Piper’s Story Part 3 : Breast Feeding & Post Part-em Issues

: : WARNING : :
Graphic descriptions of bloody and mutilated lady parts ahead. Proceed at your own peril.

In preparation for parenting, one thing I knew without question I would be doing is breast feeding. I knew that the most beneficial nourishment for an infant’s heath would be breast milk! I had grown up with my mother breast feeding all of her children – all 8 of them (the youngest however wasn’t able to gain nourishment and had to be switched to formula to my mother’s deep disappointment). Breast milk is also FREE. It seemed to be the most logical route, and I would not under any circumstances switch to formula.

Life has a funny way of testing our convictions to see if we’re serious.

Almost as soon as Piper was born, we tried to get her to latch. I discovered immediately that this would be more difficult than I thought. Her mouth was a tiny little thing that she held closed like a vice. Also, one of my nipples was inverted, so making it come out with one hand while trying to open the baby’s mouth with the other was more than just a little tricky. Also, she would flail her arms in front of her face when I finally would get her on and she would come right back off again, and it would start all over. For those experienced with breast feeding, you won’t be surprised to learn that my nipples became very sore and worn to the point of cracking and bleeding.

Medela Harmony Manual Breast PumpMedela Contact Nipple ShieldMedela Tender Care Lanolin

^My best friends^

Now I did find out later that things such as immediate bottle feeding and/or using a lovely little invention called a nipple shield are strongly discouraged by most “professionals” if a mother wishes to breast feed her child. They claim it causes “nipple confusion” and that the child wont want to latch and breast feed after using them, or in the case of the nipple shield and breast pump will supposedly cause decreased milk production. This is hogwash for any woman who wants to feed her child naturally. Where there’s a will, there’s a way (unless you are not producing milk whatsoever or the milk you are producing is not nourishing to your child…which is altogether different.)

I had her on a nursing schedule, and every 2 1/2 hours I would feed her. My midwife put me on a nipple shield within a couple of days of having Piper. But even with the protection of the shield, it got to the point where I would just weep when it was time to nurse. I started using a hand pump every other feeding to give myself a little break from the fight to get her on. The milk would always come out pink. I used lanolin to help sooth the cracking and soreness.

The day Piper turned a week old, I woke up with severe chills and a 99.9 degree fever. I noticed a very large red hot lump on my breast as well. When I called my midwife, she said it sounded like mastitis and that I should put warm compresses on and drink echinacea┬átea. If my fever didn’t break and I didn’t feel better in 6 hours, I was to see a doctor. 6 hours later, my fever did break (with the help of Tylenol) but my lump was still hot and red. MW said if nothing changed after another 6 hours to see a doctor. I didn’t want to be put on antibiotics and a friend of mine who is allergic to them ┬ásaid that normally she was able to kick it within a week. Stupidly, I made a choice to ignore my midwife and wait it out a week.

All that week I was exhausted. Between being sick, waking up every 3 hours in the night to nurse and pump, and having extreme pain in breast feeding, I was not sleeping well or feeling any better. When the week was up, I went to the hospital clinic and got checked. According to the doctor there, I indeed had mastitis. I was prescribed antibiotics and given some literature on them and mastitis, then sent home. My antibiotic literature said to see a doctor if they were not effective within 3-4 days. Four days later I didn’t feel like anything was better, and so I went to the emergency room.

At the emergency room, I was examined and then sent in for an ultrasound of my breast because of how big and red hot my lump was. The ultrasound showed a mass, and the doctors were very concerned. I was given a scolding for not coming in immediately when this all started, and then I was taken into surgery. An egg-sized abscess containing a staff infection (note: the doctor at the clinic diagnosed as mastitis) was removed, and I could have died from it.

As a result of having breast surgery, as my incision healed it meant that scar tissue developed around the cut and it cut off a lot of producing milk ducts which I now don’t have any use of. However, I continued to persevere through nursing.

By the time Piper was 3 weeks old, I quit using the breast pump almost altogether. It was cutting into my sleeping which I needed badly. But I was nursing exclusively with the nipple shield. Piper was gaining the weight she was expected to be gaining, so I wasn’t concerned about my milk supply using the nipple shield.

After 5 weeks, I dropped the nipple shield. Piper was still difficult to nurse, but she was getting better at latching by this time, and her mouth was a bit bigger. By 6 weeks Piper was latching properly, and though my nipples were still torn up, they were on the mend, and I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.