Support System

7th August 2006

-I’ve heard nursing is hard.
-It HURTS! Seriously. Take the kinkiest sex you’ve ever had, like someone full-on biting your nipple, and it’s nothing compared to how that kid is gonna latch on.
-Ow. Do you… eventually get calluses or something?
-Eventually you toughen up, but at first it’s just super sensitive and raw. You’ll want to give up every few minutes because it hurts so bad.
-I’m getting a little light headed.
-And then, you’re having this intense, throbbing boob pain and the kid latches on and bites and bites.
-Oh no. No. We may need to talk about something else.
-Your nipples will totally crack and bleed before they toughen up.
-OK! OK! Now talk about something happy! Something happy!
-But it’s the most wonderful bonding you’ll ever experience with another human being?
-You really pulled it out at the end there.
-No problem.

52 thoughts on “Support System

  1. dina

    Hee hee! It’s best if you don’t listen to anything any mom has to say to you until after you give birth. Singing Barney songs loudly at them will generally send them running for the hills. Also, don’t read the baby expecting books, watch birth shows (they’re gross anyway), or read pregnancy web sites. They all just scare the crap out of you. Enjoy getting fat and shopping for baby stuff!

  2. crzylady

    If it makes you feel any better.. for me it only hurt sometimes. More like fire being pulled through your veins as your baby is suckling. And I think I grimaced at times, but it’s not so very bad. And I had little pain else where (and the very small amount of cracking and bleeding that did occur didn’t hurt and if I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t have ever noticed it).

    It will be lovely, whether you breast feed or not.

  3. Bethiclaus

    I can hardly even remember the pain anymore. And it really is worth it, if for no other reason than that you can leave the house without worrying about bottles on top of everything else.

  4. Lori

    I cried whenever I nursed for the first couple weeks, and it didn’t really stop hurting for at least a month, but I stuck with it. It *does* get better. I think it would have helped a lot if someone had told me UP FRONT that some women’s nipples are just more sensitive than others’, and if you’re one of those women, it’s going to hurt for a while. Instead I was told, “if it hurts, you’re not doing it right!”, which only added to my guilt and frustration. I only found out about the sensitive nipples thing later, after I’d practically gone round the bend. (Tip: re-read Heather’s pregnancy and early parenthood archives. It’ll give you an idea what to expect — minus the post-partum depression, I hope.) Lansinoh helps a bit, so you might want to stock up. :)

    Also, I totally agree with Bethiclaus about the portable feeding system. Boobs rock for that.

  5. sarah

    yeah, my mom tells the story of my birth and the agony, etc etc and then finishes with “and then i looked into your eyes and it was the most wonderful experience ever,” with a deep sigh.

  6. Pandemonium

    Don’t forget the wounds sticking to the bra and then ripping open again when you remove your bra to nurse. AWESOME! However, it does get better, Lansinoh is a LIFESAVER, and it is totally worth it.

    How do you like that? My first time commenting and I come bearing good news about boobs sticking to bras.

  7. shea

    HaHa! Breastfeeding is the most wonderful bonding you will ever experience. The nips should toughen up after a while. Breastfeeding releases endorphines and it will help you fit back into your pre-pregnancy jeans faster. Bonus! Get you a cute boppy, sniggle up with baby and just relax. Good Luck!

  8. klb

    It is awesome. Get a Hooter Hider – makes feeding anywhere super easy. And it’s fun to say ‘Hooter Hider!’

  9. John

    I’m so glad that…
    a)I will never have to experience that personally, as a man.
    2)I will never be in a relationship with someone who has to experience that personally, as a gay man.

    I guess I just found the plus side of the whole gay thing.

  10. Sabrina

    First, congratulations! Exciting times ahead!

    Second, it all depends on the baby and your breasts. Get a good lactation consultant. If the first one you have tries to make you feel like an idiot, get another. Unfortunately there are bad LCs out there and it really makes a difference. There is a baby boot camp and that’s usually the first 4 to 8 weeks.

    Just breathe now though. It’s such a good thing to do for your baby and you, especially since it releases all sorts of lovely feelings in you. In my opinion it’s a shame that in our society nursing isn’t as instinctual anymore, and we don’t have tons of our womenfolk around to actually physically help us in those first weeks. But enjoy thinking about all of this now and relax.

    I also came out of the woodwork to comment on breasts. :o)

    Oh, and I have found that covering me and my baby up actually draws a ton more attention then if I just throw the baby on the boob. I have actually had many conversations with random people and even my friends where they had no idea I was nursing. It’s all your comfort level though and what you’re cool with so in the end it’s all about you!

  11. Mocha

    You write so well. SO well. In fact, while reading this post my breasts just did that let-down thing.

    I haven’t nursed in more than 10 years.

    So thanks for that.

  12. jk

    It hurt for two weeks with my first and about 2 1/2 weeks with kids two and three. It’s not always easy getting going with breastfeeding, but I am glad I stuck it out.

    Totally worth it. Totally.

    I nursed each to age two. I weaned my last about four months ago and I can’t believe that part of my life is over. No more babies. She just started sleeping in her big girl bed, too.

    My eyes are welling up.

  13. J

    Yep it hurts like a bitch. I found that pumping using a breast pump I rented from my OBGYN and giving the expressed milk to the baby gave me a couple of days to heal, which was what I needed.

    Email me if you’d like the name of the pump as it was not the standard brand and it was amazing -I’ve used conventional pumps and this was so much more efficient at pumping and gentle on my poor beleaguered boobies.

  14. maybeknott

    Misery loves company, so it’s no wonder that a lot of the painful nursing stories are coming out. It’s an easy way to form bonds and find commonalities.

    It’s less exciting to hear from people who had no problem with nursing, not to mention the fact that We Of The Iron Nipples don’t like to rub our pain-free nursing in the faces of others.

    But, it must be said to counter the sheer volume of horror being related above:

    I’ve never had pain while nursing and it’s been over a year.

    So, it’s entirely possible and I doubt very much that I’m the only one. Although it can sure feel like it when I’m just dying to swap a cracked nipple story with a nursing mama.

  15. G

    Mine hurt like a MFer the first time — almost wanted to cry out (teary-eyed sometimes, really!) whenever my first baby latched. I was doing Lamaze for chrissakes during the first few feeding sessions. I kid you not; it was that painful for me and most of my mom friends. Took about two weeks to get used to. So, be warned! But now with my 2nd (and last) baby, nursing went smoothly. No pain issues this time.

    Good luck!

  16. Kay

    I wish you the success I had with nursing. I had no pain, didn’t need to use lanolin on the nipples, no cracking no bleeding! It can happen, really!

  17. Karen

    I’m with Kay – nursing was a joy! I did use lanolin against chapping, though – prevention better than treatment, I thought. As for the mechanics, the baby sort of knows what to do…it’s totally amazing.

  18. Jill

    Delurking to add…
    Being fair skin, I was already bleeding in the hospital from nursing. I finally told this wonderful older nurse and she taught me the best trick. Tea bags – regular plain ole black tea bags. She wet 2 of them for each side, put them in my bra covering my nipples, and the bra held them there. Cleared up the problem right away. Cheap, quick and easy.

    With my second, I started the tea bags sooner, and no problems whatsoever. I only had to do it for a couple days.

  19. Joe

    Buy some breastfeeding books Maggie. I think a lot of women become discouraged when things don’t go as smoothly as possible. It’s touted as being the most natural act but you’ll find books will be upfront about how it takes a little effort to determine what works and what does not. My wife was much happier when she learned some positions and techniques that made things hurt less and therefore made the experience much more positive. She continued until the 18 month mark. And in December we start it all over again :)

  20. caramaena

    I’m with the others about no pain. Breastfeeding being painful might happen, but it also might not. Educate yourself but but there’s no point in borrowing trouble and freaking yourself out.

    Worst I had was a bit of engorgement when the milk came in (get a nice stretchy bra in for when that happens) and a tingling feeling with let down.

    The *best* piece of advice I was given was to learn to breastfeed whilst lying down. It made things so much easier at night, though I did it that way whenever I could – I’m just lazy, I guess!

  21. elsimom

    A woman from Mpls. named Andy Steiner wrote a wonderful book called Spilled Milk – she takes a balanced approach to the pluses and minuses of breast feeding – quite a few people I know were interviewed for the book and I think it is really good. Maybe you don’t want to read it yet – but have it on hand if the going gets tough -which, it might or might not – some of it depends on the kid – first kid o’ mine was not a great nurser and it things were pretty rough. Second kid was a champ (plus I had learned a lot from first kid experience!) and we had a lot less difficulty.
    I recommend “nipple armor” (actually called nursing shells) – they fit under your bra when you’re not nursing and protect your nipples and keep anything from touching them – they work wonders if you are sore (although you look like Barbarella or Madonna or something). Second time around, if I felt even a hint of soreness – on with the armor!

    Also – I second the lying down comment above – restful nursing during the night is SO much easier on mom! Once we really got it right with the first, those were some wonderful times, moonlight and sweet baby’s soft face, so relaxed and content – that was when the whole “beautiful nursing experience” kicked in.
    Good luck!
    Finally – Bravado nursing bras -hands down the most comfortable and very supportive.

  22. kbswifler

    It is all of that and more. Throw a little thrush in for good measure and you will lose your mind quicker than you can say “I don’t want that episiotomy!”

    And then it goes away and it is actually pretty easy.

  23. kat

    Just remember everyone’s experience is different, even with different kids. You will have your own joys and challenges, unlike anyone else’s, so don’t let anyone else’s horror stories freak you out. You will have stories of your own about breast feeding soon, and you can then use them to either inspire or terrify your first-time pregnant friends, too.

    I found olive oil prevented any cracking/drying, and the breastfeeding times were my favorite moments of the day/night.

  24. Vikki

    I breastfed both of my kids (one until 16 months and the other until 12 months) and it was a fairly functional kinda thing for us. I never heard angels singing or felt bathed in the glow of maternal love. I liked it o.k. but I didn’t get all googly-eyed while nursing. Just give yourself permission to do whatever works for you and know that every woman’s experience is different.

  25. floragal

    Coming out of the woodwork here to post on this. I’m surprised no one has mentioned “toughening up” prior to delivery. My OBGYN (this was 20 years ago) suggested “scrubbing” nipples after showering with a towel for a minute, and pinching/massaging them 3-4 times a day to toughen up the skin during the last trimester. I didn’t have problems with cracking or pain, and that may have been the reason. Now as for blocked ducts – whole ‘nuther story!

  26. rosie-b

    Cripes people, get some breast shields.
    And a pump, much easier on boobies than a baby.
    Oh, and left-over percocet. Pain-killers are lovely that first two weeks when they gnaw instead of suckle.
    But really, it’s wonderful after everything adjusts. I did it for a little over two years and I was really sad when we stopped.

  27. LKea

    I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital, which was very helpful. I used the reference materials after I got home to help refresh my memory, also helpful!

    Before I left the hospital, the nurses showed me different holds and helped make sure the baby was positioned correctly and I had enough support while nursing. Make sure you bring a boppy to the hospital. It is essential!

    For me, it only hurt the first week. Lanolin use from the start should keep you from chapping, and when the baby is latched on correctly it should NOT HURT. Even if the baby has an iron mouth.

    Good luck, you’ll do fine!

  28. Theresa

    I think its crappy that everyone tends to share all these horror stories with pregnant women. How about this – I nursed for a year and it never hurt once. The first couple times you get a good latch, it’s surprising. As in, Wow, I didn’t know they sucked so hard! But it didn’t hurt and I loved nursing. It’s not always bad.

  29. lizneust

    Delurking to say that everyone’s experience varies so much. You do hear more horror stories from women who are very fair skinned (like me). I was lucky with the first (no pain, but a little cracking) and unlucky with the second (she had a hard time latching on properly), but we kept it up with both kids till they were 9 mos, and after the initial learning proces, it was terrific. Lansinoh helps, as do Soothies (gel filled pasties, aaaaah). Good, comfy, well-fitted nursing bras are key, but I always found nursing clothes to be semi useless – just borrowed my husband’s button downs. It is a lovely, lovely time, but there are a LOT of kids out there (includnig me) who do w/o. So aim for it, but don’t buy into the “must” propoganda. You and Brian will be great parents and that’s WAY more important than how your bby gets her first few meals.
    Best wishes!

  30. steph

    oh geez. What a weenie. Nursing is not so bad. It feels odd, but doesn’t always hurt (until maybe when the baby has teeth – I don’t know about that!). The’s a little pinch when they latch on, but then it’s just suction. And there’s this little thing called oxytocin that is released when you nurse that actually makes you feel kinda light-headed and high. Yes, great bonding experience… a bit lonely in the middle of the night, though. Bring a good book. :)

  31. steph

    One more thing: no matter what you expect, it will not be like you expect. No matter what you think you know, it will be a surprise. Never in your life will you be broken down and reformed into a new thing, like in the first months of that little baby making you into a mom. Beware the power of baby.

  32. galyn

    I’m a regular reader delurking here. I breastfed two babies and I think the best advice I can give you is to get a lactation consultant. It will make all the difference in the world and you’ll get the most current advice. Congratulations and good luck!

  33. dithers

    pick a pediatrician with a lactation consultant / midwife on staff. Then you get a free lactation consultant every time you go to the pediatrician (several times the first 2 weeks after leaving the hospital/b.ctr), and you get a pediatrician that supports breastfeeding. It does help a lot to see a consultant. Breastfeeding is great. It hurts some, for a few weeks, but it’s a bargain for what you get. People are dramatic about birth and breastfeeding, and they aren’t EASY, but they are what women have been doing forever. You’ll be great, and you’ll love it!

  34. Laura

    I only made it through the first 15 comments or so before I stopped reading, so this might have been said before (oddly, this happened when I was pregnant too…I hissed at the computer screen one day in the midst of an “episiotomy vs. natural tearing” discussion and vowed not to read another word)…

    …but you and the baby will figure out the nursing thing. Or you won’t. And the baby will still get fed, because you’ll make sure of it. And someone will have an opinion to share on the matter, always (mostly because we *love* the chance to talk about our own experiences :).

    And, really, none of it matters one whit…because no one has your body…and no one’s had your baby. Grab some earplugs and pay attention to the little person you bring into the world… Try things. Screw it up. Try something else. But pay attention. That’s all that really matters.

  35. Ashley

    Congrats on your pregnancy! I love nursing my little girl and I hope to keep it up until at least a year. I just wanted to comment that the above comment by Steph describes so perfectly what the first few months of being a mom is like, it brought tears to my eyes.

    There were so many “I nevers” that I said (co-sleeping, not wanting to stay in the house like a hermit, not taking a shower daily) that have been reformed, I can’t even count.

  36. Cobwebs

    I agree with the ladies who said it was “surprising” the first couple of times the kid latched on. The Amazing Suction Ability seems way out of proportion to the size of the baby. It’s a little pinchy at first, but I never experienced major pain.

    However, I also agree with the idea of finding a reliable lactation consultant instead of a Nursing Nazi. My milk never did come in (and believe me, I tried everything short of sacrificing a goat), and the hospital lactation consultant all but shrieked and held up a crucifix when informed that I’d be supplementing with formula. She didn’t care that at his three-day checkup my son weighed less than at birth because he was dehydrated–I was a Terrible Mother for choosing formula over non-existent breast milk. Don’t let them (you should pardon the expression) cow you into believing that your child will grow up to be a sociopath if he isn’t exclusively breastfed.

  37. Lisa

    DOn’t listen to the horror stories. If nursing were really that bad, the human race would have died out long ago. Proper latch-on is key. A LC can check that for you. Martha Sears Breastfeeding book is very good. I can’t believe no one has mentioned how truly pleasurable it can be! That feeling of let-down, followed by seeing the baby start to drink this milk that you made is magic! It really is just as amazing as pregnancy & birth. I’m so sad that I’ll never nurse my kids again, and believe me, there were times when I resented it. But nothing is more convenient than having no bottles to cart around or sterilize, and no formula to buy. It is the lazy woman’s best choice. Plus, you know they are getting exactly the food their bodies are designed to eat. I’d do it again in a second.

  38. swoozy

    For me, breast feeding was the BEST thing… yes it was nice at times, but really, honestly, it was best because I am lazy. When my babies woke up in the middle of the night, I really did not want to get up and warm up a bottle! Just go in to the baby room, still half asleep, feed the baby, put it back to bed and go back to bed…

    However I had no discomfort or pain at all – in fact the only time I recall hurting now (my youngest is two) is when he was in the hospital and I had to use the hospital’s super pump – OW!

    The other perk to breastfeeding is having nice big boobs for a while too!

    Good luck

  39. Bethany

    Bravo to Laura who posted above I agree with her. – I decided to pump and give our daughter a bottle right from the start. And I heard from what seemed like every corner that I was a bad mother for not choosing to nurse. You’re going to love and care for this child because it’s yours, and it’s going to thrive because of that love and care. Get a good doc, for both you and the baby, and enjoy this special time, it’s going to go by really quickly.

  40. April

    OMG. I’m sure you’re happy to see a bajillion comments on bleeding nipples, huh? I’m only 23 and baby-making is a long way away for me, but these are making me feel very protective of my twins. Stay back, rugrats!

    Here’s hoping this time is as painless as possible for you. Dina’s got the right idea. Fuck the obessing over it–studies show anticipating pain makes people perceive that pain to be much more intense–and have fun during these months.

  41. Elise

    No first hand experience, but one of my friends loved breastfeeding. As much as she loves sex. For pretty much the same reasons. Honest.

  42. Tammy

    I don’t know you, Maggie, but you seem like a person who not only has a good head on her shoulders, but also knows what’s best for herself. You’ll figure all this stuff out on your own. So long as you’re happy, your baby will be, too.

    Me? I loved breastfeeding, mostly because — like some of the previous posters — I’m totally lazy. I can’t be bothered with bottles (especially in the middle of the night, ack!) and packing around a lot of gear. And breastfeeding while lying down is a great way to buy yourself a half-hour of extra dozing. Not to mention the aforementioned endorphins that breastfeeding releases. Good times!

  43. Blue

    My nipples only hurt for 3 days. The C-section site was way more painful.
    I put lanolin on my nipples before and after feeding my tiny girl, and by the time I left the hospital, all was well.
    Now, when my milk came in, I suddenly had HUGE breasts (a completly new thing for me), and I breastfed for 2 years without complication.
    Its been 8 months since she stopped, and I’ve STILL got milk.
    Hmm. I sound like a dairy advertisment.

  44. Kristen

    Maggie, it’s all about the “free boobing.” something about letting the puppies air out after nursing toughened them right up. Made for uncomfortable conversations with the in-laws, but then again, they said they were only staying for 3 days and stayed for 6. Touche.

  45. Jenn

    Er, I just drifted in here from…

    Anyway. I breastfed my 21 month old for the first nine months of her life.
    And I am currently breastfeeding my two week old son.

    I won’t lie: the first day or two, things are fine. It’s a bit of a different sensation to get used to, but no biggie. Then it’s like your nipples give up and suddenly start hurting – sharp stabbing like pains. But both times that subsided within the next day or two.

    You’ll be fine – breastfeeding really isn’t painful, once you get over the start of it, and as long as baby has a good latch. :)

  46. Jaimers

    Maggie…do what you need to do. You’ll be amazed at what feels right and what doesn’t feel right once that lil’ bundle of joy arrives. For me, breastfeeding was relatively easy. Not because of anything I was doing, but because my daughter was a natural at latching on…THAT IS KEY! If the kid doesn’t do it very well, teach him/her. Once you get past the latch, it gets better. And yes, it will hurt a bit, and yes you’ll leak at really inappropriate times, and yes you’ll want to buy lanolin/nursing shields/bra pads. Ya know…all the FUN stuff. really is worth it. It’s great bonding and great for the kid.
    Just be prepared for some ups and downs and be happy with whatever decision you make (to nurse or not to nurse/when to wean/etc).
    Currently, my daughter and I are at the 12 month mark and starting the weaning process. I can admit that I’m ready to be done with nursing, but will miss the special time together.
    Best of luck with everything with BABY! Yeah!!!

  47. katie

    Very worth it, and a thousand times easier down the road. (and the best thing ever if you fly a lot) I had troubles for the first month, but I ended up breastfeeding for over two years with my son. He weaned himself and it was a great experience. Bottle or breast, I think the most important thing is to be connected to your baby while they are feeding :) Good luck, it’s so exciting! (Just came to your blog recently by the way, I am a little behind I guess!)

  48. katie

    Oh, yeah, “Bestfeeding” is such a great book to help you out. It has really great illustrations on how a good latch should be.

  49. Dawn

    Hey, delurking to say congratulations!!!
    I have two babies (but they keep on growing so I guess they’re not babies anymore, I’ve tried not feeding them, doesn’t work {:o))
    I breast fed my first for six weeks, by four weeks we were supplementing with formula and then I wanted my body back and it was uncomfortable so I quit. But with my second, I was older, more patient, more wise…haha. She loved it and I noticed by the six week mark it didn’t hurt at all, I really, really loved it, I breastfed my little baby face for six months. I wish someone had told me that it would hurt for a while and then it would be fine when I had my first, I might have done it longer. I too was told if I did it right it wouldn’t hurt. Thanks for the guilt dumb old nurse from the hospital. She’ll still “nurse” when she’s upset or tired she climbs into my lap and cuddles my boob and I stroke her little two year old face….then I start to sing her our song and my eyes get teary…then she gets up and says “no mama” and goes to play again…..hey, you don’t want to let me borrow your baby for a while do you?
    It’s really great, and by the way, boob pain, vagina pain, is NOTHING compared to that first time you turn your back for ONE SECOND at the park to throw away your coffee cup and you can’t see your baby when you turn around again. Back me up here moms…but oh it’s great, enjoy every moment. When you’re hit with a horror story, look carefully, in every woman’s eye’s there’s the wistful look of someone who would do it all again, just there in the middle, by the love.

  50. Tara

    It’s different for everyone. I got lucky–I was sore & a bit crusty for the first few days, but after the first week or so, it didn’t hurt at all. It was pleasant, actually–there’s no relief quite like nursing a baby when your boob’s about to explode.

    I found the breastpump more uncomfortable, but again, you get used to it.

    At any rate, I wish you well. Since I’ve never commented here before (and only recently found you through Dooce), congrats on the pregnancy. :-)

  51. Joslyn

    It doesn’t have to hurt! Lanolin is a godsend. Get a tube and use it after nursing from day one. It made all the difference for me.

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