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Ulin's painful start to her breastfeeding journey

La Leche League Group Member Ulin shares her story.

I was the only one amongst my friends who had not married or had a child at the time. I received a lot of advice and opinions on those matters for when I would cross that path in the future. Yet I’ve learned once again, we are all similar but different.

I became a first time mom early December 2018. I had a C-section due to the placenta lying too low. The stories of breastfeeding haunted me as had I heard how painful it could be in the beginning. My breasts were tender and my nipples very sore. (LLLSA – Pain is not normal. If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding, please reach out for help early).

Fortunately my mother, who is a Clinical Practitioner, was there to guide me through the first week.

We went to Haarlem shortly after I gave birth to spend Christmas with family. It was on Christmas Eve that I noticed a pimple on my left breast. Then I recalled feeling a sensation in the left breast during the trip there. I was hot and uncomfortable but I assumed it was the breastmilk and hormones pumping because baby was feeding at the time I felt it. I did not think much of it at the time.

The pimple grew slowly but got tender. My mom helped me with some old home remedies like cabbage leaves and hot or cold cloth compresses to soothe the breast. I couldn't and didn't want to take any pain relief because of breastfeeding. (There are several painkillers that are safe during breastfeeding – LLLSA). The remedies brought temporary relief but the pain also increased day by day. I was unsure if the little one could drink from that breast, so I just pumped and dumped from the sore breast because as it filled it became more and more painful. (LLLSA – In cases of blocked ducts, blebs and mastitis, continuing to breastfeed helps to drain the breast and can help to resolve symptoms)

My baby only fed from the right breast during that time. It was not easy as I felt that she was not getting enough milk and I did not want to make use of formula so early unless it was really necessary. Nursing during those first weeks was dreadful: making sure to latch her right, securing her on me without causing friction on my C-section scar etc. Then came the mastitis, it was excruciating when it became nursing time. I wanted to give up. One does not have to tick some imaginary mothering checklist with the first few weeks, I told myself to ease the guilt. At least I've tried right? Then I thought many have done this, mother's all around the world. Many generations before me have done it. It's part of the ‘beautiful’ pain women endure in their lives. So I pushed through as I thought it was all part of the process of becoming a mother.

As soon as we were back in Cape Town, I went to the GP, who referred me immediately to the hospital to have the abscess drained. I had to express milk as I had to stay overnight in hospital and had too much pain to keep her with me, let alone to feed after the operation. We had some formula as a back up just in case the breastmilk was not enough, seeing that she was feeding so often. That was not part of our plan but I had to keep an open mind for both of us. I had a two week follow-up appointment and as soon as I got clearance that the breastmilk in the left breast was good for the little one to drink, I started nursing her from that side. She wasn't too keen at first but I kept offering with every feed until she fed from both sides equally. (According to ‘Breastfeeding Answers made simple’ by Nancy Mohrbacher, a mother can continue breastfeeding on the affected breast straight after surgery if the baby’s mouth does not touch the incision –LLLSA).

Today I am grateful that I didn't give up. As sore and as moody as at times I may get, even till today, I adore the look on her face when I see how ‘lekker’ she's drinking. It has come in pretty handy many times. During our walks on the beach, camping and going on hiking trails I can just feed her anywhere, anytime. I even had cases where she would get a heat or drool rash or a non-stop runny nose, where I just squirted some breast milk in or on it and voila, it was gone! SunLLLight | February 2020 Now that she's crawling and trying to walk she tends to fall, or when she is overwhelmed after a playful day, the boob will calm her down. My husband calls it the baby's magic milk. It just works, every time. I have personally felt a difference when I started adding more fruits and vegetables to my meals. My breasts filled and milk came through strong. Not to say that was the cure but seeing my baby happy and smiling (even biting and playing) when nursing made it really feel all worth it.

We grow these tiny beautiful human beings inside of us and we are capable of giving them all they need as our bodies allow. We were wonderfully made. It is really the beauty of life. Stay strong Mamas. Let your little heroes grow!

Sometimes moms who give birth throughout the festive season feel they do not have the support they would like due to many service providers being on minimum staff. There is always help available and La Leche League Leaders are volunteers so although it may take us longer to respond to a question or concern during the festive period someone will be available to support you. It is important to remember that each mom does the best she can with the knowledge she has, the sooner you reach out to a support organisation the sooner you can overcome the challenges you are experiencing. Breastfeeding although natural is not always easy but it is not supposed to cause you extreme pain or discomfort either. - LLLSA


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