Breastfeeding Problems

You all wrote so many incredible questions that I actually had to categorize them so I could wrap my brain around them. Then I told Lisa since she got me into this, she needs to help me with the answers, so you all can look forward to some helpful answers from my always-elusive friend Lisa who really does exist even though she doesn't blog and never comments here. What's with that???

My name is Rebecca and I live in Washington State with my husband and our four preschoolers; Daniel (5.5), Michael (almost 4), Mercy (2) and Josiah (2 months).

Your recent post about leaving your older kids in charge while you left them for the day was so awesome- Just to think of being able to do that some day with mine was like a window into the beautiful future of training these little ones up! (from Kendra- YES! I am so glad it encouraged you because I was there not so long ago and I remember thinking, "This is gonna be SO great!" Hang in there!)

My question is about nursing. You mentioned in one of your recent posts that you were pumping every three hours to help your newest little guy stay fed. Are you unable to breastfeed? Or are you doing pumping to increase your supply? After successfully nursing my oldest three, I was a little confused at why I've had trouble nursing my fourth little guy. He has a pretty small mouth, has gained weight slowly and takes a long time to eat. At two weeks my milk supply kind of disappeared and I spent the next two weeks nursing, pumping and bottle feeding the expressed milk to help him gain weight and to help increase my supply. Now, at two months, his weight is much better and I'm not pumping 'round the clock but I'm still thinking he could be a better nurser if maybe I helped him more with his latch or something...

Before I had Josiah, I knew that nursing was difficult for some women and some babies but I hadn't experienced that with my own. I am just curious to know what struggles you and your babies have had or are having and what you have tried to do to remedy them. I have enjoyed nursing my babies for the sweet bonding time it brings as well as for the health benefits the babies receive but this time around nursing has been more of a struggle and painful physically as well. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have!

May God bless you and yours today,

After fifteen years of breastfeeding babies, it still amazes me that most first time moms are not told how difficult breastfeeding can be. I was one of them and I thought, "It's natural. It's just what babies do." Except mine didn't. Even the lactation consultant at the hospital (a BIG San Francisco hospital that saw lots of births) told me he was the laziest baby she'd ever seen. Great.

I was a 22-year-old first time mom who tried my best but ultimately stopped pumping for him when he was six weeks old and just went to formula. Part of the reason was that I was in terrible pain and part of it was that I didn't see a reason to keep at it. I don't regret the decision, and oddly enough he is one of our few children without food allergies. He was a healthy baby and is super smart, so there go all the reasons to have breastfed him, eh?

With every single baby breastfeeding has been excruciatingly painful until about six weeks. Time after time I was told I must not be getting them to latch on correctly, but when I would seek help from LLL, consultants, or midwives, they would tell me everything looked great. This is one of the reasons I wish the "experts" would stop telling moms that "if done right, breastfeeding doesn't hurt". I'm sorry, but at least for me, that's not true.

It wasn't until our seventh that I realized (ok, yes, I'm a little slow) that my anatomy factored into all of this in a significant way. When I contacted yet another lactation specialist last year and told him that I had never seen this issue addressed in any breastfeeding literature, he told me that in all his experience, he's had two moms like me. TWO. Wow. And his advice? I must do whatever it takes to keep baby nursing eventually if that's what's important to me, and if that means pumping until baby's mouth can handle my, um, size, then that's the way it is. I could have hugged this man if he wasn't all the way up in Canada! Finally, an expert who realized that I wasn't doing anything wrong, and that given my God-given features, it would hurt anyway.

So when our little guy came along last month, I knew that once my milk came in, I would pump until about six weeks. It is a huge commitment, as you know, but I am willing to stick it out because I know the benefits all the way around are so worth it.

But here's the deal. It's not a hill I am going to die on. If little Joe doesn't latch on this week (he's six weeks today), I am not going to make it the central issue of my life. There are seven other children in this home who need me equally, and to continue to make breastfeeding an idol would bring no benefit to anyone. I fully expect him to breastfeed as the others have, but if he doesn't, that's ok. I might cry a little because I'm a mom and that's what we do, but I realize that breastfeeding alone does not make me a good mom. There are many, many, many other facets of mothering Joe that will contribute to a healthy childhood as a whole.

I'm not sure how my answer will help you in your situation, Rebecca, but I will pray for you and ask the Lord to give you wisdom. And for the pain to subside as well!