When I was expecting my first baby, 20+ years ago, I was told all kinds of breastfeeding stories. The second one that stuck in my mind was, “Breastfeeding is going to hurt. You just deal with it”. Unfortunately, I once again believed this old wife’s tale. When it hurt, I thought I must be doing a good job and I tried to deal with the pain. When my nipple developed a deep split in it, I dreaded latching her on. For those of you that have never experienced this type of pain, and I hope you never do, let me give you a brief description. I would hold my breath, curl my toes, clinch my jaw, hold my entire body rigid, and cry. This lasted for 6 weeks! Does this sound normal to any of you? It’s not!
Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt! Pain is a sign that there is a problem! If you were to experience pain that made you hold your breath, curl your toes, clinch your jaw, hold your entire body rigid, and cry, you would go to the doctor! The answer seems so simple yet for a breastfeeding mom it doesn’t always feel that simple. I think it has to do with two things. We chose to breastfeed our baby, and this goes along with it, and because it is on our breasts. If breast feeding is supposed to hurt and every mom had to deal with it, I doubt the human species would have survived this long. Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt! Pain is a sign that there is a problem!
Remember how bad I told you it hurt, if I had known to ask for help, it would have taken about 3 seconds to fix it. I’m not exaggerating! Her bottom lip was tucked in when it needed to be flipped out. It is corrected by walking your fingers along the baby’s chin and gently pulling down. The bottom lip pops out and Presto, no pain! As a mom, I couldn’t see what the baby was doing, and I don’t think I would have recognized the problem even if I had. If I had known to ask for help when she was 2 days old, then I wouldn’t have had the 6 weeks of pain.
If it doesn’t feel right, then ask for help! A little discomfort for a few seconds is acceptable for a short time but never beyond that! There are lactation consultants in the hospital, support groups with trained leaders, as well as lactation consultants with private practices. Find someone right away and don’t wait!
Elizabeth O’Dell, IBCLC
About the Lactation Consultant