Wednesday, July 7, 2010

From one nursing mama to another

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.


When I birthed my first child in 2004, I knew that breastfeeding was beneficial for my baby but I had no idea it was also supposed to be enjoyable for me. Looking back at my struggles now, it makes me so sad to remember that I was offered help, but just didn’t take it. Part of why I continued to have trouble nursing for almost two years was that I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I couldn’t imagine yet another person (other than the nurses and midwives that had already tried) touching my breasts. The other reason I continually struggled was pride. I didn’t want anyone else to know that I couldn’t get something as ‘easy’ as breastfeeding. I didn’t realize that breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks for everyone, but with the right help, it could have been something that my baby and I took pleasure and comfort in together.

I had high expectations of myself in the role as a mother, beginning with pregnancy. I ate well, exercised daily and took as many naps as I could, resulting in a relatively easy pregnancy. My labor was normal, a little long, but peaceful in general. The trouble started after my babe was earth side… in my arms and ready to eat. For the life of me, I couldn’t get the hang of breastfeeding. Not only that, but this was the first time in my life that my breasts were not mine. They were there to be pinched, sucked, squeezed and I was mortified. I was very shy and the thought of someone else coming in and trying to force my nipple into my baby’s mouth was almost too much for me. The nurse brought by a breastfeeding ‘how-to’ video for me to watch. The only thing worse than watching that was watching the same nurse pinch my breast and force my daughter’s mouth on it. It was terrible.

Once I was home, I thought I would be able to get the hang of it by myself without anyone around. I had no idea that it wouldn’t be that simple. Within a week my nipples were cracked and bleeding, beyond what was normal, as my midwife exclaimed in surprise. I lubed them up with lanolin; let them air dry; cried; but nothing was working. I called the local La Leche leader for advice over the phone, but I couldn’t get my baby to latch on the correct way. I tried different positions, all to no avail. A friend offered to come help, but I was too bashful. I dreaded each nursing and cried for weeks every time she latched on. I finally gave up. Not nursing – no, I nursed her almost two years, wincing with pain practically every time she took her first swallow. I gave up on thinking anything was wrong. I just figured some women must not be able to enjoy nursing as much as others do.

Having been through this cycle two more times (currently nursing baby number three) I am here to say two things. One – breastfeeding does get easier with practice. Two – ask for help. Nurses, doctors, midwives have seen it all, as have La Leche leaders. If a friend offers to help – let her help; she’s not going to judge you (or your breasts.) Birthing a baby is one of those times in a woman’s life where she is allowed, even encouraged, to ask for help. Asking for help in no way makes us bad mamas – quite the reverse. Being able to ask and receive help prepares us for all of those other situations that will be presented to us as mothers. Comfortably enjoying the brief time you and your baby have together while breastfeeding is worth so much more than worrying about pride or embarrassment.

(And to those mamas out there who have been through it – give advice, offer to help, share your story! You may be just what a new nursing mama needs.)

Art by Erika Hastings at

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It


  1. Breastfeeding is only the first of many mothering skills and tasks where we will seek help and support. Those of us raised in a culture where independence is valued make it much harder for ourselves than it needs to be. It's sad that you weren't able to enjoy nursing at first.

  2. You poor thing! I can't imagine breastfeeding in pain for TWO years - but how amazing that you stuck with it for so long! I am so glad that you finally got some help and relief.

    ~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

  3. Oh my goodness!!! I can't imagine sticking with breastfeeding for two painful years. I struggled to get a good latch and comfortable nursing position with my second, and I was ready to be done by about 6 weeks. This was even knowing how good it could be! I think that your advice is SO important. It's okay to talk about breastfeeding. It's okay if things aren't going as you had planned, and if they aren't, it's so important to ask for help.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I am happily nursing babe number three ... and what a world of difference it makes when you not only know what you are doing, but are also confident in what you are doing!