We have five children. I nursed the first four and had come to believe that, despite what the lactation consultants say, breastfeeding does hurt. I've come to loathe the term "proper latch" because it felt so elusive and vague. Each time I nursed a new baby, I knew to expect several weeks of pain and discomfort from sore nipples and engorgement. I have vivid memories of nursing my last son, wincing as he latched on and crying through the feeding. A dear friend of mine says that every mom should give breastfeeding at least six weeks before they quit; it may take that long to feel good about it (or just to feel good!). I distinctly remember calling her and crying that it had already been four weeks (or so) and I still wanted to quit- but I wouldn't.
Even through the pain, I am committed to nursing my children. This is why I am so grateful today, ten days after our fifth child was born, that nursing is not painful this time. I'm grateful AND surprised. I’m not wincing, using lanolin or cold packs, or crying through feedings. Laurie (my doula friend and lactation consultant) was the difference for us. Having her at M's birth allowed me to start off nursing him with a correct latch, helpful tips, confidence and hope that this time would be different. She changed my perspective because even though M didn't open perfectly wide, with his lips flanged and everything just so (no "perfect latch"). . . we were still able to nurse. Once M is on the breast, I simply take my finger and move his bottom lip. This works! I'm calling it a re-latch.
In the past I was frustrated because my babies didn't have a proper latch and it felt so difficult to change it (if I could even identify what was improper about it!). They would become frantic to eat and I would be anxious to feed them. When they would latch on, if I thought it looked basically right and even if it hurt . . . they were eating and I felt a measure of success and it felt WORTH IT, worth the pain I was feeling because at least now my baby was quiet and satisfied. I could hear the milk flowing and I felt I was doing the right thing, feeding my baby. It seemed unbearable to take them off the breast to fix their latch. It was heartbreaking to do this over and over! I would often try to change their lips, but without a firm idea of my agenda or the assurance that I could train my baby to change his latch.
I'm so excited that I can "fix" M's latch while he is on the breast. He isn't frustrated; I'm not frustrated. I can feel the difference when I don't move his lip, and I like that there isn't pain when we've adjusted. If only I knew five babies ago that I could latch and then re-latch while the baby was still on! It would have saved me much time, discouragement, and pain. Plus, a good latch means that the baby is actually able to get more milk. Maybe this will have an effect on my milk supply, which tends to wane around month six.
I'm so grateful that Laurie offered support those first few days of M's life. Because of that, I never experienced the pain that had become normal for me with the other children. It was much easier to focus on nursing without already having painful nipples. B always says that what is good for me right now is good for everyone. Our entire family is better off because Laurie helped us start nursing well, and we’re so thankful.