Brittany's Story | Part 2 | Breastfeeding

I am so grateful when friends allow me to share their stories on my website. This is part two of my soul friend Brittany's story. She shares her journey of breastfeeding her baby through chapped nipples and tongue and lip tie revisions, setting breastfeeding goals, and giving of herself in ways she never thought she could. You can read part one here.  Brittany and her hubby live in Tennessee with their beautiful baby girl. 

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Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. I just sat back to remember the beginning of breastfeeding and my eyes welled up with tears. I just realized this will be difficult for me to write. My mother was a breastfed baby. I am the youngest of four girls who all breastfed. I was also surrounded by many women who breastfed, so it was a natural thing for me to try.

My baby girl latched immediately and my milk came in within the first few days. When I was in the hospital I was told by various people that “Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt.” Then some other nurses who were moms would whisper in my year, “Yeah they say that but it does hurt in the beginning.” After all, why would they give you all this lanolin if it wasn’t supposed to hurt? I kept telling the nurses and my sisters and my mom, that it really hurt, I mean REALLY BAD. The answer I got was, “That’s normal, give it time.” Well time went by and my nipples were severely blistered, bleeding, and cracked. I shook and cried during every nursing session.

The hospital discharged me with a referral to the FREE Breastfeeding Outreach Clinic here in town. When my sweet girl was three weeks old, I went to the clinic and said, “It feels like she’s chewing on me.” The lactation consultant inspected her latch, my nipples, and her mouth and found a lip and a tongue tie. She recommended that I discuss this with my pediatrician. I mentioned this to my pediatrician and she said, “The ties don’t look that bad. Go back to the clinic and work on a deeper latch.” So there we were, five weeks of bloody, blistered and cracked nipples. While I was nursing, I would sweat, get nauseous and cry. I went back to the clinic and shared with them what the pediatrician said. The LC said, “It’s not about look of your baby's mouth, it’s about function and your baby’s mouth is not functioning properly as evidenced by your nipples.” She recommended I make an appointment with a pediatric dentist in town to talk about tongue and lip tie revisions. (A revision of a tongue or lip tie includes either cutting the tie or burning the tie with a laser to give the tongue and lip more range of motion so they can properly remove milk from the breast.) A friend of mine had recommended the same pediatric dentist to me, but I really wrestled with the idea of revisions because of the intense lip and tongue stretches that went into the recovery.

The LC asked me what my long term breastfeeding goals were. I told her that I was just trying to get through today. She said at some point, these ties are going to inhibit the baby from being able to draw the milk out and my supply could decrease. It was that moment that I set my eyes on breastfeeding for at least 6 months, and I called the pediatric dentist. The earliest appointment they had was four weeks out and I booked it. I cried and cried and cried. I can honestly say that this breastfeeding pain was worse than natural childbirth. I felt like I was being methodically tortured every three hours. I prayed and prayed on a daily basis to God to help me get through it because I didn’t think I could wait four weeks. One week after I set the appointment, the dentist called me and told me they had a cancellation and they were wondering if I could come in in an hour. I jumped in the car and went there immediately. Her tongue and lip ties were finally lasered. She nursed again for the first time and although it was very painful still, her mouth was noticeably opening wider. The dentist told me it takes about 4 weeks to not feel pain. I was absolutely devastated. I had already endured six weeks of excruciating pain.

I went back to the breastfeeding clinic and just cried to the LC. She was so incredible and empathetic. She helped me set up a pump plan that would give my nipples some breaks. Regardless, I was crying and crying to my sisters and my mom. One of my sisters said, “If this is not good for your mental health you may want to consider stopping.” But how could I consider stopping? I just put my kid through hell so we could breastfeed. I am a very determined and stubborn person, probably to a fault. When I want something, I buckle down, focus and get it done. That was my approach to getting to six months of breastfeeding. One of my other sisters said, “It gets so much better you can do this.” And so I did. I stuck to the pump plan, dug down so very deep, and found the strength to continue.

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Finally, when she was nine weeks old, I was nursing without pain. Recalling this situation, remembering the pain, the nausea, sweating, the bleeding, it is quite traumatizing. Maybe it would have been better for my mental health? But then I would have never known the complete and endless joy that my baby and I receive when I am nursing. I hit my six month goal, and then my nine month goal! Now my goal is twelve months! I am so happy I stuck it out. This is just MY story. I won’t encourage any mama one way or the other. All I can say is that I am proud of my choice. One thing I will say though, is trust your gut. If you think your pain is not normal and your baby has ties, get it taken care of ASAP and DON’T WAIT! It gets better, I promise.

A note from Tamara: While the first few days of breastfeeding may be a bit uncomfortable, it should not hurt to breastfeed. Pain during breastfeeding is common, but it's not normal and if you are in pain, if your nipples are cracked or bleeding, please go see a lactation specialist. Pediatricians ARE NOT trained in lactation. If you can't afford the cost of a lactation specialist, there are plenty of free lactation support groups including La Leche League and many others.