After the birth of my first baby girl, Gabbie, there were beautiful days filled with rapturous delight of having my own baby, mixed with sheer exhaustion of keeping her alive. The first night home from the hospital I was awakened many time by my husband asking me to feed the baby, as nothing else would calm her down from crying. This made me cry too. How could she be so hungry? I had just finished nursing her a few minutes ago! But whether she was hungry or not, she wanted mama. I had not yet figured out a comfortable way to nurse her in bed, so I would prop myself into a ridiculous position that pulled at my stitches, and then try not to fall asleep, while also attempting to latch a newborn to my breast. The first couple of weeks of learning how to breastfeed, well, they weren’t for the faint hearted! While I had had a lactation consultant help at the hospital, and my mom help me at home, baby and me still had to learn each other. She had to learn to latch correctly, in a way that wouldn’t hurt me, and I had to help her learn, all the while learning how to hold her, and heal from delivery. There was teeth gritting, crying, and bleeding involved in this learning process. It also didn’t help that at three days old, we were snowed in by a true blizzard! By the end of two weeks, my nipples had blistered, cracked and were bleeding every time I fed my baby. This was not a magical experience, this was pain. My husband suggested using formula, and I cried all the more. I was determined to make this work. But I needed my nipples to heal.
I saw the Nurse Practitioner at my University. Unfortunately her advice was to sun my nipples to allow them to harden, as well as using used teabags on the nipples. While tea can be used to help stop bleeding, and has some good properties, it will not heal broken nipple tissue. My nipples didn't need to dry and crack, they needed moisture and healing.
Finally, through the beauty of the internet I found Le Leche League! And I found my saving grace. Moisturizing. Your nipples are made of the same tissue as your lips. Would you sun your cracked lips? NO! You would use a lip balm. Same with your nipples. Keep them protected with a good nipple balm. Edible is even better! Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, all good. This will allow the skin to stretch and not crack. Preventing many issues and helping heal nipples if there is trauma.
After all of this, I was able to finally begin to heal and feel better about nursing. My little nursling managed to be breastfed for almost 18 months. Just because we had a rocky start didn't mean we were doomed. We just needed some patience and care.