During my first pregnancy, having read so much about the benefits of breastfeeding, I had already decided I would breastfeed my baby for at least six months. Not only can breastmilk provide good nutrition and precious antibodies for the baby, it also helps to save money for formula milk. But what attracted me most was weight loss from breastfeeding because milk production in the body requires a lot of metabolism and greatly helps the nursing mum get back to pre-pregnancy weight! As I prayed through my pregnancy, I also prayed for a good supply of breastmilk and that my baby and I could work well as a team when it came to nursing. The good news that I received from the lactation consultant one day after I gave birth, was that I had a good supply of breastmilk. However, my first two weeks of breastfeeding back home was a complete nightmare.
I was practically nursing my baby round the clock. He would nurse for about 20 minutes, fall asleep, then wake again in about 40 minutes to nurse again. The nights were incredibly long and exhausting. As a result of the frequent feeds and poor latching, I ended up having really sore nipples. I initially thought that having sore nipples was rather normal because the body had to get used to a new function, so I just tolerated the pain. Each time my baby latched, I felt the breast empty after the feed. When my baby was 5 days old, we went back to the pediatrician to assess his jaundice condition, and we were told he had already more than gained back the weight that he lost during the hospital stay. The pediatrician said that my baby was feeding well. So by the time I realized my baby wasn't latching properly despite drinking a lot, my nipples were cracked and bleeding.
It was so painful and tender that I couldn't even put my bra on because even contact with fabric was excruciating. I kept applying nipple cream to aid in healing and air them in between feeds. But because of the frequent feeds, there simply wasn't enough time for my wounds to heal! Can you imagine when my baby latches and the milk squirts out, it's pink from the blood instead of white.
That night, my entire body trembled with chills. I was running a temperature but I felt so cold. My breasts were also stinging. Even though my nipples were especially sore at the start of each feed, somehow nursing brought relief to the stinging sensation in the breasts. I took Panadol for the fever but pulled through the night most miserably.
The fever went on and off the next day and I experienced chills again at night. I finally decided to call my Gynae the following morning and was told to go to the clinic. The Gynae examined my breasts which had redness and felt tender. It was mastitis; inflammation of the breasts. Cracked nipples had allowed the bacterial infection to occur. My Gynae was surprised that I had waited until the third day before seeking medical help. She put me on a course of antibiotics and told me to keep nursing my baby.
The redness and tenderness were due to some blocked ducts and engorgement. I was expressing some milk in between feeds because I thought I had ample supply. But I was actually over-stimulating milk production which led to engorgement so my Gynae advised me to stop expressing, also because it wasn't ideal to store the milk when I was taking antibiotics.
A week later, I fully recovered. Latching also improved and didn't hurt my nipples like before. But the painful breastfeeding experience lasting two weeks after having my first baby was rather traumatic.
Yet God has a way of strengthening mothers and erasing painful sensations so that we can do it again despite all the horrors.
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