Thursday, March 25, 2010


Approximately five weeks ago, Zachary joined our family. He was very accommodating: Contractions intensified after I finished with my nail and hair appointments, stayed steady through a delicious pizza dinner (the last we would ever have as a family of three), and active labor began a few minutes after Hallie went to bed for the night. Zachary was even born just a few minutes after midnight, thus ensuring his parents got a few hours of sleep before Hallie awoke for the day and demanded attention.

Immediately following Zachary's birth, I nursed him for a while and continued to do so throughout the night. By the next morning, a mere 6 hours later, my breasts were sore and my nipples feeling chapped. Ugh. I watched throughout the next day and attempted to analyze the latch and see where we were going wrong. Starting nose to nipple? Check. Wait for wide gape before bringing nipple into mouth? No problem. Upper lip flanged? Yes. Still, as a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), I know that most breastfeeding pain is a result of poor latch. Still, no matter what I did, I couldn't get an read on the problem.

By the next day, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. The pain was so intense that I dreaded my son's plaintive cries of hunger. Nursing my daughter had been successful from the start and such a joy, that I was devastated not to feel the same about my son. And worse...I help other women with their latch issues for a living. How could I not solve my own?

I was too embarrassed and proud to ask for help. As the days went by, it was getting worse and worse. I had my husband hold up a mirror while I fed our son in order to attempt to watch the feed from another angle. I still couldn't see the problem (well, I couldn't see much of anything as my husband kept moving the mirror), I tried to videotape a feed, but we ran into the same issue with the camera that we did with the mirror.

Finally, out of desperation and because I *knew* my nursing relationship with my son should be better, I called a colleague to come over and help me out. I showed her how I was nursing Zachary and after less than 30 seconds of my demonstration, she told me that his lower lip was not in the proper position. Of course! The one spot I could not see myself from any angle. We readjusted the latch and I felt immediate relief as Zachary gulped hungrily as the newly increased flow. My colleague and I spent the next hour catching up and she told me how impressed she was that I called since so many CLCs and Doulas end up with nursing issues simply because they were too embarrassed to ask for help.

By the next day, my nipples had healed and I no longer dreaded nursing. In some cases, I looked forward to it since it was a great excuse to sit back on the couch and rest while other people watched Hallie, folded laundry or made dinner. Bliss.

And so, my brand new son was able to teach me an important lesson within the first week of his life: Asking for help - even when you are supposed to be an expert - is perfectly okay. No one thinks less of you and in some cases, they even think more.

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