Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Breastfeeding: Painful Letdown

The thing about breastfeeding is that it is universally accepted as normal, natural and best for baby. When I think of the term 'normal and natural' I instantly associate the words 'simple, straightforward, easy'. After everything I had been through, I was hoping that the future of breastfeeding was going to get brighter. My body had other plans.

After the sore result of incorrect latching, the pain of Mastitis, and the blood boiling agony of the Abscess, my body had another unwanted surprise for me. The pain of Painful Letdown.

The websites tell you this about Painful Letdown:

I'll probably get used to it? After an undefined period of time? That's your solution? To just push on through it? Thanks asshole.

"Oh yes, I seem to recall a nausea inducing, fire breathing, stabbing sensation that rendered me unable to breathe. I just soldiered on through it like a good woman. It wasn't a real problem- not like when my husband loses his keys, or I get a tear in my stockings or I am unable to bake a sufficiently fluffy sponge cake. Cheerio." I mean really, what the fuck? Who allowed you to post this as actual advice?

I read every blog and forum I could find, trying to find a solution that wasn't as unhelpful as those above, but was not able to. If you can suffer to feed through it, you will be rewarded with the exact same pain at the end as in the beginning: Ibuprofen doesn't help, heat packs don't help, cabbage leaves do not help, being calm and removing all stress doesnt help because the breastfeeding pain is the stress. 

If you search you'll find the same condescending and unhelpful answer everywhere: keep feeding through it.  Which is a total jerk face solution if you ask me. Because while some women may have a mild and unpleasant feeling that diminishes as the flow gets going, some, like me, may have a feeling of extreme agony that starts at the latch and ends at the emptied boob. As a teenager I got my nipples pierced, and the sensation of having a needle cut through the nipple was more endurable than the let down feeling. The pain of painful letdown eclipsed the pain of all the medical complications I had previously endured- the pain outshone contractions and a large percentage of the birth itself.

Breastfeeding had so far been five weeks of extreme pain. Looking for a way to keep some of the distress away from my friends, family and baby, I ended up exclusively pumping. This didn’t stop the pain of painful letdown at all, but at least it had me in my own bedroom, close to a power point for the electric breast pump, where I could cry in private.

When I started this blog I wanted to offer help and advise to any breastfeeding mothers out there who suffer as I did. But in this instance, all I can offer is commiseration. Turns out there was nothing I could do to stop the pain during normal breastfeeding. It hurt, and didnt get any less hurty. I heard someone wise say that a good mum is a happy mum, and I was not a happy mum thanks to all the hurt.  In the end I decided to cut my losses, stockpile as much milk as I could and dry up my milk. 

Follow the link here to find out how I dried up my milk

Here are some more links describing my breastfeeding sagas- I think I may have been through the worst of it all:

Breastfeeding Beginnings
Lactation Consultants

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