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When breastfeeding doesn’t come easy – part 1

by Kerryn on October 12th, 2010

My lovely baby girl is 6 months old and it’s only in the last month or so that I can say that breastfeeding is going well (let’s hope I haven’t jinxed it). This is a very detailed (some might say long winded) post on the breastfeeding challenges that I had and how I overcame them.  I hope that this post will help other mom’s who really want to breastfeed, but are finding it difficult.

I had a Georgie via c-section because she was breech and ignored all our efforts to turn her. As soon as she had been checked over by the paed she was placed on my chest and she latched while I was in recovery.  I had help right then from the midwife on getting the latch “right”.

Well I have heard that if your baby is latched right it is not meant to hurt, but it really did! I kept asking different nurses to check my latch. They all told me it was great. After a day or so I had very sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. I had some laser treatment done, but am not sure that it made any difference. Lansinoh ointment became my absolute best baby product and I resigned myself to toughing it out. After about 2 weeks I was pain free and thought it would all be plain sailing from there…

Then at about 5 weeks I started to get burning and shooting pain in my left nipple and also noticed a little white dot. I googled everything I could find and came up with 2 options that seemed possible: nipple thrush or a milk bleb. I assumed (incorrectly) that thrush would have to be on both sides. I also didn’t see any of the tell-tale “cottage cheese” in Georgie’s mouth. Milk blebs didn’t seem to be associated with the burning pain and seemed to be mostly caused by a poor latch. So I worked on making sure my latch was right and hoped it would go away. Then I started to get the pain on the right side and feeding was excruciating. I chatted to my paed and gynae at the 6 week check up and both thought it was thrush and put me onto a serious course of anti-thrush medication. I was also advised to go on a major exclusion diet (no sugar, yeast, wheat, dairy, soya, preservatives, additives, fruit). I was prescribed a number of anti-fungal ointments. I hadn’t seen any improvements after 2 weeks of the treatment and diet.

I joined the La Leche League and went to a meeting hoping for a new suggestion. No-one there had any suggestions apart from thrush. My gynae suggested that I go and see a boob specialist, which I did. She took a swab from my nipples and sent them off to check for bacterial or fungal infections. They came back negative. The boob specialist said she had no idea what the problem might be, but to call back in a few weeks of the pain hadn’t gone away.  It was a very bleak moment! [It turns out she is more of a breast cancer specialist and not a breastfeeding specialist (BIG difference)].

When applying one of the anti-fungals after feeding one day I noticed that my nipple went completely white and then slowly returned to it’s normal pinkish colour. Absolutely terrifying. This happened again after I had stopped using the anti-fungals. I had been discussing my breastfeeding problem with the Conny, the fantastic  nurse and owner of the clinic that we take Georgie to. She called a lactation consultant that she uses, who suggested that it may be Raynaud’s phenomenon and that I should come in for a consultation.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is where a spasm of blood vessels prevents the blood getting to a particular area of the body (see links below for more information). At this point I had spent a fortune on doctors visits and prescriptions and just felt that I couldn’t afford another whack of money without a definite solution. So I waited a few more weeks until I couldn’t stand it anymore and finally went to see the lactation consultant. At this point I had a little white spot on both nipples and was having to hold my breath due to the pain at the start of every feed. The burning pain that I was having seemed to always be linked to the whitening of my nipple and would continue for up to an hour after feeding.

I think my it was my pure stubbornness and desire to breastfeed that got me through the first few months. I’ll tell you more about what I discovered and how I finally sorted out the problem in part 2 of this post.

Links that I found useful about Raynaud’s phenomenon:

Raynaud’s phenomenon and vasospasms

http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=52:vasospasm-and-raynauds-phenomenon&catid=5:information&Itemid=17

http://www.llli.org/NB/NBJulAug99p120.html

http://www.thewomens.org.au/Nipplevasospasm

http://www.childbirthsolutions.com/articles/postpartum/breastfeeding/sorenipples.php

From → Breastfeeding