The Boobityville Horror

June 2, 2008

It’s been two weeks since my little big boy blasted his way into our lives, and I’d had every intention, this weekend, of crafting some wonderfully mushy letter to him, welcoming him to the world and rhapsodizing over his wonderfulness: his beauty, his sweetness, his calm, his impossibly tiny little bum. But I can’t. My boobs hurt too much.

It’s not that I write or think with my boobs – although this might be a more interesting blog if either of those things were true – but it’s impossible for me right now to write or think about anything but my boobs. They’re that sore. I’ve gotten through the circle of hell that is Early Engorgement, only to find myself in the deeper circle that is Chomped Off Nips (chomped off nips that aren’t healing efficiently, such that – TMI alert – one of them has a nasty tendency – TMI TMI – to ooze blood into the breast pump that I employ, sometimes, to give that particular boob a break from the tenderizing effect of Mr. Chompsalot’s sturdy gums during his more enthusiastic boob frenzies.)

So it is that when I think about writing a touching letter to my infant son at this particular moment in time, the draft sounds something like this:

Dear Jasper,

Welcome to the world. I adore you. Please stop chomping* off my nipples.



(*Chomping is a bit misleading. Mr. Chompsalot isn’t chomping so much as sucking voraciously, such that the scabbing from week one isn’t fully healing and, um – TMI TMI TMI – pulling right off. But it feels like the boobies have been well and fully chomped to bits – not mention dragged over pavement – so I’m going with ‘chomp’ as my descriptive verb of choice.)

I’ve spoken with a lactation consultant. I will speak with her again tomorrow. I know that his latch was problematic in the first week because of the engorgement; we’ve rectified that, for the most part (it’s still hard to get a good latch when either boob is so sore that I continually recoil from his hungry little mouth.) I resort to the pump and bottle only when the pain is intolerable, and I need to give one or the other nip a break. I’m doing, so far as I can tell – based upon my previous breastfeeding experience (which went spectacularly badly for the first few weeks and then turned around) and my consultation with lactation specialists – everything more or less correctly. So why is it all so difficult? And why does every single freaking breastfeeding resource in the world, everywhere, insist that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt and that if it does you’re doing it wrong so you really shouldn’t have chewed off nips but if you do oh well you’ll just have to get past that by, say, taking a Tylenol and biting down on a damp rag to muffle your screaming? (“Do not stop nursing! If your nipples are exquisitely tender try numbing them with an ice cube beforehand.” Thank you, Dr. Sears! You forgot to mention putting tiny earmuffs on my infant’s head so that he isn’t deafened by my shrieks of pain, and, also, that I’ll need four fingers of straight single malt to go with that ice if there’s to be any kind of useful numbing. But whatever.)

I mean, am I missing something? Is breastfeeding really just blissfully straightforward for everybody but me? In which case, I’d like to have a word with the gods, because putting me through three weeks of labor, a terrifying delivery and shredded nethers only to condemn me, on top of all that, to severe boob pain seems perverse and unjust in the extreme. I feel like a fallen brood cow that somebody forgot to euthanize. I don’t like it.

Anyone got any magic remedies for ravaged nipples and general boob-related malaise? Other than multiple shots of single malt scotch, that is, which I’m already considering.

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    Rachel June 8, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Catherine,
    I’m sorry, I havent read the 152 comments before this so I hope not to repeat this suggestion. I gave birth in November 2007 and struggled BADLY with breastfeeding. After an afternoon of having my nipples pulled and twisted by a nurse named Jeanne d’Arc (i kid you not) the night shift gave me silicone nipple shields. Nearly 7 months later I’m still bf’ing thanks to daily use of the shields.
    Bon courage,
    Rachel, Montréal

    Rusti June 9, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Wow… I’m only 9 weeks preggers and a friend asked the other day if I’m planning to breastfeed… my answer was that I was planning to try… but holy shit – I think I’m now terrified by all the comments and your post itself…

    I really hope that the nips heal quickly and that your pain goes away soon… I’m praying for ya!

    Pamela June 10, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Finally weighing in on this, but I’ve had a great excuse — I’ve been busy having a baby and going through the first few days of nursing for myself. I’m inclined to believe, based on this experience (excruciating!) and the last, that a certain amount of pain, and even bleeding, is inevitable. But, last time, I toughed it out and lasted 9 months — it got a LOT better. So, this time, I’ll do the same.

    BTW, in case no one else posted this, the one thing I did find helpful for bloody nipples was mixing together three over-the-counter creams (this was the advice of a LC): antibiotic cream, hydrocortisone cream and an anti-fungal cream. I don’t know which one did the trick, or if it was just the combination, but it helped before.

    Catherine, I just also wanted to add how great it’s been following along behind you in this amazing journey. Your post from today, with the poem and picture, was so beautiful, and I’m right there with you, sentimentality-wise. (I cried the other day while watching a Verizon commercial that showed a women in labor going to the hospital.) Isn’t it wonderful?

    Shawna June 13, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Early on in nursing my daughter I found it painful so I read a book about breastfeeding. I wish I could remember the title because that way I could warn you to NEVER READ THAT BOOK. It went on and on about how you should never “distort” your nipple by compressing it in any way to get the baby to latch. You could support your breast, but the nipple should always stay round. I learned eventually, after much pain and learning of bad habits by my daughter, that this is contrary to what pretty much every lactation consultant would tell you, which is that you should use a C or U hold on the boob to stuff as much areola into the baby’s mouth as possible.

    Fortunately my week-old son seems to be getting the hang of opening wider right from the beginning so this hasn’t been as bad. Sore yes, blistered yes, but bleeding and dark purple bruising? Well, not the former and not a lot of the latter anyway.

    Thea June 14, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    I can absolutely sympathize – my daughter is almost five weeks old and we are just rounding the bend into “proper latch/less painful nursing” territory. Those first weeks, though? They were brutal.

    With the help of a nipple shield and some ointment prescribed by a home nurse (it was called “triple nipple cream”, if I remember right), I was able to heal up and keep going, but getting myself and baby used to nursing without the nipple shield again was tough. I finally just had to throw it away and cope, because I really, really wanted to nurse skin-to-skin.

    Since then we’ve been working on getting a better latch. And lo! We are getting there.

    Anonymous June 23, 2008 at 7:41 am

    been through it, twice.

    it really doesn’t help when the ‘experts’ and the books all say it doesn’t hurt unless you’re doing it wrong.

    i did it right and both times it hurt like hell for the first week or two (i can identify with the pavement analogy). with the first i’d be in tears with terror at the prospect of another feed and with the second the loud gasp i gave every time he latched on made him jump right off and then develop a habit of on-off-on-off that wasn’t fun.

    BUT it soon became sooooooooooo easy that i actually laughed out loud to myself about how ridiculously easy it was and thought incredulously of the poor women dragging their exhausted bodies down to the kitchen, sterilising, preparing, buying, lugging stuff around with them.

    long term vision, that’s what got me through and copious amounts of lansinoh, which i still use as lip balm. wonderful stuff.

    good luck!!!!!!!

    phonemom June 29, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    We had a really tough time with BF. DS was a preemie and I spent the first month and a half pumping 10-12x per day. I relied on a nipple shield and lots and lots of lanolin helped. I put lanolin on both nips after every feeding and pumping and eventually the girls toughened up and it became much much easier.
    Good luck!!

    Katie April 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    So, I just came across this post from awhile back. I wish I had read this about 4 months ago when my son was 3 weeks old and I was wondering when, if ever, the breastfeeding was supposed to get better. I was so tired of hearing that it doesn’t hurt if you do it correctly. I was tired of the lactation consultant telling me I was doing it wrong. I was tired of my husband asking me to please talk to the lactation consultant again because we needed some peace in our house. You know, it took almost three months before it actually got painless. But, here we are and it all works very well now.

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