You’ve made it through pregnancy,  labor and delivery, the rest should be easy, right? Like many new moms I imagined that nursing would be an incredible bonding experience, and indeed it did become that, but after a bit of a rocky start.

Surely, it was the most natural thing in the world to nurse a child. At least, that’s what I read. Most books I had said “if your baby is latching properly, it shouldn’t hurt”. Yet hurt it did. As a matter of fact, for the first few weeks, it was downright excruciating.

While in the hospital, in my sleep-deprived delirium, it seemed like every nurse had a new bit of advice. By the time I got home, it was all a blur. So, after several weeks of foot-stamping, eye watering pain, I headed to see a lactation consultant at TMC’s Breast Feeding Support Group. There, and in subsequent support group meetings, the lactation consultant would check my baby’s latch to confirm that it was right. I would recommend all moms have a certified lactation specialist check your baby’s latch if you are experiencing pain and a support group, like TMC for Women’s Breastfeeding Support Group. It can provide much needed camaraderie from women in the same situation as well as expert advice from a trained lactation consultant.. Like most things that are worth it, breastfeeding can take some persistence…something that Kerry learned all about:

“Miles and I had a really tough time breastfeeding. He had a really “weak suck” and we thought we were going to have to have an Occupational Therapist who specialized in feeding issues help us out. The TMC lactation consultants worked with all three of us, me, my husband and our newborn, to protect my ability to breastfeed while helping my baby get the nutrition he needed those first few weeks. We ended up having to use a nipple shield and it took 10 weeks before it was just me and Miles breastfeeding with no additional help.  I had to pump constantly and use the SnS*  those first few weeks to maintain my milk supply as Miles had such a weak suck that his nursing via the nipple shield was not enough to stimulate my milk supply. Very stressful and I got really attached to having ALL of my accoutrements around me when nursing… Boppy, nipple shield etc. It was so freeing once we were finally established at 10 weeks to just be able to feed him any time, any place, without needing anything else for positioning etc but ourselves.

Since we worked so hard to get the breastfeeding established, it actually made it easier for me mentally and physically to extend the breastfeeding and I ended up nursing my son for 2.5 years. He was sick once during that entire time, when he started daycare. I feel like I was able to give him the best start on life possible. I found nursing a toddler to be such a big bonding boost for him and I as he was so “busy” during that time, that our nursing sessions in the morning and night were the only time he seemed to not be in perpetual motion. We would cuddle while he nursed and he would reach up and play with my eyelashes and eyebrows, twirl my hair around his finger, and giggle even while nursing. Extended nursing was such a gift for him and I, and I’m not sure I would have appreciated it as much if we hadn’t struggled so at the beginning.” ~ Kerry

It’s not rocket science. Think of it this way;  If someone were sucking on an finger, or elbow, or any body part for hours each day, that body part would get sore!  I remember that my nipples were raw and cracked from being so wet all the time. As the latch issue was addressed, feedings became more efficient and less painful as my nipples adjusted.  In between feedings, I used lanolin as a safe topical ointment to soothe the soreness.

“At two weeks old my daughter had not yet regained her birth weight and was solidly under 6lbs. We were terrified. We noted when she wet, when she pooped, when she nursed. She spent hours nursing, but her weight gain wasn’t what was expected. I was tired and in pain. At one nighttime nursing session I remember thinking, I’m done. I’m so done. Breastfeeding to that point had proved more difficult than labor–admittedly I had an easy labor.  I’d wanted to breastfeed. I knew the benefits. I also knew kids survived and thrived on formula. We talked about it and agreed to give it a few more days and then we’d talk to the doctor about supplementing. Then something happened, or rather several somethings:

1. A friend suggested going to the Breastfeeding Support Group, that it had been invaluable. I rallied myself and went to the next meeting. I didn’t feel alone. I felt supported. I had not only the lactation consultant providing support on latch, as that was the problem, but also other mothers with babes on their breasts sharing techniques for getting a good latch.

2. I found the Dr. Jack Newman videos online which shared latch techniques. His coaching of other women and demonstration of getting the latch right were what I needed at 2 in the morning when I didn’t have the lactation consultant to help.

3. Friends who had also struggled came out of the woodwork and would stop by to sympathize and to encourage me, promising that if we could just figure this out, that it would be worth it.

With the latch issues addressed, my daughter would nurse for just 20 minutes rather than 80 minutes. She was satisfied and gaining weight. What started as one of the most painful experiences turned into a fabulous experience and I nursed my daughter for over a year.” ~ Raquel

This isn’t meant to scare new mothers, or to steer anyone away from breastfeeding. Quite the opposite in fact. I want to level with you, prepare you for what your experience might be so that you know that you aren’t alone. I want to encourage you that it will get better, and that you will ultimately find breastfeeding to be what the books tell you it is. I just wish someone would have told me the same thing so that I didn’t spend weeks thinking something was wrong with me.

Once you and your baby get the hang of it (because remember, your baby is learning too), it really is the easiest, most natural thing in the world to do.

Advantages to Breast Feeding

1. Immunity:  Research shows that breast milk boosts an infant’s immunity to, and decreases recovery time from a variety of illnesses and infections. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal infections (approximately 2/3 of a reduction of infection)
  • SIDS (about a 1/3 reduction of risk)
  • Celiac disease (about a 50% reduced risk)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (31% reduction)
  • Obesity (each month of breastfeeding is estimated to reduce risk of obesity by 4%)
  •  Type 1 diabetes (30-40%–the risk reduction is believed to relate both to lack of exposure to cow’s milk, and lower rates of obesity)
  • Childhood leukemia and lymphoma (20% and 15% respectively, if breastfeed for six months or longer)
  • Respiratory tract and ear infections (72% reduction in hospitalization rates for respiratory tract infections if nursed exclusively for over 4 months, and almost 2/3 reduction in ear and throat infections, often related to serious colds, in babies exclusively nursed for over six months)

2. Convenience: It’s not all about the baby. With breastfeeding, there is no packing, no bottle warming.

3. Weight loss: You can burn up to 500 calories per day breastfeeding.

4. Savings: Face it, formula is expensive. Breastfeeding on the other hand, won’t cost you a penny.

Support for Breastfeeding
Tucson Medical Center has the unique status of being the only hospital in Southern Arizona to receive the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Care Recognition Award for its stellar support programs for nursing moms. Tucson Medical Center strives to promote healthy families in all ways possible. With what we know about breast milk and immunity, we encourage mothers to breast feed. The lactation consultants of TMC for Women provide exceptional support in establishing a satisfying, sustainable nursing relationship whenever possible.

Before baby arrives:
1. Attend a Breastfeeding Basics class – 
 These classes cover basic breastfeeding positions, helping baby latch on, how to tell if feedings are going well, and how to balance working and breastfeeding.

2. Find a breast feeding support group and post the information where you will see it. – After the baby arrives you may find that sleep deprivation and the demands of a newborn mean you forget about where you can find support.,

After baby arrives:

1. Go to the support group!
The TMC for Women Lactation Consultants host a Mom & Baby Breastfeeding Support group every Monday from 10am- 11:30am in the  Canyon Conference Room, near the Southeast EntranceNo Registration Necessary! Call (520) 324-5730 for more information.You need not have delivered at TMC to join.

2. Use the online support lines
For breastfeeding tips on how to get started, positioning and latch and other related questions call TMC Breastfeeding support to speak with Lactation Consultant (520) 324-5730.

AZ Baby Steps 24-hour hotline: 1-800-833-4642.