Friday, March 8, 2013

Holey Nipples!

(This is the post I wrote for the Breastfast Club series over at Nurse Loves Farmer.  So it might sound a little funny.)

When I was pregnant with my son, I did what all other moms-to-be do, read.  I spent numerous hours with my nose in books (or in my laptop) reading information on being a mom.  I never really had to think about breastfeeding, though.  I always knew I would do it. From learning about all the wonderful “powers” breast milk has in nursing school, to calculating the cost of formula each month, it was a no-brainer.  I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the closer I got to my due date, the more determined I became to make it work.

Tanner was born, and months flew by. Nursing seemed to come naturally to us (after getting past the brand new baby/sore nips stage, that is). After being pregnant for 9 months and having my son to myself for that whole time, breastfeeding was that special thing only I could do after he was born.  I grew to love it more and more, and so did he. 

Yes, I am nursing him here. I'm a little busty, haha!

And then when my Tanner was 10.5 months old, everything changed.  It started out as what felt like an uncomfortable latch.  Then it turned into raw spots on my nipples.  And then, holes.  Yes, holes.  It was almost like my son decided he wanted to use his teeth to latch on after 10 months of nursing perfectly.  The holes grew as did the pain.  I searched and searched for answers to why this was happening.  All I could find was, “what to do when your baby bites”, or “how to get over sore nipples with a newborn”.  Nothing applied to my situation.  I kept thinking, I couldn’t be the only person out there with this problem!  All I could do was try to change positions.  And each time I would do that I would get new holes.  At the peak of this terrible issue I had 7-10 deep, ½ inch long holes in each of my nipples. No amount of position changes, latch fixes, or creams helped. I couldn’t even get them to heal.

I had 6 weeks to make it to my breastfeeding goal of a year when this all began.  And I remember thinking to myself, “only 2 more days…”, while I screamed out loud from the pain as my sweet boy nursed before bedtime. 

I wasn’t ready to stop nursing.  But it had gotten so bad I didn’t know what else to do.  So I slowly introduced WCM to my son and decided I would stop cold turkey.  I spent all day and night crying my eyes out.  I seriously felt like a part of me was dying. 

I took this picture thinking it was my last time nursing him. I wanted to remember it forever.  I was also bawling my eyes out.

I didn’t nurse him for a full 36 hours. But during the afternoon after the 36 hour mark my Tanner crawled into my lap, signed “milk”, and pulled on my t-shirt.  I began crying again and I unhooked my nursing bra.  I gave in, and he nursed.  And there was no pain.

No pain.

I can only assume it was the time I was able to give myself to heal, and the prayers sent from not only me, but my loving family and friends.  I knew the problem wasn’t fixed though.  Something caused this latching problem and I needed to figure it out, fast, before the pain returned. 

What changed at the 10.5 month mark?  Why did my son stop nursing like he use to, when he would nurse perfectly fine 8-10 times a day for so long? And then, DING DING DING!!!! I figured it out.  Right around the time we began having this problem, I introduced a sippy cup.  And not any normal sippy, but a straw sippy cup. The kind that the straw has to be bitten to open the valve to get the water out.  He learned to bite the straw to drink, and he began doing the same thing to me when he nursed.  Right then and there the straw sippys were thrown out.  After a week or two with new sippy cups his latch was fixed! 

It took a lot of time, and patience, but I wasn’t ready to wean him.  And he wasn’t ready either.  I am so thankful for finally getting past those 8 weeks.  It was the most excruciating pain I have felt, probably because my heart was breaking as well. But I am happy to say my Tanner is now 15 months old and nursing is still going strong! Almost like we never had any bump in the road at all!

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