Over the next four weeks, I continued to meet with three lactation consultants: Ann, Kathleen, and Patty. We tried nursing in different positions to see what would work best. We went back and forth with using the nipple shield - sometimes it worked well, other times it hurt like hell. It always seemed like he latched well when a lactation consultant was watching but then when I was alone, we just couldn't get it together.
My mom and Hubby were both very supportive and did what they could to help, but I still felt really alone. I felt like no one really understood why this was so important to me and I couldn't explain it if I tried. Most people told me that I had tried hard enough and it was time to give up. After all, their kids had had formula and were "just fine."
Monkey's latch steadily improved, but he often got fussy at the breast, especially in the evenings. Okay, he was more than fussy. He would latch on for a couple of minutes and then clamp down and pull back while flailing his arms and legs and finally (after I unlatched him) screaming his lungs out. The LCs couldn't decide if the milk flow was too fast or too slow and the pediatrician was sure it was reflux.
At six weeks, we finally turned a corner. At the breastfeeding drop-in at the hospital, he had been transferring more and more milk each week and this time, Patty said she thought I was ready to drop the bottles. She told me to try just nursing him for the next two days and to come back in for a weigh-in in 48 hours. I was so happy! I called Hubby on my way home and told him. He seemed a little bit apprehensive about trying exclusive breastfeeding again after what had happened before. For the rest of the day, we nursed as much as Monkey wanted. That night we went to my first La Leche League meeting and I told my story. I was so excited that I was able to finish the story by saying we were getting rid of the bottles.
But then something awful happened. As I was nursing Monkey towards the end of the LLL meeting, my nipple began to hurt. One of the leaders came over to help me, but when she looked she said his latch looked pretty good. I figured that maybe it was just from nursing more that day than I was used to, but as the night went on the pain just got worse and worse. Around 4am I was in tears as Monkey nursed happily. Hubby finally told me to stop and gave him a bottle while I pumped, but even the pumping hurt. I suffered through the pain as much as I could the next day, only giving Monkey one more bottle.
I was nervous about his weight and couldn't wait until Thursday, so on Wednesday I called Ann (one of the LCs who had been helping me) and she came over with her scale to weigh him. He had not lost any weight, so I was relieved - but I was still in pain. I continued to breastfeed through the excruciating pain for the next twenty four hours. Finally, Thursday rolled around and Monkey and I went to see Patty. I was elated to see that he had gained two ounces! Patty was excited too, but she was concerned when I told her about the nipple pain. I sat down to nurse him so that she could see his latch and she said it was perfect. On the verge of tears, I told her that it felt like he had razorblades in his mouth.
"You just said the magic words!" She explained that the pain I was describing was classic yeast/thrush and told me to get a prescription for "triple-nipple-cream" (also known as APNO). I called my OB immediately and had the ointment about an hour later. Within a few hours, I began to feel relief and by the next day I was breastfeeding pain-free.
Monkey is now 22 weeks old and has been exclusively breastfed since he was 7 weeks old. We still go to the breastfeeding drop-in to see Patty and to help other nursing moms who are struggling.