Squeamish/TMI Person Warning: This post contains explicit content about nursing that may be uncomfortable for some readers. For you, a cute picture:


For intrepid readers, click below the fold to continue.

Remember how back in September I got mastitis – a breast infection – twice in a month? I wondered then whether this breastfeeding thing was really the magical, wonderful thing portrayed by the starry-eyed staff at Evergreen, and did I somehow inadvertently get shunted into Painful, Rocky, and Ultimately Only Marginally Successful Breastfeeding Hell instead of Snuggly, Natural, Happy Nursing Heaven?

But we overcame the mastitis thanks to the miracle of antibiotics, and even got Benji nursing a little bit – not much, not for a full feed, but enough to keep things flowing (so to speak), and the rest I pump (four or five 30- to 60-minute [after overnight] sessions = a lot of time worth that dehumanizing machine of nightmares) and he happily consumes from a bottle. Thus the question “breast or bottle?” always causes me travail and engenders an excessively long explanation on my part as I try to justify my failure to nurse.

That is how it went until a couple weeks ago when I started getting symptoms of what the doctor assures me is a yeast infection in my nipples. These symptoms include burning pain while getting a let-down during pumping and pain while nursing; extreme nipple tenderness and sensitivity to any touch; redness around the nipple only; and apparently icky white gunk in the nipple folds.

Upon hearing this description, the doctor prescribed a seven-day course of an oral anti-fungal that should have taken care of it.

It had no discernable effect.

Thus I had a trip to the doctor today to receive the prescription of a topical cream that would take 10 days to work if I applied it constantly, and even then the infection might come back when I discontinue use. Great. So slimy goo all over my nipples – and bra, and shirt, if I’m any judge – and no guarantee of actually resolving the issue to boot.

In short – I know; too late! – I am feeling really frustrated and discouraged, not to mention in significant pain five times a day. I’m really hating what “breastfeeding” means for me (hours at the pump, recurrent agonizing disease, constant scheduling nightmare, humongous and constantly uncomfortable boobs). When I read the following, it really rang true for me:

“Our ability to nurse is presented to American women as the most basic, natural thing a woman can do for her child. So when it doesn’t work – or, shame on us, we simply don’t want to do it – we’re blamed for being selfish, or not trying hard enough. That’s a message that’s hard not to internalize.” (Jessica Valenti, Why Have Kids, p. 38)

I will keep at it because I love my son and I believe this is best for him. But I’d really like a light at the end of this seemingly infinite tunnel.

2 thoughts on “More Breastfeeding Magic

  1. Your little Benji is blessed to have you as his mommy. Your commitment to provide breast milk for him these past 4 1/2 months is truly a labor of love on your part. What a gift you have given him in passive immunity – not even a sniffle so far! Just getting a wee one past colds and flu that first few months is such a difficult task.

    This will not go on forever. Whether you continue or not, you have been and continue to be a great mom!

    If you are asked “breast or bottle” again, you might just consider responding, “Yes.”

  2. Hats off to you both! I should say all 3, since I’m sure it’s taken all of you working together to persevere to this point. We’ve had an easier time of it, so I’m quick to glibly praise the wonders of breastfeeding. But your post gives me more to think about. Benji is so fortunate to have a mom that would sacrifice so much and so often for him. I hope to be able to encourage other moms I know with your honest descriptions and your amazing example. And we will pray for a quick resolution to the pain.

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