I had my first baby, Tessa, on August 9, 1998, in Danbury, Connecticut. My husband and I took breastfeeding prep classes and read at least four different books on the subject. After Tessa was born things seemed to be going well, but within one day my nipples were getting very sore.
By the time I went home my nipples were entirely abraded and raw. I continued to breastfeed, but it was becoming increasingly painful. When I look at pictures now, I realize sore nipples were inevitable. There is one picture of me nursing her in the side-lying position, and she was so far away from me that she was practically on the other side of the room!
My husband and I were new to Danbury, only moving there a couple of months prior for my husband’s job, so the night we got home from the hospital I opened the yellow pages and found the local La Leche League leader. We talked on the phone, and she decided she needed to come over to try and help me. After getting to my house and attempting to help me latch Tessa, she felt that I needed to see an IBCLC. I called one, and she came over the next day.
I was starting to feel flu symptoms and had a fever of 103. I went to the doctor, and they said I had mastitis on both breasts, most likely from my badly damaged nipples. I was started on antibiotics. The lactation consultant came up with a plan for me to stop breastfeeding to let my nipples heal. I pumped every three hours and bottle fed my expressed milk.
One other not fun part of this story is that on day 9 of a 10-day course of antibiotics to treat my breast infection, I broke out in hives from head to toe. I ended up having difficulty breathing and went to the ER. Eventually, after one week I stopped itching and attempted to be normal again.
I started to attend local LLL meetings, and all the ladies were so nice and were very supportive of my pumping. They were also curious if I would ever want to try breastfeeding again.
Before having Tessa, I had planned to breastfeed for one year. After all the drama, that quickly went to 6 months. I was now not sure I would make it until three months with pumping and bottle-feeding.
After five weeks of attending meetings and pumping all the time, sometimes needing to soothe my crying daughter with my big toe while I pumped, I started to think about latching her to my breast again. So, right at six weeks I put a chair in the middle of my family room, covered her hand with mitts (not sure why I did either of those two things). I placed my baby on my lap.
After 5 and a half weeks of bottles, Tessa latched on right away. I started laughing so hard. I was beyond overjoyed. We breastfeed the rest of the night successfully.
I called my LC the next morning to tell her the great news and said that she could pick up my rental pump.
I never looked back. I never pumped, ever again. Tessa never took a bottle again. I breastfed her until her first birthday.
Two years later, I had a little boy, Mac. The first few days I was scared that it would all turn bad as it had with Tessa. However, I breastfed him with no problems until his first birthday as well. He never took a bottle, and I never needed to pump.
I still went on date nights with my husband, but that’s another breastfeeding story!
My breastfeeding journey was the most empowering experience of my entire life. I knew deep down that I would become a Lactation Consultant one day, needing to help other moms on their breastfeeding journeys. In 2005, I graduated from nursing school, having solely enrolled as the first step on my path to becoming an LC. I have now been supporting new moms for almost 13 years and have been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant for ten years.
We all have our own breastfeeding story, but I actually turned mine into a career. Thank you to all the woman who helped me on my journey and all the woman that trust me with theirs.
Read about how to prevent or manage sore nipples