Ok so for those of you who know me in real life (lol) or who have read my blog over the past couple of years, you will probably know that I have struggled HUGELY with MASSIVE amounts of pain that last for MONTHS after each of our children is born as I try to breastfeed them. Just so I can be clear about what kind of pain I am talking about, it's like someone has sliced open my nipple with a knife each feed, between feeds also (and also even just when I am pregnant), has doused vinegar on the nipple and then attached a vice and clamped it down hard.
I'm not exaggerating.
This is seriously what each feed is like for me for the first 3 to 4 months. After that there is STILL pain but it seems to wear off somewhat. This I now know has probably more to do with it coinciding with warmer weather - more on that in a minute. I've also experienced thrush and several bouts of mastitis and believe me, the recurring pain of vasospasm can not compare. It is horrendous.
Brett can vouch for this - every feed he has to be there to hold my hand (or my mum or dad or whoever is nearby) while I white-knuckle it and cry. Often the person whose hand I am holding also ends up in tears because it is so difficult to watch. It's so difficult to live too because as a mum, you want desperately to feed your baby and the thing that stops you is pain. You wish that there was some way you could just keep going but I tell you the pain is so intense I've near passed out from it over and over again this happens. The words frustrating, upsetting, heartbreaking just don't really describe it accurately enough.
I think I've painted a fairly accurate picture for you and how much I've struggled with breastfeeding.
So why bother? (These are my thoughts and heart feelings that I am sharing here - these are not to shared to condemn others.)Well, I want to give my babies the milk which I believe God designed for them to have. I know that breastfeeding is a time for bonding with your baby; a special time that involves just mama and bubba. I know that breastmilk helps my babies immune systems to be boosted and helps to protect them from sicknesses. I cherish the feeds I do get to have with my babies and even though they have never fed for as long as I have wanted, I tried my hardest each and every time. I love looking down at them and them looking back up at you and stroking their hair. I love talking to them while they are feeding and once the pain leaves (often around the 5 or 6 month mark) I really can enjoy feeding so much more. I love that breastfeeding is portable and cost effective! To me, it is worth the pain and the effort to give them a great start in life!
However, the pain that I have experienced in the past does not make me look forward to feeding. It would be abnormal to look forward to experiencing that kind of level of pain on an on-going basis. I look forward to birthing but to feeding, well....that's different.
This pregnancy I have prayed and prayed for Yah to help me understand it all and show me the way through this journey. I have prayed for answers and I have been given some! This has provided me with so much hope and encouragement that I can't even express.
I wanted to document it all so I can look back in the future and remember how Yah met with me and what he showed me.
Early on in the pregnancy I was reminded to look up NIPPLE VASOSPASM. In the past I had looked this up but had discounted it because I thought that you had to have RAYNAUD'S PHENOMENON as well. I do have some of the symptoms of the latter but you can also have nipple vasospasm without having Raynaud's Phenomenon. Anyway, I decided to look it back up again and this time found some great information. I disussed it with our lovely Midwife Hazel who agreed that it did indeed sound like Vasospasm.
So I began praying about what I should do about it.
Then I went to the local health store and bought a nerve tonic since I thought it was a nerve issue.
Then, as I started reading about it, I began to understand that this is a condition which affects the blood vessels. The blood vessels become constricted; often through cold weather or just being sensitive to the cold. This means they tighten up and restrict the correct flow of blood through the vessels.
I came across some amazing websites that have helped:
FACT SHEET ON NIPPLE VASOSPASM
INFO AT KELLYMOM.COM
SOME MORE INFO FOUND ON A FORUM
These things basically led me to looking into a pharmaceutical drug called Nifedipine. This is a drug which helps to open up the blood vessels and can be taken as a slow relasese dose.
Now here's where the 'SUCH good news' part comes into the story!
A little while ago, our lovely MIDWIFE HAZEL came across THIS PUBLICATION REGARDING A CLINICAL TRIAL OF 12 WOMEN SUFFERING FROM VASOSPASM. Some of them were treated with Nifedipine and this was found to help them! One woman who had preciously been in severe pain, took the Nifedipine and the pain ceased and she was able to feed her baby WITHOUT pain! I can't even begin to imagine how amazing that must be!!!!! The pros of Nifedipine are that almost none of it crosses over through the milk making it safe for baby and that the side effects for mum are small IF ANY - headaches and dizziness seem to be the worst and believe me that is NOTHING compared to the pain I normally have breastfeeding!
Now, the problem that both Hazel and I saw about this particular drug was that it opens up the blood vessels. Having had an auto-immune blood disease 5 years ago that is now in remission, anything that has to do with bleeding needs to be taken very seriously. In order to meet Medicare requirements, I had to (and would have anyway) have a consult with my haematologist. And he has said that Nifedipine would not affect my platelet levels at all and would be fine to take from his point of view after baby is born - YAAAAAAAAAY! You have no idea how good this is! It may not work, but we can at least try it! This gives me hope!!!
So here's what we are doing so far to tackle the pain of Nipple Vasospasm so far:
1. I will be taking a slow-release (short course hopefully) of Nifedipine once bubba is born
2. I have purchased SORE NIPPLE HERBAL WASHES from DOULA JULIE BELL IN MELBOURNE. These include herbs such as:
* Wild-crafted Witch Hazel -
* Lady's Mantle
* Red Clover
* Celtic Sea Salt
* Red Clover
* Celtic Sea Salt
3. I will be purchasing (when funds permit!) two packs of woollen breast pads. I already have A PAIR OF THERMAL BREAST WARMERS.
4. I have purchased comfrey root ointment and will be rubbing that into the areola and nipple for the remainder of pregnancy to help strengthen the nipple.
5. I also have a herbal ointment cream to rub in once bubba is born (as I can't use comfrey then)
6. These are some of the things we are going to be doing. I also have 6 weeks of post-birth breastfeeding support (daily if needed!) from our lovely midwife Hazel who is also a breastfeeding counsellor for ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) so if we encounter any other probs, we can tackle them head on with her!
7. In the meantime, I have been attending meetings of my local ABA group and have met some wonderful women there. Just connecting with like-minded people is very encouraging isn't it?
8. I have contacted a breastfeeding counsellor who also suffered from Vasospasm and have shared my story with her and am looking forward to hearing of her experiences too.
9. PRAYER! Lots and lots of prayer! I know that Yah wants what is best for me and my child and our entire family so we are continuing to trust in Him; that He will lead and guide us all the way through and help me even during the hardest times - He always has!
10. The last thing on my list is just to give it the best shot I can!
All in all, I am feeling SO much more positive and hopeful about this whole situation. To know that there are things I can take that won't harm me or my baby and that may ease or even take away all the pain is SUCH GOOD NEWS!!!!
I hope that anyone who stumbles across my story here will be encouraged especially if they have suffered from Nipple Vasospasm. If you think to pray for us that we will have a successful pain-free feeding experience, that would be so greatly appreciated!
More to come soon,