenaline and felt so proud that my baby and I had such a bond already. However, even before I left the hospital the ease with which we breastfed that first time began to disappear. My nipples were red and bleeding. Still I didn’t bring it up to the nurses. They saw how often she fed based on the log they had us keep, and constantly made a fuss on how good we were doing. The second morning after she was born my milk came in. I asked a very approachable nurse what to do for my cracking nipples, she asked for a look at them and suggested I immediately get some Lanolin on them, but failed to suggest that the damage she was seeing may be to a poor latch.
Fast forward, to being home on our own with the baby and Isaac has just gone back to work. I was experiencing a crushing case of baby blues (I’ll write a post on that later). I spent all day alone with Jo because Isaac worked from 4pm-2am and then slept until 1pm and then would go to the gym. I had never before taken care of a baby and I was so overwhelmed.
Mastitis & More
I was reeling from the changes in my life and to top it off…. I got mastitis. I still remember the morning, waking up feeling freezing. I didn’t think much of it at first, just threw on a pair of sweatpants and a covered myself with a blanket in our recliner. Now mind you it was the middle of July, and we don’t have central air conditioning. By lunchtime I felt like I was dying (ok exaggeration here but seriously mastitis feels just like the flu). I was so achey and cold, had a very distinct pounding headache, and when I finally put 2-and-2 together and took my temperature it was 102. I called my doctor and got an order put in for an antibiotic (post later on how that antibiotic made breastfeeding even harder!)
It would get worse from there though, I developed a blocked plug in the breast with mastitis. I had a pretty good milk supply so this was excruciating. I remember having Isaac watch the baby 2-3 times a day so I could go stand in the shower for 30 minutes at a time, with the water scalding, to try to rub out the plug. Eventually it did come lose, I think it took me feeding her by hanging my breast over her and letting her eat to allow gravity to help work the plug out.
On top of the mastitis my baby was constantly screaming. I didn’t know at the time that she wasn’t latching right and therefore was not getting enough milk. So after eating for 20 minutes and coming off the boob, she’d start crying 30 minutes later. When she would start crying I was so overwhelmed. Isaac would ask “Could she be hungry?” and I’d tell him no way I just fed her. And no way did I want that mouth back on my pained nipples. I generously applied Lanolin and Motherlove Nipple Cream to my nipples, and let them air dry. I warrant those two products with my continuation of breastfeeding through all the pain and trouble I was experiencing. I spent much of the first month stuck at home walking around topless letting my breasts dry, but it made an amazing difference. Turns out I now believe she was hungry, when I got her latch fixed (just me and her working every feed at it) she started getting significantly more milk and then she started screaming less and sleeping more. That helped me regain some sanity, because up until then I hadn’t slept for more than 3 hours at a time, usually netting 6 hours a night.
Relationship Close Call
Now that the stage is set and you have an idea of the difficulty I was having breastfeeding, let me tell you how it almost ended my relationship. Isaac and I argued incessantly, almost every time we spoke to each other. I was angry at him for being so uninvolved, here I was completely delirious with hardly the wherewithal to remember to eat and there he was with energy to go to the gym.
I was feeling very alone at this time, very resentful that his life essentially continued on unaltered, that he didn’t give anything up. While I gave up my job, my sleep, my body, and was constantly in pain from breastfeeding. Finally it bubbled over and I told him he was basically an absent parent and a bad dad. That was a mistake on my part and not very tactful and it really pushed him away. Feelings were hurt all around and he started going out and staying out drinking until 4-5am. This behavior was hurtful and not productive to fixing our problems, but he burnt out on it fairly quickly, when he began missing his family.
It took us having a break of about a month and nearly giving up before we worked it out. We both decided that our love was more important than our problems, so our desire to stay a single family unit for Jo triumphed. I attribute breastfeeding to being the biggest stressor for this near permanent break-up. Ontop of the struggles I was having being a first time mother, I refused to give up breastfeeding. I can look back now and say I’m glad I stuck it out. Breastfeeding will likely be full or trials and tribulations and it is up to your and your family to decide what is best. I whole-heartedly suggest the breast, but don’t sacrifice your health, sanity, or family for it.