There was a time (well, five times actually) when I thought nursing would always hurt without surcease and there was nothing much I could do about it. Not that I didn't try. Oh no--when lactation specialist after lactation specialist told me that I didn't have enough melanin in my skin and that was why I always ended up cracked, bleeding, and screaming in pain I still tried every single thing they suggested. *True story of which I'm not proud: my hubby asked me to stop screeching "death" while I nursed.
Another true story: my older children saw some milk I had pumped after having baby #4 and asked me, "Can we have strawberry milk?" Ha. So not funny.
More truth: nursing was the #1 reason I dreaded having babies.
Then there were all those well-intentioned people who said, "Just hang in there--it will get better." It never did. Oh, for a while it would be a little less excruciating and then a little more excruciating and sometimes I got all the way to "manageable" before heading back towards death. The pain was cyclical and never really went away even on my best days.
This post is not supposed to be depressing or anti-nursing (I'm a huge believer, obviously, or I would have given up after baby the first)--quite the opposite!! With baby #6 I learned some new things and these tricks have made all the difference in the world so I wanted to share in case any of you have similar pasty white sensitive skin and similar nursing horror stories.
*Random side-note: redheads are more prone to nursing pain because they have almost no melanin. Also, redheads require higher dosages of all pain meds for the same effect and have an increased risk of hemorrhaging. I thought all this was made up until I had my first baby and the doctor had blood on hand just in case (yes, I did hemorrhage) and my sister, who is a nurse anesthetist, verified the info. Bright orange hair is definitely worth all the attendant problems though!
1) Neosporin Cream. Before Neosporin Cream there was only Neosporin Ointment, which is not okay for use when nursing. The ointment is very sticky and won't rub off between feedings and washing it off with soap and water will only make soreness worse. The cream, however, rubs off easily so you can use it while nursing. Just to make sure my baby wasn't ingesting any, I put some cream on one side after a feeding then only nursed on the other side the following feeding. That way it was a good 6 hours or so after I had applied that the baby was eating on that side. I also rinsed with water if there was any doubt that it was gone. Easy peasy.
2) Don't wear a bra or nursing pads.
3) Don't pump. Numbers two and three go together. I used to wear a bra and nursing pad to be hygienic as I was always coating myself with lanolin and lanolin is sticky. FORGET HYGIENE; at least in this matter. Instead, wear an old shirt and ignore the fairly disgusting icky grossness that develops on said shirt when you apply a lot of lanolin and neosporin cream on yourself and it rubs off on the shirt.
Here's why: when I was wearing a bra and nursing pads I always got too full for the baby to latch on and therefore needed to pump or I'd end up literally shredded. When I didn't wear a bra I would leak every time the baby cried. The leaking wasn't inhibited by a bra or nursing pad so I never got so full that pumping was required. Genius. Not pumping took a huge strain off my poor sore feeding parts. Yes, I had to throw away a few shirts but it was worth it!
4) Buy or make cloth nursing pads and use those instead of paper. I can't emphasize enough that I don't have a hidden agenda here. If you are someone who nurses easily and well without winding up in mind-numbing pain than these tips are not necessary for you. I don't have anything against paper nursing pads for the average nursing woman but for those of us who are very sensitive, I really can't recommend cloth highly enough. My most recent baby is the first time I tried cloth and guess what--no cyclical pain. I have been mostly pain free since about the 6 week mark. This is a miracle. I didn't think it would make a difference until I tried cloth menstrual pads and decided I'd been torturing myself for years without needing to. Since that was so much better I thought I'd try the cloth nursing pads and wow, the difference is just amazing.
Why didn't I know all this before baby #6??? (Me banging my head against a wall.)
Hopefully these tips will help someone avoid all the misery I have endured.
If you have any other helpful hints, be sure to put them in the comments. Who knows--I might try this again sometime now that I'm getting a handle on it!
Andrea is a homeschooling mother of six: ages 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, and 6 months. She loves babies! She also loves books, writing, cooking, hiking, dancing, singing, hanging out with her family, and anything pro-redhead. You can read more about her homeschooling efforts on the blog Frolic and Farce.