A month in the hinterland

I can’t believe it has been a whole month since my last post. Thanks to Elly for holding the fort!

My recent troubles have revolved around one aspect of having kittens that we have mentioned many, many times on here:

Breastfeeding.

knitted breasts and pattern

It actually all started after I saw Elly and we discussed the fact that three months on, I was still suffering from sore nipples and using nipple shields most days to protect them. It would be fine for a while, then they’d get sore, so I’d put on a shield, they’d heal, I’d remove the shield, they’d get sore again and thus the cycle continued. Feeds were also hours at a time which was exhausting (although this gave me lots of time to write blog posts…) I knew in the back of my mind this probably wasn’t what was supposed to happen but just got on with it anyway – since the first week when we had the “formula discussion” in A&E it never occurred to me to give up breastfeeding. Despite the discomfort I’ve always enjoyed it too: among many reasons for carrying on, I love the bond it reinforces between Pip and me, and even the fact it’s free!

I think around the three-month mark something shifts: your baby is not such a newborn any more, and things are supposed to be falling into place. For example, many women go back to work at three months! For me it was the opposite. Enough was enough – the breastfeeding was really starting to get me down. If something you spend several hours a day doing is not going well, the effect tends to accumulate! On the positive side, Pip had always managed to latch and consume milk, and his weight was always fine. On the negative side, that’s what stopped me taking action for so long – he was doing well, so I was the one with the problem, therefore it was a far less important issue… I decided to take some action (calling up two lactation consultants and arranging to go to a breastfeeding drop-in with my NCT friend) but before I could get things into motion it was too late. Mastitis had crept up on me!

Mastitis is hideous. Basically it is a blocked duct in the breast that becomes infected before you are able to clear it, resulting in varying degrees of feeling terrible, and requiring antibiotics to clear up. I thought I might have had it very early on but I was already on the antibiotics I would have been prescribed (for a different infection – I guess there isn’t that much choice of drugs for breastfeeding mothers!) so I never quite knew for certain. This bout came out of the blue and really knocked me for six: I didn’t have a temperature, nor a cold or cough, but my entire body ached and worse was the general malaise accompanying it. Having escaped flu since childhood, I don’t have much to compare it to but for me the mental side was even worse than the physical!

Kellymom has a useful page about blocked ducts and mastitis, which I read over and over again rather obsessively at the time.

During mastitis it’s important to keep the breast as empty as possible so even though it was really painful I kept putting Pip back on and pumped the other side. Fortunately he seemed quite relaxed about the whole thing and was mostly content to feed and doze next to me in bed – our first proper co-sleeping experience! Mr Cath also came home early on the worst day and looked after us, which was a massive help as it was a struggle for me to get out of bed and Pip was starting to reach his limit of being able to entertain himself. It was recommended to me to take hot baths and massage the affected breast to clear the duct, and this definitely helped as well.

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the breastfeeding clinic but once I was able to dress myself again I booked in Lactation Consultant No.1. While clearly a lovely person, the session didn’t help much as we seemed to spend most of it discussing my birth and she appeared far more concerned about the temporary mastitis than my long term issues with breastfeeding. She did show me a new feeding position which I’ve used a lot since, but otherwise I was in the same situation as before. Perhaps it was partly my fault as I was quite upbeat (well, I didn’t cry!) and when she watched me feed I gave the pain levels 4/10. I probably shouldn’t have used the breast I’d been pumping on which had therefore had a break, but I didn’t want to be in pain and cry in front of this stranger…oh, how English! Towards the end of the session I asked her to check Pip’s mouth but she told me I’d need to make another appointment for that.

I then spoke to Lactation Consultant No.2. We had a brief phone conversation during which I described my problems with feeding (she wasn’t particularly interested in the mastitis) and without further ado or even having met Pip or myself she said:

“It sounds like tongue tie.”

To be continued…

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