Breastfeeding Sucks…

Breastfeeding Sucks… January 6, 2011


I was in the middle of typing up the birth story, which, trust me, is a good one. I hoped to finish it when I sat down today to write, but I think it’ll have to wait for another day. Though Maggie is only 9 days old, it seems like her birth was about five years ago. I’m not even thinking of it much these days.

All I think about is feeding her. I don’t even want to write or publish this post, because I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to feel judged. But I need to get it out.

Breastfeeding got off to a pretty horrible start for us. By the second night of her life, my nipples were already cracked and nursing hurt so much that I wanted to did scream. Of course there’s no LC on duty in the night, so I just figure this is how it should hurt, and suffer. The next morning the LC shows up, takes one look at my nipples, one look in my baby’s mouth, and pronounces her “tongue-tied”. What’s that?

Basically it means (a) her mouth is small and (b) the frenulum, the membrane that is under her tongue, is very far forward, which means that she can’t stick her tongue out that far. She can barely get her tongue over her gums. So the pain I was experiencing the entire night before was her gumming my nipples. Tongue-tie makes it difficult for her to latch-on, and since my milk hadn’t started to come in yet, she was trying and trying, leaving us both frustrated and screaming.

The LC told me that until my nipples healed, and my milk came in (and possibly for as long as I nurse, since her mouth may not get much larger) I should use a nipple shield. That nipple shield is the only reason I did not quit nursing by the third night of her life. It still hurts the entire time she nurses, but it is tolerable, as opposed to those first nights.

Adding yet another layer of suck to the whole thing is this: because of the shape of my breast, I can only nurse her in the football hold. Oh yeah, and it took almost five days for my milk to come in.

That’s how we got where we are now. It’s funny because I was so sure that I would exclusively BF, that I did not even read anything about formula or bottle feeding in any of the books I have. Not one word. Talk about arrogant. I just assumed that nursing would be fine, and yeah, sure, it would be hard, but I would love it, right? I mean, everyone else raves about how great it is and how formula is basically rat poison, right?

Cut to three days after birth: It’s 3 am, I’m still waiting for my milk to come in, we’re at home, no nurses anywhere to help. She won’t sleep for more than 30 minutes because she’s hungry (gee I wonder why?) and every time I try to latch her on, she screams because she’s so hungry and frustrated and has to work so hard just to get a little bit of colostrum.

I keep trying to nurse her; Atticus’ mom goes to the CVS and gets some formula (just in case — I am now getting completely desperate). Next morning: it has been seven hours since she’s eaten. She has cried herself quiet and is now not interested in the breast at all. No wet diapers for many hours. We are all getting worried. We call the doctor whose office is closed because it’s New Year’s Day. So we call the hospital. Eventually we talk to two different pediatricians who both tell us the same thing. Give her a bottle. If the milk’s not in and she’s not nursing or peeing, she is dehydrating.

That’s it. I’m not letting my baby starve for the sake of principle. We offer a bottle and she drinks 3 ozs. at one time, and then is content for the first time in about 48 hours. Lo and behold, she starts having more wet diapers.

I keep nursing, letting her drink as much as she can get, and then offering a bottle when she wakes up hungry 20 minutes later.

Eventually my milk came in, and since then she is able to nurse and then be content for 2-3 hours between feedings, usually — the way it should be. It still hurts the whole time she nurses, but her latch on is getting better. There hasn’t been nipple confusion because I started using the breast shield from day 3 onward, and it is similar to the bottle nipple. She does not have to work so hard to get the milk.

We still supplement with formula at night, so we can take turns getting some sleep.

Maggie is small. She was only 7 pounds at birth, and even now 9 days later, she is still about 4 oz. from her birth weight. I’m not surprised, since she got next to nothing for about 3 days. We had a weight check this morning, and the brilliant pediatrician (not ours – the other doc in the practice) gives me some great completely useless advice: nurse her more. Apparently every 2-3 hours isn’t enough and I should wake her every hour 45 minutes. Nurse her more? Even with supplementing, I am still nursing her about 6-7 times per day, and since she’s a slow eater, that’s about 45- 1 hour at each feeding. Nurse her more? Oh yes, that’s right, because I’m not a human being, I’m a cow. And since I can only nurse in football hold, that leaves me sitting for about 7 hours a day on my butt, which is still healing nicely from the horrific tear I have (I’ll get more into that when I finish the labor story, but let me just say: forceps were used.)

Oh yeah, and then he tells me to go to a lactation support group. How am I supposed to do that when I’m nursing every hour 45, and it takes me ten minutes (with my husband’s help) to get set up with all the pillows and breast shield (which can’t be applied with one hand)? Nurse her in public? I can barely get it together enough to nurse her at home. Useless.

Then he tells me that “he knows how hard it is.” Excuse me? When’s the last time you lactated buddy? His wife nursed their kids, you see, so he knows what its like. I actually had to bite my tongue in order to NOT say to him, “Oh yeah? Well, why don’t you get her on the phone because she probably has more useful advice for me than you do, fool.”

If you’re reading this right now and are pregnant and planning to bf, please listen to me: buy the most comfortable chair you can afford! I did not, and I’m paying for it now. I nurse on the couch with 7 pillows and I still end up with a backache/sore butt every time. I made Atticus take me to Babies R Us where I picked out the most comfy one that fit my boppy, and now I am just waiting for its arrival. Do not make same mistake I did. Get your chair before the baby comes.

So the ugly truth is this: I really, really, really dislike nursing. A lot. Everyone talks about how its so beautiful, and noble, and they feel like they’re floating when their baby is on the breast. All I feel is stressed out each time I’m getting ready to latch her on, and far from feeling a sense of bonding, I’m just thinking “how much longer until this will be over?”

I don’t feel like this about any other aspect of motherhood so far. I don’t mind the diaper changes (even when she pees on the changing pad three times in one day!). I love rocking her to sleep. I love looking in her sweet eyes when she is alert and just hanging out with us. I love carrying her around in the baby bjorn between feedings and feeling her close to me. I don’t even really mind the sleep deprivation (that much!).

Nursing makes me nervous and somewhat resentful, but not of Maggie. More resentful of what nursing is itself, I think.  I don’t know how I would feel about it if we had had an easier time so far. If there weren’t physical challenges that will probably always make it harder for us to nurse, maybe I wouldn’t feel this sense of dread about the whole thing. Who knows. I do know that I hate feeling like a cow rather than a person, and that my sole purpose in life right now is to sit on my butt and wait until it’s time to whip out my breast again. In an odd way, I feel that my body is much less my own now than I did when I was pregnant. Maybe that’s why I’m frustrated with the whole thing. I told you all before that even though I love this baby with all my heart, my heart is dreadfully small. Maybe this trial by fire will help it get just a little bit bigger.

Look at that sweetness — I love her feet!



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  • Michelle

    Sarah…I hope you know this is sincere…I completely understand. You had a lot of the same struggles I had with my first (my beloved Sarah!) Nursing was a nightmare for me with her. it was so bad that I didn’t even attempt it with my 2nd baby. I tried again with my third and it went much better, but then with my fourth, it was a nightmare much like with my first.

    I want to encourage you to keep trying, but I also want to encourage you to do whatever ends up being the best for your sanity, for your family and for your baby. Chances are that will be breastfeeding. There’s also a chance it might not be breastfeeding. I had a lot of the same feelings you describe in this post while I breastfed. I remember being so frustrated that everyone always talked about how wonderful breastfeeding was, but no one ever discussed how hard it could be and I really felt no one was honest with me about how severe some of the challenges can be.

    You are lifted up in my prayers. Your baby girl is breath-takingly beautiful! Congratulations.


  • Katherine

    It does suck…..horribly……but it does get easier, even though it took me at least 3 months before I could say that…..I also understand the paid of sitting all day with horrible tears ( I had 4-4th degree tears with my birth)….

    It too, took me that long to get set up & I thought I was never going to be able to get ready to breastfeed with out my hubby… 4 months I was done using the nipple shield & I also was able to breastfeed in public when needed…..

    My daughter unfortunately had to eat every 45 mins for about an hour in the beginning because it took her 2 months to regain the pound she lost & get back up to her birth weight…..that was the worst time of my life….I wanted to scream every time she ate & I cried all the time because of the pain….see if you can get the La Leche Leader to come to your house….I had one in the town we used to live in who was such a blessing! She came over to see me, because I couldn’t go out & she talked & had suggestions for me, much better than the lactation consultant…..she even gave me her phone # & told me not to hesitate to call her no matter what time of day it was….she was so kind even when I called her at 2 am to tell her I didn’t think I could do it any more…..

    I honestly felt like a milk cow for the first 3 months….but it does get better, but I feel like a year ago I could have written this whole post, esp the last paragraph myself….. :/

    You just have to keep in mind that it does get better, as horrible as it seems now….I can honestly say I have finally learned to love it….but it’s taken the better part of a year…..I can’t imagine doing anything else….

    As far as the Breastfeeding challenges…..I had horribly cracked & bleeding nipples for the first 6 weeks….so much so that my daughter was puking up my blood after she ate….. :/ She had jaundice very bad (in and out of the hospital 2 times in the first 2 weeks for that, we had the wallaby blanket at home for a month) Daily drs visits for the first month & she lost a full pound in the first month & it took 2 months for her to get up to her birth weight they had diagnosed her as “Failure to thrive”….the week after she was born I came down with Mastitis so bad that I almost ended up in the hospital instead my dr was kind enough to give me my IV’s in the drs office because I was there with my daughter every day anyway…. By the time she was 3 months old I had mastitis 3 times…..I’ve had it 5 times in the past year….I never gave my daughter a bottle of any kind, even though there were days just the thought of feeding her would have me in tears because it hurt soo bad….

    But even though it’s still painful for me at times, I wouldn’t have done anything different….at her 4 month check up she went from being in the 10th percentile for weight (when she was 6 weeks she weight 7lbs even, her birth weight was 7lbs 8.7oz) to 24lbs even & 25 inches tall! She was in the 98th percentile for both height & weight & that was all breastmilk, she didn’t even start on food until she was 6 months old….she’s now a healthy 30lb & 30 inch tall 1 year old! My hubby’s nick name for breastmilk now is “mommy’s miracle grow”

    I thank God everyday that I had all the support from my dr, my daughters dr, my husband, mom & LLL leader in my area & the Lactation consultants….I couldn’t have done it on my own for sure……We’ve come a LONG way & I never thought I would see the day last year when I could say that I made it a year of breastfeeding! But now we will just continue until she decides she wants to wean… I have a feeling it will still be a while, because she still nurses all day long…..

    Aside from all of that, she’s only had one cold at 10 months…..and hasn’t been sick at all before that…..breastfeeding really does keep them healthy I believe!

    I’m sorry you have all of these problems, but I can relate totally & I know what it’s like to spend the whole feeding just wishing it will end….I wish I lived closer & could help you out a little, because I remember all to well thinking I was never going to make it, but it does get better….just keep telling yourself that & also….scream, cry & dig your toenails into the floor as much as you need to….I think it really does help a little….

    If you need someone to talk to feel free to e-mail me….I’ve been there & I would like to help any way I can…..

  • Don’t apologize for how you feel about any of this. I don’t envy the pressure you have from the recent upsurge in breastfeeding. I advocated for it when I worked in LA, and got to sit in on BF classes. It was a rude awakening when I saw some of the mothers struggling so much. I think a story like this is an important nuance for the mystification of these “noble” parenting practices.

  • Rae

    Do *you* want to breastfeed? Because I’m inclined to give you a long list of reasons why you should chill out and do what is best for you even though it seems like it might not be breastfeeding. But I don’t want to discourage you and make you feel like your fight is worthless if it is really what you want.

    • spilisz08

      Rae, I don’t know what I want! Right now I don’t mind nursing during the day, but I feel like I need a break at night, and I just get so worn out. I don’t feel bad about using the formula at night (it’s good for Atticus to get to feed her too), but I think I want to keep bf’ing during the day; at this point I’m just trying to make it less stressful. Thank you for your comment/support!

  • Michelle

    Hey Sarah, i thought of another thing that kept the guilt on me when I was struggling and I thought I would share with you.

    I have four children (#5 coming in July). The one I was (miraculously) able to breastfeed is the one child who had ear infection after ear infection her entire first year, was allergic to everything I ate (it seemed like…but probably the most offensive allergy was dairy), and was sick constantly. She got tubes inserted in her ears at 13 months, which DRAMATICALLY improved her state in life. The three who were bottle-fed have been my healthiest children to date.

    Obviously, there are plenty of studies that show the benefits of breastfeeding. I am sure my children have been so healthy mainly because they’ve been at home during the first three years of their life (no daycare).

    I’m not saying breastfeeding can’t contribute to health (as studies show it definitely does) but I also can attest to the fact that formula is not rat poison (your words!) and that my children who were formula-fed are healthy, happy, well-adjusted children. Matter of fact, lots of times women at church make the assumption I breastfeed (probably because I have four children)…and I gently and quietly tell them, no, I have my healthy happy children and *gasp* they all had formula at some point in their lives.

    Again, will keep you and your precious family in my prayers. I pray that you will find the way that works for you, and that CAN and very well may be breastfeeding, which would be wonderful!

    • spilisz08

      Thank you Michelle! I’m glad to hear that formula-fed babies do okay too (I was formula fed, as was my husband, so I’m saying that somewhat tongue in cheek!). We’re going to keep supplementing with formula because I don’t have a big milk supply, and also I need to sleep!

      Thanks for your prayers and congrats on your #5!

  • Marie

    Thank you for sharing this and for your honesty.

    I don’t have any kids but my friend has said that breastfeeding was way more challenging than she expected. She mentioned feeling like the “all night dairy queen.”

    Do what is best for you, and for your child. And be *gentle* with yourself.

    • spilisz08

      Thanks Marie! It can be hard to be gentle with myself; I have such high standards, it’s next to impossible to meet them! I also was so silly to think BF’ing would be easy!

  • Emily

    Oh Sarah, I am sorry you are having such a difficult time!

    I do know how you feel to some extent. I had horribly cracked, raw, bloody nipples for weeks with Marinn. No one told me about the nipple shield until I was almost at the end of my rope. I had to pray Hail Marys while latching and the whole time I nursed just to endure the pain. The day I got the nipple shield I ran a fever of 103 and had the first of several instances of mastitis. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up the feeding without the shield. Elaina was just as vigorous from the beginning and by the time I got home from the hospital, I was already sore. Thank goodness I knew to use the shield, but it was still painful for a few weeks.

    The difference for me is that I was able to use a variety of positions and to lie down while nursing. Trust me when I say that it does get better, but right now I know you are not thinking farther than the next feeding. You need to do what is right for YOU. Feel no guilt…you are caring for her and she is growing. That is what is important. In my personal experience, breast feeding turned out to be worth the pain and sacrifice. After the first few months, it has been so easy. It is surviving those first months that is the struggle.

    I will pray for you…being a new mom is HARD! Hang in there!

    • spilisz08

      Hi Emily! Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you had mastitis; that sounds like it is way worse than what I have been dealing with. But you obviously survived, so that gives me hope! 🙂

      It’s getting a little easier; I’m thinking of trying a different position (cross cradle maybe) since she is two weeks old now, she might be able to do it. I’m also going to the broad ripple LLL meeting on Friday; I hope they’ll have some help. 🙂

  • Oh Sarah, I’m so sorry you have to go through this. No one here is judging you. You do what is best for BOTH you and your daughter. I will definitely be praying for you.

    Oh yeah, and I just love how male doctors try and be sympathetic towards us. I was (still am) devasted I had to have a c-section, and my doc tried to make me feel better… but it was an epic fail!

    Your daughter is absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to see more pictures!

  • Oh Sarah, I’m so sorry to hear how awful this is for you! You have it so much worse than me! I will definitely be holding you up in prayer, my friend.

    Also, Miss Maggie is adorable!

  • I’m sorry it’s been so hard! Thank you for writing this-I am going to track down a glider TONIGHT! I’ve been a little concerned about only having an oversized recliner to nurse in and you’ve confirmed my fears.

    And this is coming from the speech therapist part of me-has anyone talked to you about having her frenulum clipped? That would take care of the “tongue tied” problem. I assure you it is a very, very minor procedure and may help with her latch. You might want to ask her doctor about it (or consult an Ear, Nose Throat doctor if you don’t trust your current doc). It’s a two minute procedure with virtually no risks and recovery time. Email me if you have any questions.

    Praying it goes better soon! She IS beautiful!!

    • spilisz08

      Thanks Kaitlin! Actually, I emailed a LLL woman and she suggested the frenulum clipping. I mentioned it to my pediatrician and she said if the baby’s latch doesn’t improve soon, that she will give a referral. So we’ll see what happens!

  • Joy

    Hugs!! Supplementing is not evil especially at the beginning and as many people have already written it does get better ~ her mouth will get a little bigger, she will get better head making latching easier, and other areas of you will heal making the nursing sessions less uncomfortable. i echo the recommendation to have a Le Leche person come to your house and get you hooked into a support system.

    Yes it does suck at the beginning but for most of us it does get better.

  • Joy

    Eep ‘better head control’

  • MaryBeth S.

    Sarah – I don’t have time to read everyone else’s comments now, so forgive if I’m repeating what everyone else already said, but here goes…

    First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!!! I didn’t even know you had the baby (am a little behind on FB and blogs).

    Second of all, you are not alone… my third baby – who just turned 6 months – was tongue tied and I was thinking, OK, its my third, breast-feeding is going to be SO easy this time, right?!? WRONG!! Pain, pain, and more searing pain for the first two weeks. Used a nipple shield for those weeks, too, and praised God that I was Catholic and saw redemptive value in suffering or I may have gone insane 🙂

    Searing pain isn’t good when you are well-rested, but it is so much more incredibly awful when you are sleep-deprived. I will be praying for you so hard for these next few weeks.

    While I whole-heartedly maintain that your sanity is the number one priority in making your baby healthy (so don’t beat yourself up if you need to stop breast-feeding and use formula – it is a perfectly healthy choice!) I do want to encourage you to give it at least a full 6 weeks before making a decision to stop because…

    a) if you stick with it, she will become a better nurser and it WILL get easier (and sooner rather than later) and the pain WILL go away

    b) I was stuck with the football hold with all three kids for the first 1-2 months and I promise you, when the baby is bigger, you WILL be able to use different holds and actually relax your arms so don’t let that be a deciding factor in quitting (there is an end in sight!), and

    c) it WILL be worth it if you can push through this awful period because as beautiful as feeding a baby is with bottle OR breast, there is a unique bonding experience that comes from breast-feeding.

    It is just so frustrating that a lot of us moms don’t talk to anyone who gives you the real-life experience of breast-feeding (and how awful it can be) before birth and then we are completely blind-sided (at least I was). You were so right to get your frustration out and if anyone is judging you, shame on THEM (not you).

    Lots of prayers will be coming your way for strength and direction! 🙂

    • spilisz08

      Thanks Mary-Beth! It’s nice to read about someone else who has dealt with “tongue tie”. 🙂 Your prayers are so appreciated!

  • Sorry you are having such a tough time! I definitely want to echo what everyone else has said. Namely, it does get easier with time. So stick with it. I think the first 6 weeks are the hardest. But also that you have to do what is best for you and your family. Formula is not evil, in spite of what some of the very pro-breastfeeding people will say. Tongue-tie is something that is relatively easy to fix.

    I remember when Judah was just born and I felt like all I did was nurse him. He was just so. slow. But fairly quickly I realized it really was much more convenient to nurse than use bottles. And he got better at it, I got better at it, and now 9 months later we are still going strong. Again, sorry it is so tough but I promise it does get better. Have you met again with an LC? They are usually AWESOME and know so much they probably can continue to help you. Maybe you can get weaned off the nursing shield soon – I know they can be a life saver, but I bet it would be easier without it since it would be one less thing to worry about. As a physician I will say that most doctors really don’t know that much about nursing. We just aren’t taught enough. Having nursed a child and reading a lot has taught me a ton, although I know I still know very little.

    Anyway…I’ll pray that it gets easier.

  • I so feel for you. My first child and I really struggled with nursing with shield, pillows, etc. and all for months, but, then, finally things “took” and he nursed for a year, until i was pregnant with #2, who also struggled with nursing. (And, both were tiny babies.) My third has been shield-free – whoo hoo! But, there has been mastitis – ouch! still, I wouldn’t give it up for anything, personally. That said, I know friends who have and it’s been so much better for them and their babies. Prayers for you through this struggle and peace with however you decide to do things…

  • Oh Sarah! I’m just reading this, and I’m so sorry I didn’t see it sooner. You poor, poor girl.

    Nursing is beautiful, and it is noble.

    And it also freaking sucks. It’s hard, it’s gross, it’s messy and it really, really hurts. I hate these LC’s who say “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”

    Bull-S##$ in my opinion. I’ve nursed three babies and each one has hurt like hell. When my firstborn was little, I did not leave the couch for four months. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, let me assure you that I’m not.

    I rented movies and watched them. All. Repeatedly. I couldn’t leave the house because the baby had to nurse every 45 minutes, and I couldn’t figure out how to nurse in public without exposing all sorts of parts that pregnancy had stretched out and that I didn’t want to expose anyway. The baby developed thrush about a week in and for a month and a half every nursing experience (and they happened every forty-five stinkin minutes) was horribly, horribly painful. I cried. I screamed. She cried. She screamed. My husband watched us crying and screaming and when he couldn’t help, he just paced. It was horrible.

    It got easier for us. It may not for you. Please don’t beat yourself up; remember that the goal is to have a happy, healthy, good child. The goodness you and Atticus will have to take care of all on your own (with a lot of help from God); the happy and healthy, you may need a little man-made help with. It does not mean you’re not a wonderful mother. Don’t forget that.

    We’ll be praying for you. I’m so, so sorry that it’s harder than you expected. I really wish it wasn’t.

  • Nicole

    I haven’t had my baby yet (I’m 36 weeks 5 days and counting!) so I can’t even begin to attempt to relate to the pain side of breast feeding but I can already completely relate to the pressure to do so aspect of things!

    I’m a university student who fell pregnant accidentally (though we both couldn’t be happier) and the dates just so happened to work out so that my final exams are 3 weeks after my due date! Stressful times with lots of turmoil; do I drop out and forget the law degree, abort the pregnancy (never really an option) try and do it all……..??? Thankfully my parents vowed to help me in any way shape and form, their going to help babysit for the first few weeks so I can revise etc, so fingers crossed absolutely exhausted or not I’ll manage to at least sit the exams and not have to sit the year again (at a cost of around £5000).

    I’ve had discussions with my midwife, read the literature on the subject and even spoken to friends who all continue to feed me the mantra breast is best, breast is best; and I don’t dispute that; but I honestly am getting sick of being made to feel a heathen for daring to suggest formula or combined feeding. Whenever the subject comes up and I put forward my view people seem to shy away from me like I have some infectious disease and I’m getting a little tired of it… to the point I can be a little, shall we say, vicious.

    When one friend pushed the issue over and over and over, even when I asked her to leave the subject alone I ended up snapping at her along the lines of… “You might think you’re a better person than me because you’ve chosen to breastfeed but I don’t agree with drinking and smoking while pregnant and you did both so where does that leave us?” I’m not proud of it, but it was said and what’s done is done.

    One meeting with my midwife was particularly irritating. I tried to discuss everything; “What about expressing?” Answer- Expressing confuses the baby so I’d say no. “Combined feeding” Answer- Reduces your milk so no. “Well I’m concerned no-one else being able to help with the feeding, just while I try to get through my finals.” Answer- Breast is best.


    I understand that there are numerous benefits to breast feeding but can someone work with me even just a little? Make me feel like the past 9 months or being sick in lecture theatres and all over my car mid-commute will come to something, if not then what was it all for?

    I honestly feel close to tears just thinking about it and I have a home visit coming up to go through my birth plan and I’ve no doubt that I will be made to feel a failure as a mother in the comfort of my own home.

    I completely respect peoples choice to breast feed, or to not as the case may be; just as in reality I feel that it’s up to everyone individually whether or not they feel its ok to smoke or drink while carrying, why is it that no-one will respect mine?!

  • I also hated breastfeeding. My daughter didn’t latch well and it was painful for me too. I didn’t realize it, but my daughter wasn’t getting enough milk, which is why feedings took so long and she cried all the time. I just wrote a post with the same title and put a link to this post on it. Thank you for being honest and sharing your story.

  • christine osterhout

    You stole the words out of my mouth! I started pumping because of the pain…apparently I have udders and instead of excruciating pain while breastfeeding…I now require someone to feed my child my breastmilk while I’m plugged into a machine 8 times a day!