I had no problems nursing my first child and did so exclusively for 5 – 6 months. I nursed my second as well, but got mastitis when she was 24 days old, on Christmas Eve. I had never been so sick. My doctor prescribed an antibiotic. This cleared up the mastitis, but caused a yeast infection – in my nipples. This caused cracks, which lead to a bacterial infection requiring another antibiotic, leading to yet another yeast infection. This cycle continued for about another 2 months. As much as I loved my doctor, I felt like he was at a loss to help. He had me contact a lactation consultant at the hospital, who told me to follow my doctor’s orders. I cried in my doctor’s office and told him I wanted to nurse for a number of reasons: I loved the time with my baby, I wanted her to be healthy, and it was convenient and inexpensive. He told me my baby needed a sane mother more than she needed breast milk. I stopped nursing.
My husband and I did not get pregnant again for another 10 years. I decided I would nurse my son, but only if I did not experience the problems I had with my daughter. I got mastitis when my son was about 3 weeks old and immediately felt defeated. I was with a different ob-gyn practice. I had met their staff lactation consultant (the practice I had seen with my first two children did not have one) at the hospital, but only spent a few minutes with her. When I went in for my mastitis, they treated me but also had me meet with her. I told her about my prior experience, and told her I wanted to nurse as long as I could but I knew this cycle would end my nursing. She promised me she would not allow that to happen to us; and that as long as I was willing; she would be behind me all the way. I nursed my son a little over a year, and I got mastitis several times. The lactation consultant worked closely with me the entire time. She helped me figure out the triggers that were causing mastitis, and how to take care of myself better. I never got a yeast infection, and never stopped nursing, and other than not feeling well, I never had any physical difficulty nursing.
Shortly after I stopped nursing my son, I discovered I was pregnant again. My baby did not latch or eat well in the hospital. The hospital's lactation consultant met me with and noticed that he was slightly jaundiced (none of the nursing staff had noticed). She worked with him and me until he finally latched and nursed well. After leaving the hospital, I noticed he was making me sore on one side but not the other. I met with the lactation consultant from my ob-gyn who pointed out that he was tongue-tied and that I was shaped different on one side from the other. She estimated that he was not able to latch well on one side. His pediatrician scheduled a procedure to clip his tongue. He is now 7 months old and nurses with no problems.
All of this is to say this: I did not see the value of lactation consultants by the time I had my second child. I had not needed assistance with my first. While I was determined to find a solution to my difficulties with my second child, everyone encouraged me to stop nursing. I don't know if it is that the profession has changed that much in the ten year gap between my children or if I was just with the wrong practice. I am so thankful for the lactation consultants I have had the great fortune to work with since my two sons have been born. My children's current pediatrician is also a lactation consultant. What a wonderful profession! They have been so helpful, and I feel like I have my own cheering section. I would encourage any nursing mother to take advantage of the knowledge that a lactation consultant has, even for the seemingly simplest of questions. I could not have made it through the last 3 years and 2 children without mine.
Jennifer, 38, mom to 2 girls (16 and 12) and 2 boys (3 and 7 months).