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Breastfeeding Anyway: Blazing Red Sores and Scabs

by Eileen McAllister, Knoxville, Tennessee

I tried nursing Vaughn Robert ten minutes after he was born. He didnít seem interested so I continued to try every thirty minutes or so until I was exhausted and had to sleep. About ten hours after his birth, Vaughn woke up on my chest and began rooting on. I let him suck ten minutes on each breast; he seemed satisfied and we both went back to sleep.

I fed him again five hours later, and this hurt a little. The next feeding was worse. By the time I gave him his last feeding before leaving the hospital, I was crying because the pain was horrible.

I continued to nurse Vaughn on demand, but by the third day at home I was in such pain I had to push my feet against our coffee table while my husband or mother held it down. I also had to bite the corner of a washcloth the first couple of minutes to keep from screaming. The first week was a nightmare.

I had blazing red sores and scabs on my areola and nipples by the end of the week. The scabs broke and bled at each feeding. I called the hospital, my obstetrician and the pediatrician for help; their only advice was to go to formula. Unacceptable!

Vaughn was 12 days old when I received a pamphlet from the local health department with a list of lactation consultants. Glenda King, from Knox county Health Department came to my home that afternoon. I canít thank her enough for showing me how to stop the pain; if she hadnít come so quickly I would have gone to bottles the next day.

Vaughn was keeping his tongue in too far; pressing my nipple against the roof of his mouth. This is what caused the scabbing. Since his tongue was supposed to be out over his bottom gum, and wasnít, this hard ridge was chomping on my areola, causing the sores. He was somewhat lazy about opening his mouth wide enough for me to guide my breast into it and was simply sucking my nipple in through almost closed lips, causing more soreness.

I quit nursing and pumped for three days to let my breasts heal. (Babies can be fed expressed milk by sterilized eye-dropper or cup.) It took superhuman effort to subject myself to nursing pain again, so I used a nipple shield until I found the courage to nurse again. After about two minutes with the shield, my nipple would be stretched out and I could allow Vaughn to latch onto my bare skin. The nipple shield does not prevent pain, but it does diminish it to a bearable level. It is next to impossible for a baby to suck hard enough to use the shield for actual nursing, but it was an effective tool for my son and I.

It took about six weeks to reach the point where I could nurse without wincing. The experience of breastfeeding is so fulfilling, and the benefits make it even better. Aside from the nutrition and comfort, breastfed babiesí diapers donít stink.

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