Breastfeeding has never been hard for us. I know. We've been those douche people this whole time that LOVE breastfeeding and haven't had to have any of the intense difficulty that can often come along with it.
I've written previously about the jewel of breastfeeding (you can check it out here if you haven't already) and although I mention a few hardships there they are nothing compared to our last few days. As I blabber on here, I should note, that all of those things still hold true and despite my story below - the jewel is still worth refining, still worth working for. Breastfeeding is still worth all of this.
Jericho had an awful night on Thursday, was up every 2hrs crying, wouldn't latch well, but then would return to sleep with some cuddles. He was fussy throughout the day but seemed otherwise ok. We'd had a busy vacation and I figured it was just getting to him. We fly home, Friday night Jericho nurses for the last time. Only I didn't know it would be the last time.
By Saturday my normally happy and lovely little baby is obviously very sick. He's refusing to nurse. Has a rash all over his body and is miserable. I take him to the doctor and we find out he has a viral infection causing the rash and ulcers in his mouth. Clearly, he's in pain and can't nurse.
The doctor prescribes some medicine that should help make him feel better in 24hrs or so he says. I take my little love home, I try to nurse him, he continues to refuse. I try milk in a bottle, he refuses. Milk on a spoon or at the side of a cup and he just blows bubbles or cries.
So we move on. I try purées to which he takes a little. I try very "watery" cereal with breastmilk and that works! But he won't take it on a spoon or at the side of a cup; only from a syringe. At least we got something figured out.
All the while I'm worrying about whether Jericho is getting enough food, enough liquid to keep his little body from becoming dehydrated and keeping him comfortable. Meanwhile my breasts are screaming, burning, practically ready to explode.
And so begins the dance. I pump off just enough to keep me comfortable without telling my body to make loads more milk. My breasts are hard as rocks with lumps galore. I can barely touch them they're so sore. I take a warm bath with a little peppermint to encourage my body to gently make less milk. I pump some more. I use ice packs to reduce the inflammation from constant pumping and partially blocked ducts. I take some Advil to encourage that as well. My husband gently massages out the lumps as they form (btw having a man with big, warm hands do this is so comforting when your breasts are this sore - try it!) and offers me comfort and encouragement as I become emotional and paranoid I'll get mastitis or that Jericho might never nurse again.
I sit every second of the day wondering, worrying, grieving that Friday night may be the last time my son ever nurses from my breast. I pray and pray and pray that when he feels better he'll just latch on and continue as he did before he was sick. I'm still hoping, still praying. Still worrying. Grieving.
I've reached out to a breastfeeding buddy for advice, I've re-read all the advice from my nursing textbooks, Jack Newmans Guide to Breastfeeding, I've read article after article on the internet and I've even emailed Jack Newman for advice. And you guessed it, I'm still sitting here waiting. Hoping. Worrying.
Breastfeeding isn't easy, it's a labour of love. It takes patience. The experience changes as our children grow and our bond increases. For some breastfeeding starts out hard and becomes easier, for some, like me breastfeeding came easily, naturally and has now stepped into a very challenging period. But you know what? Every single second of what we're going through is worth it.
The jewel of breastfeeding isn't something easily uncovered, it's something we have to work so hard and continually for but you'll never regret it.
I don't know what will happen over the next few days but I'm going to keep trying. My breasts are slowly regulating themselves and becoming soft and comfortable again. I'll keep pumping, keep feeding my baby with a syringe, keep offering him the breast until he's ready.
I longingly await that moment of pure comfort and connection when Jericho latches again and gently, peacefully nurses off to sleep.
In the meantime all I can do is wait. Feel free to send us some love and positive vibes for healing and restoration of our precious breastfeeding relationship.