Okay – the pictures in the books and magazines have it all wrong. The peaceful mother, serene of face, warmly wrapped in a fuzzy robe with shiny hair cascading gently down her shoulders is gazing lovingly down at her babe-in-arms, who nuzzles contentedly against her, calmly feeding in that “au naturale” state – breast-feeding. Supposedly, when you breastfeed, a chemical is released into your body called prolactin (sp?). This chemical gives the mother feelings of calm and peacefulness, allowing her to relax, and enjoy the endorphin-filled moment.
The reality (for me, and a few others I have talked to) is that breast-feeding moments are often filled with stress, anxiety… panic, even! It sometimes seems to be a feeding frenzy: The babe is far from calm and is bobbing his head frantically, nipping eagerly for his dinner, while the mother (her hair disheveled and lucky to be wearing anything at all, much less something comfortable!) is wide-eyed with fear, knowing the future soreness that results from that kind of feeding behavior. Mother and babe are locked in this struggle until one of them wins out – either the mother gets the baby to open wide enough for a comfortable latch, or the baby wins by managing to grab the nipple in an unguarded (toe-curling) moment.
Of course, the books all tell you that by, like, day FOUR, you and your baby should have settled into a comfortable routine and be acclimated to each other. I can tell you that I am halfway through WEEK FIVE, and finally am getting my baby to latch correctly most of the time, but that the soreness and pain have NOT gone away.
Oh, and forget having nice clothes while you’re nursing b/c apparently something else they never tell you is that breast milk stains everything too. So I now have a vast wardrobe of spotted sweatpants, t-shirts, tanks, and pajamas… all that money spent on maternity clothes – OUT the window!
And then there is the long list of home remedies for sore breasts.
- Cold Compresses
- Warm Compresses
- Air drying (b/c that’s always a fashion forward move!)
- Lanolin cream (which nobody tells you will stain EVERYTHING it comes into contact with!)
- Breast Shields (think Madonna (the singer, not the Holy Mother) only not as pointy) – these help for a few minutes, but in the long run make you sweaty.
- Consulting a Lactation Specialist or a La Leche League Leader – all very helpful, but usually have contradictory advice. (Bottle/no bottle, pacifier/no pacifier, etc…)
…and now for the more far-out suggestions…
- Cabbage leaves in your bra (I have yet to try this, but the cabbage is in the fridge!)
- Grating a white potato and (no, seriously, get this:) wearing shredded potato in your bra until they dry out (the potato pieces, not your bra or body parts!) (Note: it helps to grate the potato onto a baby washcloth and insert into bra). This remedy is actually very cooling, but I’m not sure that in the long run it will remove the soreness – I’ll keep you posted, as I am currently test-driving this for the first time.
And so my question is… why doesn’t anybody mention this when they talk about having a baby? Am I the only one who finds nursing to be a tortuous, arduous path to trod? Everyone keeps saying “it gets better!” I’m still waiting for that!
In the meantime, I’m going to assume that idyllic, prolactin-induced facial expression each time I nurse, all the while gritting my teeth and curling my toes as I feed my darling baby. (Who, by the way, has NO problem whatsoever with achieving Nursing Nirvana).