Breastfeeding Pain: My Silent Struggle

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Breastfeeding was easy at first. My son latched well, and he was vigorous in his need. His doctor was overjoyed at how quickly he was putting on weight, and I got to feel like I was “acing motherhood.” That is, until the choking started.

At two weeks, he started to cry and turn away whenever I would try to nurse him. After a few attempts, I’d finally get him to latch, and he would voraciously nurse, only to choke and sputter, distorting and scrunching up his face like he was in utter agony. As a natural problem solver, I jumped right into finding solutions. I met with three lactation consultants, who were all kind and patient, but ultimately a dead end. Ever the dutiful student, I took all their tips and did them with gusto. I nursed lying completely flat; I pumped before each feeding to soften the release of my milk; I kept intricate charts of his feeding to glean some kind of pattern to the chaos.  

I had no idea yet that perfectionism has no place in motherhood.

The issue was that I had a forceful letdown and a strong supply of milk, coupled with a son who had an atypically powerful sucking reflex. In other words, he had a lot to take, and I had a lot to give. Every time he nursed, it was as if I was sticking a gushing water hose down his mouth. I’ve since come to learn my experience isn’t unusual and quite common for women with an oversupply of milk.

Breastfeeding and Perfection

What helped us in the end? Time.

For four months, eight times a day, we would do the routine of crying, choking, and sputtering up milk so that his body could develop the muscle control to regulate how much he took in. It was a painful process that, by and large, I kept to myself.  The shame and disappointment I held in silence left me feeling isolated and dangerously depressed.

It’s been three years, and I can see now I was a new mother trying to “do it all” on my own. There’s a time for fierce independence, and there’s a time to lean on your community. Motherhood and all its perils are not a journey meant to be carried alone. My advice to all new moms: Ask for help and share your experiences — the world (and your friends) need to hear them.

This post is part of a series to recognize World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated every year from August 1-7 “to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.”

Tags: Breastfeeding, Motherhood

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Christina Grance

Christina Grance is a proud mama to one rambunctious child and an ornery cat. Together with her photographer husband, she... See Full Bio

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