Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Very Hungry Naterpillar

Natalie is a hungry, hungry girl. She LOVES to nurse. She's been to the pediatrician twice (flying colors, thank you) and is already gaining back the few ounces she lost from birth to day 2. My milk is in, without a doubt. So from the perspective that matters most, breastfeeding is going well. Unfortunately, from my perspective, it's been utterly (pun intended) excruciating from the moment she first eagerly - oh, so eagerly - grabbed on after birth. Four days, two lactation consultants, a lot of stress and pain later, and we have a diagnosis and some solutions.

Ready for this? My nipples are too big. (Want to increase blog traffic in one easy post? Write about lesbians with enormous n*pples.) Too big and too short. Quoth the LC, "Those nipples are perfect for a one month old. She's going to love them in a month. We just have to figure out how you're going to survive until then." So we've been working on tips and tricks for getting a bearable latch, and things really are getting a lot better. Earlier tonight we just for the first time ever had a feeding without any gasping or wincing on my part. And it was so wonderful to feed her and not be tense, anxious, or in pain. We're not to the point of smooth sailing yet, but I can feel it coming.

So this is to thank the friends (in and out of the computer) who have helped us cope with this, whether or not they know it:
-The lactation consultants we've seen have been lifesavers. Period.
-I'm also tremendously indebted to Moxie, whose great posts on breastfeeding got me to take a breastfeeding class before Natalie was born. I'd been wavering about how useful a class like that might be. I did learn more in the class than I'd expected, but more importantly, met the lactation consultant. It was much easier to call her this weekend having already met her. Moxie's posts also helped us determine that the amount of pain I was having was NOT ok, and that we should seek help sooner rather than later. (Can't link from this computer - will update later. In the meantime, google Ask Moxie for ALL kinds of great parenting info and a darn good blog, too.)
-All my friends who have recommended the My Breast Friend pillow. It's ugly, and it has the Stupidest. Name. Ever. but damn, is it a useful contraption. Even better when you get one second hand for $5
-Everyone who has been commenting and congratulating us on Natalie's birth. Reading or listening to your words of love and joy have been a nice counterpoint to the discomfort of our nursing sessions.
-The brilliant folks at, whose nifty no-cost hands-free pumping trick is making this whole post possible!
-Cait, who has fed me, and consoled me as I've cried, and consoled the baby when SHE'S cried, and washed the infinite supply of pump bits, and been extra hands when trying to get the infernal latch (really, I'd like to be an octopus about now) and just generally made this all possible.

I thank you, Natalie thanks you, and the Gargantuan Nipples from Hell (TM) thank you.

PS - Cait gets credit for the title, too.


  • Naterpillar.......I'm overcome with squishy cuteness. Seriously, the dog freaked out with my out-loud, "awwwwwweeeeeeee."

    Courage to you, Jen, for braving the BF'ing, even though it sounds so painful. Hang in there.....mommy and baby, both. *hugs*

    By Blogger deanna, at 7:21 AM  

  • Ah yes, the toe-curling pain of latching on. My son is now 8 weeks old, and I went through that for the first two weeks with him. And also with my daughter, who is now 2 1/2. I don't know if their latch was incorrect or not (never consulted a lactation consultant -- just endured the pain -- I'm a glutton for punishment I guess). The pain "only" lasted for two weeks, though, to give you some hope. Now you could probably grab my nipples with a pair of pliers and twist them and I wouldn't feel a thing. So even if Naterpiller doesn't ever correct her latch, in a couple of weeks, your nipples will be so tough that it shouldn't matter. Hang in there! It is so worth it once it doesn't hurt anymore. By the way, Natalie is GORGEOUS!! I look forward to hearing your birth story when you get the chance!

    By Anonymous slw, at 7:42 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger party b, at 7:54 AM  

  • Wow, I wondered when you would be posting - it does sound as if things are going well and you two are totally in love! :-)

    I love the title :-)

    And now I believe I shall cave in and sign up for a BF-ing class instead of reading a book and planning to do a drop-in session as soon as I am home... better prepared than sorry ...

    By Blogger party b, at 7:56 AM  

  • awwwww! Naterpillar!
    so sorry for the pain & discomfort you are in, but it sounds like you are getting into the flow.
    Hugs to you & to Cait.

    By Blogger Calliope, at 7:56 AM  

  • OH Jen, I'm so glad you have had a LC around to help you. I know a few moms who just suffered for months or quit nursing rather than get help. I'll tell you my mom's story sometime.

    Take care. My offer of lunch delivery or whatever you need still stands. Call me anytime. (We obviously also want to meet your Naterpillar, but the needs of new moms are way more important than my need to oogle new babies.)

    By Anonymous jenny, at 8:25 AM  

  • So glad you got help with nursing! I didn't and just gave up, due to my HUGE GARGANTUAN GINORMOUS (enough?) nipples... And terrible latch-on... LOL... I'm a 38F so needless to say it was horrible... Oh and throw in some PPD to boot! :) But I'm so glad it is getting better and Natalie is growing! Keep going girl!

    By Anonymous Kristin, at 9:25 AM  

  • If you can get ahold of some Ameda Comfort Gels, those might be helpful. Your LC or midwife might be able to get you a sample pack instead of paying $15 for six. You probably won't need six.

    My nipples were cracked and bleeding for several days after Sanna was born, and there was suddenly a point where it was all better. It took a little while for us, but it sounds like things are already looking up for you.

    By Blogger Emilin, at 9:33 AM  

  • I too feel your pain. Mine are gigantic also.

    We were SO glad that we took the BF class, so I had a better idea of what to expect than otherwise would have been possible.

    I second Emilin's recommendation of the Ameda Comfort Gels. WOW do they help. (I had to pay closer to $20, but I'd do it again if I had to.) If you're ok with animal products, lanolin also helped me a lot.

    The other thing that I think helped, before I got the comfort gels, was squeezing a little milk out at the end of each feeding and coating my nipples with it. One of our nursery nurses recommended it, if I remember correctly.

    A few people recommended that I try breast shields. Ultimately, my pain went away before I got around to that (within ~2 weeks), so I can't speak to how well they work. But it might be worth a try.

    Good luck!

    By Anonymous Liza, at 9:54 AM  

  • Hang in there, Jen. Soon will come the day that nursing will be so easy you'll be able to sleep through it. I'm so glad you've got a support posse.

    If you'll indulge me, I'd like to pass on two bits of advice that helped me enormously when I first started nursing. The first came from the pediatrician, who advised me to rinse off my nipples after nursing. "Saliva contains digestive enzymes," she reminded me, and leaving it on already-tender nipples just makes them more sore. I kept a baby washcloth near me at all times, and after nursing I'd wet it from my drinking water bottle (you do have a bottle of water near you, right? Nursing is crazy thirsty work.) and wipe myself off. I quit doing this after a month or so, when I'd toughened up, but I do believe it was really helpful in the beginning. I mention it because I've never heard the advice from any other source.

    The second tidbit is something I learned from trial and error. You mentioned you're already pumping... and can I just say OUCH! In my experience, pumping is generally more painful than nursing, and you're doing on an already abused body. I found that pumping was far more comfortable if I smeared a tiny bit of Lansinoh into the horns before I began. It lessened the feeling of being pinched and grabbed by the machine.

    I don't have to tell you that it's all worth it, right? Blessings on your family.

    By Anonymous Summer, at 9:57 AM  

  • Hang in there! It does get better!
    We had several of our close friends learn how to help latch as I did not grow into the octopus that would have helped as I had toe curling pain! Once she learnt how to latch and eat better it slowly went away - within 2 weeks it was good and the soreness went away. 13 months later Tym just crawls up and latches without hesitation - Hang in there sweety - it's worth it :)

    By Anonymous deah, at 9:57 AM  

  • Lactation consultants are goddesses in my book! BFing gives everyone her own challenges, and it is admirable that you are perservering, since it sounds like it has been very challenging so far. And Natalie's gaining weight, which is something to be really be pround of! It's great, too, that you have such a supportive partner in Cait. Having support and love throughout this process really does make a huge difference, I think. Patrick does so many things for me, from bringing the babies to me to getting me cold drinks to washing the pump and bottles- it really matters.

    For me, it's been really interesting to feed two babies, because I found that one had a much easier time latching than the other. That is to say, every baby needs something different, and it's kind of like mom and baby need to learn together and adjust together to make it work for both of them. It's a process that will take some time. Also, as my babes have grown and become more demanding, we have all had to adjust and re-check the latches, etc. I had a LC over at about 3 1/2 months just for maintenance, and it really helped make it even better.

    Feel free to email me if you ever have questions, as I saw many, many LCs while in the NICU with my two. They all have different "tricks," and you never know what might work. Also, BFing twice as much as the average mommy, I think I've picked up a few of my own!

    Good luck. I hope you and Cait are enjoying your new little roommate!

    By Blogger lagiulia, at 10:30 AM  

  • OH. MY. GOD. I did not know that you could have nipples that are TOO BIG. What the hell am I going to do???

    Congratulations on being persistent in getting help and working on getting a good latch. Congratulations on a growing baby. Can't wait for more pictures!

    By Blogger Trista, at 10:38 AM  

  • Ouchy Mama!

    Hang in there with the nursing - sometimes (most of the time) it can be wonderful! Once the nipple pain is gone the warm-fuzzy motherly feelings will take over! Soon this will be a distant foggy memory!

    By Blogger me, at 11:29 AM  

  • We also found that a good LC was key to getting through all the transitions. Our last visit with ours was almost heartbreaking. She was SO helpful!

    Glad to hear it's going better.

    We'll see you soon!!!

    By Blogger Jay, at 12:00 PM  

  • I am totally in love with the very hungry naterpillar. It's the best nickname ever. Except maybe chuzzle.
    Someone once found my blog through googling 'essen der toten nippel' (there should be umlauts, but I am too lazy to put them in). That is, quite literally, 'meal of the dead nipple.'
    So if they can find me with THAT (and I am quite certain I never blogged about eating dead nipples. Especially in German), then big nippled lesbian is gonna generate some traffic.
    I am glad that you got one not so painful latch. Now if you can make it to the magical month old where she will love them, woo hoo!

    By Blogger Estelle, at 12:41 PM  

  • natapillar - LOVE THAT!

    and I'm SOOOOO sorry about your poor nips!

    yea for Cait.

    love to you three.

    By Blogger Shelli, at 12:55 PM  

  • First of all, congratulations! Yipee! Everything sounds wonderful for you (ok, maybe not for your nipples, but...) I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but this post made me reminisce (sp??) and is making me long for another. Yikes! I had the painful nipples AND painful let down (not that I'm trying to one-up you or anything, just remembering). And my girl just wouldn't latch properly. I'd put her on correctly, she'd pop right off and get on her way. Eventually, I just gave-up and the sore nipples got better (maybe her latch improved over time????).

    I wish you good lanolin and easy nursing sessions from here on out. And cheers to Moxie and lactation consultants. Moxie saved my nursing relationship with my kids.

    By Anonymous KatS, at 2:01 PM  

  • I hear you on the feeding pain. Nursing hurt me so bad that I just quit. I should have got help, but I was to embarrassed. Next kid I will definately get help!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:46 PM  

  • Yikes. I admire you already. This is the stuff that scares the bejeebers out of me. I'll be sending good latch vibes your way

    By Anonymous bri, at 4:41 PM  

  • Just seeing those words brought it all back to me...desperate and determined to breastfeed by baby (which I did the little bugger never would take a bottle!) the first two weeks of absolute agony - every feed. I knew that he was meant to stay on for around 1/2 an hour and every three hours the conversation went a bit like this.

    "oww this hurts (tears running down my face)- how long has it been"

    "5 mins darling"

    "surely it has been half an hour by now"

    "8 mins darling"
    and on and on it went.

    Can I suggest - in a world full of suggestions ... rubbing a bit of milk on your breast when you are finished and then letting them air dry (it don't put your breasts back under nursing pads) this really helped me avoid (after the first non-avoidance) sore spots while we were working out the latching on to big nipples thing.

    I agree with slw your nipples do get tougher and the latching on comes more natuarally after a couple of weeks but I have to say that it would still hurt to have a pair of pliers twist mine and personally I think that is a good thing... but as you say lesbian, nipples blog hits so we wont go there!

    Good luck and lots of milky love to all three of you

    By Blogger Clare, at 7:01 PM  

  • Exact same problem here. The only thing that saved me was a nice nipple shield. Not the cheap-o thick kind from Wal Mart, but the nice thin ones that it seems only hospitals have. I had me some bleeding chewed on nips less then 5 hours after her birth.. she CHEWED on my big nips. Day 2 introduced the nipple shield,nips healed up a week later, BF no longer painful at all... and 40 days later my dog ate the shield so we tried without... VOILA!! breastfeeding success.
    Just an idea, anyway.

    By Blogger Mama-Beans, at 12:07 AM  

  • With both my kids, for the first couple of weeks, latching was painful (the first 2 or 3 minutes). But it eventually got much better and nursing ended up actually being a good thing for me.

    Hang in there and you'll be just fine!

    By Blogger Ana, at 7:01 AM  

  • Maybe you should try a larger pump flange. I guess none of your nipple is supposed to touch the plastic. That might help if you need to keep pumping (now, obviously you'll need to pump when you are back at work).

    Good luck.

    By Blogger Brooke, at 12:12 PM  

  • Oh, Jen. Here I came checking on you and feeling bad when I saw you were having nursing pain, and then read that my posts helped you! It really does my heart glad. I feel honored to be able to help you. And KatS, too!

    Since I'm always giving advice, I'd say to remember that you're doing a great job. And it does get less painful.

    By Blogger Moxie, at 5:32 PM  

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