• Leslie Crews

Your Nipples Won’t Fall Off. I Promise - What no one tells you about breastfeeding

Updated: May 14, 2021

Photo by Eibner Saliba on Unsplash

Breastfeeding is the weirdest thing. One day you’re boobs are sexy, the next they’re a 24/7 restaurant to a lone hangry customer that pays you in poopy diapers and spit up.

As a member of the itty bitty titty committee I looked forward to the day where hormones and lactation would turn my Bs into voluptuous Cs. But pregnancy and nursing has done nothing. I feel cheated by the pregnancy boob fairy, but it’s fine. I’ll get over it.

Though nursing a baby is the most natural way to feed a child, the process of learning and adjusting to breastfeeding didn’t feel natural to me. For the first month I felt like I was being hazed into an exclusive sorority. It was painful and exhausting, but ultimately worth it.

I delivered my baby girl by way of an emergency cesarean. I’m convinced that a cesarean could have been avoided, had I not agreed to being induced, but I’ll save those details for another story.

When labor is induced before a woman’s body is ready to have a baby, there could be delays in breastmilk production. Synthetic hormones are helpful in getting labor started, but nothing is better than your body’s natural release of hormones through labor and delivery to prepare your body for nursing.

I never experienced leaking colostrum when I was pregnant. There was never an indication that anything was happening other than the occasional pin pricking sensation in my breast. I didn’t know what to expect.

The Induction

Before being induced, I knew there was a risk of having delayed milk production. I’d already predicted that my induction would lead to an epidural (that I was terrified of), which would lead to a cesarean (which I was terrified of), which would lead to delayed milk production. I stressed over it, which did nothing to help. And my predictions played out just as I expected.

To add more stress to the matter, my induction process began on a Wednesday but I didn’t deliver my daughter until Friday. Inductions are not quick and they’re not easy. I was on a clear diet for the majority of that time, which sucked and isn’t the best diet for a soon to be breastfeeding mom.

The Delivery

I’d dreamt of delivering naturally and the doctor placing my new baby into my chest for our first skin-to-skin session, rooting, and nursing. But when baby girls heart rate started to drop, after hours of trying to get my body to go into labor, my birth plan went out the window.

Because of the cesarean, I wasn’t able to feed my baby until an hour after she’d been born. But when I finally held my daughter, she latched on to my breast like she’d been waiting for her favorite restaurant to open. I’d never felt anything like it before.

I wouldn’t say the initial feeling was painful, but it was odd. For starters, I was surprised that anything was in there. Baby girl was hungry and her latch was intense.

My husband says that as they waited for me to come out of the operating room, my daughter sucked on her baby blanket so aggressively that it shocked the nurses. When the nurse placed her on my chest everyone in eye sight watched in awe. She nursed like a baby version of Cookie Monster.

I knew then that the road ahead would be a doozie.

There is no pain like nursing when your nipples feel like they are going to fall off.

I am not exaggerating.

There’s I’m on my period sore. There’s I did way too much last night sore, and then there’s learning how to breastfeed sore.

Breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart. Its painful at times and a major commitment.

Moving around post cesarean was a nightmare for me. Unlike other csection moms, I didn’t get the “good stuff” that made me feel like nothing happened.

After the epidural wore off and one day of the strong meds, I was sent home with ibuprofen. As if my major abdominal surgery had been a severe headache. I was denied stronger medication, and it wasn’t because I had crappy insurance. The reality is that pain management for Black women often looks different than women of other races.

I was in excruciating pain for the first week postpartum while learning how to nurse a newborn baby. Between the abdominal pain, nipple pain, and sleep deprivation, I didn’t think I’d be able to continue to breastfeed. But the benefits outweighed my pain and exhaustion.

As I feared, my milk wasn’t coming in as quickly as I wanted it to. Baby girl lost over ten percent of her birthweight by her second week doctors appointment. By her guttural screaming, we knew she has hungry.

My husband made the smart call and bought formula, but I felt like I’d failed my child. Like my body failed my child.

There is nothing shameful about formula feeding. But for me, after going through the pain and exhaustion of solo feedings, I was disappointed in my body. After all we’d been through to bring a baby into the world, I had hopes that it would promptly deliver what my baby needed. Although my body was actually doing what it was supposed to do, it wasn’t at the level that I wanted it to produce. I regretted that my labor was induced. I still do.

We supplemented breastmilk with formula for a few days and, thankfully, by week three postpartum my mature milk came in. Baby girl would eat well and go on to gain six pounds by her two month appointment, as a mostly breastfed baby.

Three Months Later

We no longer need to supplement with formula. I’ve gotten into a routine of nursing every two to three hours, which is less exhausting than the 45 to 60 minute cycle that we were on during the first month. Midnight feeding times are beginning to stretch to four hours, allowing me to sleep for more than an hour between feedings. Things have drastically improved.

I’m starting to understand why moms say they love breastfeeding.

During the toughest times I’d look down at my daughter and see how beautiful and miraculous she is. I noticed the small changes in her facial features. We’d lock eyes and I’d know that in that moment I was giving her exactly what she needed. Seeing her first half smiles while nursing sweetened the experience even more. She knows she’s safe. She knows she’s loved.

Now that she’s a few months older she tries to have conversations with her mouth full. These cute baby babbles warm my heart. I find myself telling her to eat first and we can talk later, but baby girl doesn’t care. She’s too busy smiling in between eating then pulling my flesh between her gums as if it’s made of rubber. This is painful, but less than it would have been during our first month together.

She’ll be teething soon. My husband and mother-in-law say that he and his siblings had full sets of baby teeth by their first birthdays. I expect to see budding white grains of rice soon, as the pools of baby drool have already begun.

While I’m nervous about the early stages of budding teeth chomping on my skin, I’m sure we will be just fine. If my nipples didn’t fall off during the first month of breastfeeding, I’m sure they won’t fall off in the months ahead. I think they’re on there pretty good.

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