I put myself into hypnosis to deal with the pain of breastfeeding

Wow, breastfeeding. It’s one of those things I always knew I wanted to do, but until I experienced it myself, I had absolutely NO IDEA how challenging it could be. I thought, “We’re all built for this, so it will just automatically happen and it will be easy.” Unfortunately, that was not the case for me.

Breastfeeding did happen, but it certainly wasn’t easy. For the first two weeks, my milk didn’t come in so I pumped like crazy and gave my daughter syringes filled with milk donated to us by a neighbor. If you’ve ever had to use the syringe method to supplement your breastfeeding then you know that you need about six hands to be able to accomplish it, especially when both mother and baby are new at breastfeeding. But we got through that hurdle and my daughter started gaining weight. Hooray!

The thing is, breastfeeding was extremely painful! No one told me that breastfeeding would hurt. It was so bad that I would often bite myself to keep from screaming out in pain as my daughter latched on. My La Leche League leader told me she likely had a shallow latch. My peers told me that the pain would go away after a couple of weeks. I described my symptoms but no one seemed to know why I was in pain.

As the weeks turned into months, I decided that I was just super sensitive and I would just have to learn to live with the pain. So I began to use self-hypnosis to manage my pain. I had learned how to hypnotize myself for and it worked pretty well to help me relax, even when I was experiencing discomfort. I would lie on my side, take a deep breath, turn off (relaxing every muscle in my body), and after that the pain was bearable.

We nursed like that for 8 more months. And then I wrote a blog post about how I was hypnotizing myself to get through the pain of nursing. One of my readers left a comment about how I shouldn’t be having so much pain and I might want to look into Raynaud’s phenomenon of the nipple. Well, after a quick Google search I finally figured out why I was in so much pain, I was having vasospasms in my nipples that made nursing extremely painful. I was SO RELIEVED to have an explanation for my pain!

Vasospasm can be caused by cold and/or emotional distress, as well as some nutritional deficiencies so the first thing I did was begin to cover up with a warm blanket every time I nursed. I also researched some herbal vasodilators and found that red pepper and cinnamon both help to open and relax blood vessels. I started to put red pepper on my eggs in the morning and I used cinnamon in my oatmeal. I cut out caffeine, took my vitamins, began to get more regular with my aerobic exercise and I got some acupuncture. After several weeks my pain went away!

For the first time since my nine-month-old daughter was born, I nursed pain free. I wish that was the end of the story and for almost a year I did continue to nurse pain free. But a few months ago, the vasospasms returned and the pain was worse than ever. I contemplated weaning because the pain was so intense and my daughter was nearing two years old. But I didn’t like the idea of weaning because of my vasospasm, it seemed too abrupt and when I’m not in pain, I really enjoy nursing my daughter! I had hoped to wean slowly and have her weaned at around 2 ½ yrs old. The herbs weren’t cutting it this time so I went ahead and called my OB/GYN and got a prescription for a very low dose of blood pressure medication that has been shown to work for Raynaud’s of the nipple. It worked!

I’m pain free again! The only problem is, I’m taking medication to stay that way. I tried going off the medication when I thought things were under control, but the pain came back and now I’m back on the meds. It does seem strange to me to be taking medication so that I can slowly wean my daughter.

I thought I would do child-led weaning, but it certainly hasn’t worked out that way for us. I have led the weaning efforts, starting with night weaning and getting down to just three times a day now. My daughter has adjusted beautifully. But she definitely doesn’t want to give up her “milka” any time soon. Has anyone else out there gone through something similar? Any thoughts about how I should proceed? Doesn’t it seem strange to be taking medication so that I can continue to nurse? I would love some support, suggestions, and information. So please leave me a comment!

And have a lovely week, Shelly

6 comments
Kristinmh
Kristinmh

With my first son, I had some difficulty with getting a good latch especially on one breast that was considered "flat." after a week of frustration, tears, and deep breaths, we figured it out. I nursed him comfortably for 23 months. My second son was born only 8 months after weaning my first. I had some difficulty again with the flat nipple but had a better idea of how to compensate and much more confidence. I was readmitted at 8 days postpartum for postpartum preeclampsia. This was an extremely stressful time. All of the family had gone home by this point and my husband had to juggle our 3 year old, newborn, house responsibilities, and me. The baby could not stay with me unless there was another adult present since he was no longer a patient. A few weeks later, I was released. Within another week, I began to deal with excruciating pain. I knew it wasn't right. Imade an appointment with a lactation consultant even though she had a considerable fee and our health insurance would not help with the cost (though they cover acupuncture??). I felt like we either were going to pay a chunk to the consultant or pay even more to use formula. In the end, I was diagnosed with a yeast infection of the breast, Reynaud's, and may have had an abcessed duct (though never confirmed or treated by my OB). I was happy to take almost any medication prescribed because my pain had become so great that I would avoid feeding my baby until he was screaming with hunger. I also would bite my lip in pain to avoid screaming and moaning. At night it seemed the worst. When it was just us in the house, i would strip waist up because everything made my nipples burn. Even doing that, just the air hurt. I got to where i would pump to avoid his latch (even though the LC confirmed his latch was correct.) Even with medication, my dosages had to be increased because it simply would not subside. My LC said one patient described yeast infection as though her breast were filled with broken shards of glass and her nipples were on fire. That was my experience. (Mammas-to-be, please know that I was a very extreme case with this second baby.) In the third month, the pain faded. Now we are in the ninth month and nursing is like it was with my first son. In summary, when breastfeedong hurts, it can be like a torture session every 3 hours for weeks on end. Don't accept that. Thankfully, I knew it shouldn't hurt but it was HARD to push through. I'm glad I did. However, if you feel like you are done and can afford the formula, go ahead. I'm not convinced that it really makes any long term difference if a child gets formula or breast milk. What matters is that a person can love on their baby and use that feeding time to bond. If you choose to take medication so it is possible for you to connect with your child (and does not cause your child ill effects) by all means do it. That's true with choosing not to nurse, too.

julievalie
julievalie

Hi Shelly,  I really liked your testimony, it could give hope and courage for other women who experience difficulty breastfeeding.  Like you said breasfeeding is not suppose to hurt, but sometimes, some conditions trigger pain.   LLL, other breasfeeding association and doctor should work with mothers until they find out why, before the mother gives up.  It's true breasfeeding is not always easy, it requires a lot of determination and effort, but taking care of a baby too, I think we have to be careful when we accuse breastfeeding of draining our energy, it releases relaxing hormones to both baby and mother, but taking care of a baby can be draining wether it is bottle fed or breastfed.

 

I wanted a child led weaning too, but it didn't work out this way.  I don't know if you remember, I breastfed during my second pregnancy and during 1,5 year I breasfed my 2 girls.  I wanted my second child and I to be able to have that one and one connection, I felt I was not fair to either of them, I felt some social pressure and after 2 years of having difficulty (pain during pregnancy, and a bad latch after) I was fed up and I also knew that Marianne was able to go through me ledding her weaning.  We talked a lot about it, I got a little booklet from LLL about Magy's weaning, and other books with baby breasfeeding.  I let her cry out it when she was sad.   I try to make her move on and make her proud of being a little girl, not a baby anymore.   She asked about pictures and video about her when she was a baby, she was and still is sometimes, very nostalgic.  We played often baby (she was almost always the baby) and mother.  I think it wasn't easy for both of us, but I think it went nicely and gradually and it really worked when I was determined I had to have her stop.

 

Hope this will help you,

 

Julie

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  1. […] and maybe for some women breastfeeding never hurts a bit. But most of the women I talked to said it hurt a LOT for the first couple of weeks and then settled down after that. Unfortunately for me, the pain […]