(I wrote this a week ago. Life being crazy and all that, this has been my first chance to edit and publish it)
The one thing that has taken me most by surprise about motherhood is how Madelyn is utterly dependent on me to meet all of her needs. I have found myself completely overwhelmed by how constant it is, and how I am the only one who can meet her biggest need, which is nourishment.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not easy. There have been many times during the last 5 weeks and 3 days when I have thought “I can understand why so many mothers give up after a few weeks.” If I didn’t believe so strongly in the emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding, I probably would have given up too.
I had, like most people do, initial latch pain for the first couple of weeks. I also had blisters, and one blood blister popped, making it even more painful. Before the end of her second week, I got a crack on my left side, that looked like someone had taken a knife and cut out a chunk. This bled too, and was excruciating.I also had a smaller crack on my right side. I often needed someone to put her on for me, because I couldn’t bring myself to do it. When she cried out of hunger, I would cry too, thinking of the pain that would be inflicted. It was emotionally exhausting. One afternoon, I had a nap and woke up crying, because I realised that she’d be awake soon and I’d need to breastfeed her. The worst time was when she was about two and a half weeks old, she hadn’t gone half and hour within feeding for the entire day (we now know this was a growth spurt/frequency day). At about 7pm, I couldn’t take anymore. I actually had to get Angus to come and take her away because every time she latched on I was filled with uncontrollable anger. It was awful. My days were filled with pain and frustration.
I persevered because I so wanted to have a long, happy breastfeeding relationship with her, and there was no physical reason why I couldn’t breastfeed her. So I resolved to keep on going through the pain, because I knew that it wouldn’t last forever, and I knew that it would benefit her so greatly.
After her awful growth spurt/frequency day, Angus called his mum (a lactation consultant), and asked her to come back down and spend a couple more days with me working on getting breastfeeding right. She was able to work out exactly what was wrong with the latch to be causing the cracks. In the birthing centre I’d been taught, as most new mums are, the cross-cradle hold, but it turns out that particular hold wasn’t working for us, especially as she was getting so much bigger so fast. So she helped me learn how to feed her in other positions, and convinced Angus to buy rather expensive wound healing gel pads to help heal the cracks. The gel pads and the new hold helped so much that within days I was feeding her on my sore side in public, something I’d avoided before then because I’d always cry. I rapidly gained confidence, and from there it just kept getting better.
And now, 5 weeks and 3 days since I first started breastfeeding, after so much agony and frustration, I can say that I actually enjoy it. I enjoy breastfeeding my child and look forward to that long, happy breastfeeding relationship I’d imagined.