Most of you may know that I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding. Of course a mom has every right to choose her mode of feeding her baby – I completely will support the choices every mom makes for herself. But I do think breastfeeding deserves a 100% chance first. And because I am usually pretty vocal about the importance of breastfeeding, many automatically assume that I have had an easy ride. Not quite. And that is why I would like to share information about my breastfeeding challenges.
We have crossed 1.5 years of breastfeeding; hoping to cross two years at the very least and then we’ll see how it goes. To be honest, it has been relatively easy – from what I hear from other mommies – and I am grateful for that. But there have been downs in my journey too.
I was fortunate enough to attend some classes during my pregnancy. I do believe childbirth education is a must for both mom and dad. Qatar does have some really good options – even classes in your own home – if that is what you want.
The most important lesson I learnt facing my breastfeeding challenges
Breastfeeding is incredible and natural, but boy! It is not that easy. It needs perseverance and commitment, and some amount of pain too. The beginning is the toughest. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll do great.
At the hospital after birth, the nurses did ask me if they could give formula. I said no. And I was only able to make that decision because I knew before hand that it was important to do skin-to-skin as soon as possible, and to try and initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible. And I did that. YAY! Awesome.
Or so I thought, because the next time the baby cried, I was unable to latch. And had to call for the nurse every time I wanted to feed. Luckily for me, the nurses were nice to help and did not insist on formula. And we went home after two days!
I was in nipple hell the first week. I just could not get the latch right no matter what I tried. It was sore and almost bleeding. Purelan was not helping much. Nor was airing it out. It was hell, hell, hell and possibly one of the only reasons I didn’t give up breastfeeding was cuz there was no bottle of formula at home, and because my husband was there supporting me, holding the baby, helping me latch!
I met with my incredible Lactation Consultant Tracey Tootell soon after and she changed my life. I owe her big time. She stayed with me for two hours, and explained latching, and showed me how to latch the baby. And allowed me to practice it too. The best 200riyals I spent! She was truly a God-sent in our breastfeeding journey.
If you are a new momma, please do book a consultation with an LC as soon as possible – ideally before even leaving the hospital. Meanwhile, you can also watch deep latch technique videos on Youtube.
My breastfeeding challenges – Vasospasm
Much after the one month mark, I started feeling a crushing excruciating pain on my back, and shoulders and chest. But the back was the worst. It was sharp and penetrating. Since it started much after feeding, so I didn’t even make the connect. It was a sharp pain that spread all over making me want to cry. I felt like I was being bull-dozed.
For a long time, I could not even place the origin of the pain. A doctor I consulted said it was fibromyalgia and gave me some painkillers.
But I was not convinced and started looking around for answers and Googled and asked on my mom groups. That’s when I first heard the word vasospasm. And then I read up about it and watched for the signs. Blanching of the nipple, despite the latch and sucking being fine. And throbbing pain.
I read and read and realized it was a simple solution – at least for me. To keep the breast covered and warm. The cold aggravates it. Little did I know and I used to airdry it, in the AC room. Thus making it worse! I read up on the Kellymom website, as well as the inputs by Dr Jack Newman which clearly states ‘stop air drying the breast’ Once I started covering up as soon as the feed ended, things got a lot better!
Once those two issues were addressed, it became a fairly easy journey till the biting began!
Yeah! No Fun. It was awful when my boy started teething. He would bite down – right in the middle of a feed. There I was, settling down comfortably, when sharky attached! Yeah! Sharky indeed. It was awful and painful and ugh ugh ugh. In fact, I started being vigilant while feeding, My hand would be positioned next to his face in such a way that I could dive in and rescue the boob. The rescue mission would involve holding his cheeks with my middle finger and thum, while the index finger rescues the nipple from the jaws of Sharky!
Advice from my mom support groups helped me understand that this was on par for the course, but that I didn’t have to suffer in silence. I learnt that the best way to deal with it was to unlatch, and then gently but firmly say: “Don’t bite. Momma gets hurt!” It took a few days but it worked! YAY! I also learned that it was key to not shout out in pain. Because this will seem like a game for the baby.
My breastfeeding challenges – Pumping
As you know (probably), I went back to work when my baby was 2 months. But I was absolutely not willing to compromise on the breastfeeding element. Luckily, I found a wonderful nursery that would feed my baby the pumped breastmilk as I requested. But that ofcourse meant pumping.
If you have read my saga as a pumping mom, you know that I have pumped up to 8 times a day occasionally. Twice at night, twice at work and then during the day. I really cannot get my head around that now. Me! Who would actually sleep for one minute if I woke up at 7.29am instead of 7.30 when the alarm rings. The up and down of sleep and work was challenging in the beginning but soon I think it just became routine.
The worst scare while pumping actually happened when I woke up for a session (possibly when my son was around 4m), and realized that there was zero suction on my pump. There I was – awake at around 2.30 am, feeding my boy on one side – looking to pump the other side. And the pump refused to work. It was a real nightmare because I didn’t even have enough for the next day. That morning was okay, but the next one was not. And I had to be at work in the morning as well. So I was so lost and confused.
I frantically tried removing and re-fixing the pump a few times. Even walked up and down – lie that would help! I even looked up where the nearest pharmacies were, and considered driving there in the dead of the night. It was not like I could sleep again! But then what if my boy woke up? So I stayed put! Tossing and turning and worrying! Google informed me that it probably is an issue with the piping.
The next morning luckily was a slow day at work. And thankfully, the Wellcare Pharmacy (dealers of Medela in Qatar) responded to my query on whatsapp and told me exactly where to get it. I reached the location and the pharmacist could not find the part! It was devastating because apparently this was the only branch which had stock of the piping I was looking for. I think I even started crying right there in the pharmacy. And I kept telling them that I was informed they had it and I needed to get it. They then contacted the main branch and spoke to someone and organized it for me. But boy was it a scary time!
My breastfeeding challenges – Engorgement
Anyone who has been through this knows how God-awful this can get! I have had it so often in the first few months, that I definitely wanted to stop! it felt like rocks to me! If I could take a pin and poke it to let milk out, I might even have done that! It was awful. AWFUL! And I had the latest experience with engorgement when my boy was 1.3 years old! I thought I had paid my dues and had gotten past all this! But obviously my breast thought otherwise! And no amount of gentle massages or showers helped.
My only solution has been to feed somehow from that side till I feel human again!
So there! I think that highlights some of my struggles and some of my breastfeeding challenges. But I have made it so far, and hopefully, I will be able to meet my own targets someday!
You’ve got this!
After speaking to so many moms on various platforms including the Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers FB Page, and Positive Birth Doha FB page, I have realized that each of us go through tough times and struggles while breastfeeding. And that is perfectly normal. So if you are keen on breastfeeding, know that there are many others who are dealing with the same things you are and the most important thing to do is reach out and ask for help.
Breastfeeding 101: http://mommydil.com/2016/05/26/breastfeeding-101/
Breastfeeding – Half Month Mark – http://mommydil.com/2016/03/23/the-half-month-mark-breastfeeding/
The Importance of Breastfeeding Education – http://mommydil.com/2017/03/02/the-importance-of-breastfeeding-awareness-education/
Supplemental Nursing System – http://mommydil.com/2016/11/06/sns/
Relactation – http://mommydil.com/2017/05/15/relactation/
The saga of a pumping mom – http://mommydil.com/2016/11/03/the-saga-of-a-pumping-mom/