I have purple nipples.

Breastfeeding is hands down one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do – not just as a mom, but in any aspect of my life.

We were plagued with challenges, literally from day one. I remember through my percocet-induced stupor struggling to wrangle ten – yes ten – pillows into some sort of workable configuration that offered Nora a good angle to nurse at while propped up in the hospital bed. When I thought maybe just one more pillow might do the trick, the nurses informed me that I already had every available spare pillow on the whole maternity floor. Still, the army of pillows wasn’t working and nursing Nora was incredibly painful. Confused and frustrated, we needed to supplement using one of those feeding-tube-thingies while nursing – talk sbout awkward, unnatural and a juggling act. We needed an army of women to try to make it work. As a private person when it comes to my body, I’ve come to terms that my sister, mother, mother in law, and five different lactation consultants have seen my boobs. That was never part of the plan.

It wasn’t until the day before we left the hospital that one of the lactation consultants noticed that Nora had a tongue tie. We were able to get it fixed within minutes; I attribute the fact that I was able to breastfeed at all to that one discovery. I know for sure that had the LC not made that discovery I wouldn’t have stuck with it once I was home. Those first two weeks were so, so hard. No one talks about how hard it can be at first, especially with the hormones.

I made several post-partum visits to an LC to work on latch issues. I would drag my bloated, healing body around in those early weeks, pretty much nursing in front of anyone who was willing to give pointers on our latch and positioning. I was no longer feeling private and was determined to make it work.

Since then, I’ve dealt with pretty much every breastfeeding bump-in-the-road I’m aware of. I’ve nursed more times than I care to count while cracked and bleeding; we’ve worked through two milk blisters, pushed our way past multiple clogged ducts, and we’re currently being treated for our second bout of thrush – hence my purple nipples (we have a title!) and my daughter’s stained face. Here she is now with her goofy grin, unphased by the infection in her mouth or its colorful consequences:

Sometimes I wonder why I’ve stuck with it. My goal from the start was to simply try it; then, to make it six months. Now, as I surpass four months of breastfeeding bliss hard work and complications, six months seems not only possible but a likelihood. At this point, I’ll just play it by ear and see how long we can go.

We had our 4 month visit with the pediatrician on Monday (hence the thrush diagnosis) and she said that given Nora’s current weight and size, she should be able to cut out that middle-of-the-night nursing session, giving momma some much-needed extra sleep. I was also to work on not nursing her to sleep after that feeding, but allowing her to fall asleep on her own, even if it took a bit of sleep training to get her to that point.

I have to admit I’ve come to love nursing Nora to sleep. Oftentimes it’s our snuggle time, a chance to reconnect after a day apart. I’m struggling with how fast my baby girl is growing and dealing with all the things she no longer needs me for, even at this young age. The selfish part of me wants her to still need to be close to me to drift off to sleep during those nighttime hours.

So how am I multitasking right now? Yep, I’m writing this post at 3:00AM and nursing her. To sleep. Rebellious.

And I refuse to feel guilty about it or like I’m holding her back. There was a whole slew of things relating to her sleep that we were doing at the beginning that were supposedly habit-forming that we’d later have to break – sleeping solely in the swing at night, not transitioning out of the pack n play sooner, and swaddling while sleeping, to name a few – all of which Nora decided on her own she was ready to give up.

So for now I’m going to avoid any “sleep training” as a way to get her to drop that feeding and sleep through the night. Because despite our challenges with it, breastfeeding – even in the sleepy wee hours of the morning – is something Nora and I aren’t ready to part with just yet. I believe that, just like with everything else so far, we’ll find our way together in a manner that feels right to us, textbook or not.

9 thoughts on “I have purple nipples.

  1. I nursed Nate to sleep for his whole first year 🙂 He self-weaned at 15 months….and sleeps just fine now (at age 3). Plan to do the same thing with Joshua! Keep up the good work!! And be rebellious!!

  2. We used to nurse to sleep, and nursing is still the last thing we do before bed- now that’s she’s almost 14 months, she usually doesn’t fall asleep from nursing, but occasionally she does. It’s not as much habit-forming as it is mother-daughter bond forming. If it feels right, do it!

    May you continue to your six month goal, and beyond if you both are so inclined. Congrats to you for sticking with it through the tough times!

  3. LOVE the post!
    I must say we must have breastfeeding on the brain today – I just posted on my own issues right now too. Being a mom a few months ahead of you I say from my own trials – keep going mom – and not in that preachy only breastfeed mode – cause that is so not me. I say it because just like you and Nora – fo rme and my son it is a way to connect and they are only this smal for such a short moment and it is good for them – just do what feels right for both of you! And I gotta say I love the purple photo… 🙂

  4. Christa, congratulations for sticking it out for so long over many challenges. Are you healed enough at this point to be able to nurse her in bed, lying on your side? That’s something I found really helpful in the early days.

    We are still nursing at almost 14 months, including early morning, bedtime, and late night nursing, some of which still happens in my bed. I wanted to wean her around a year, but she doesn’t seem to want to stop and I love doing it! We also never intended to cosleep, but that’s just how she wanted to sleep as a newborn. Gradually we transitioned to swaddling her (before she could roll over) and putting her in the Arm’s Reach cosleeper adjacent to our bed. I think around 8 or 9 months, I started being able to nurse her to sleep in the rocking chair and then place her in the crib. We have continued this practice, but she will usually allow herself to be rocked to sleep by Eric as well – although when she wakes overnight, she still demands the boob! If she wakes up much later than midnight but earlier than 5:00 a.m., she will have a hard time falling back asleep even with nursing, unless I bring her into bed. Occasionally she will sleep in her crib from around midnight to 6:00 and then be up for the day.

    I have mixed feelings about the nursing and night-weaning. I don’t want to rush her, but I do want my body back. I stopped pumping a couple months ago and now give her cow’s milk during the day, which is great, but I don’t think I’ll feel completely back to normal until the dairy bar is closed. On the other hand, she loves it and I don’t want to cut her off too early if nursing still brings her comfort and nutrition.

    As for sleep issues, I would like her to get used to her “big girl bed”, but I would rather she continue to cosleep with us part-time than to leave her in her crib to cry. Others have mentioned to me that it’s “hard” or “bad” if cosleeping continues too long. Certainly, I don’t plan to have her in bed with us until she’s, like, 5 years old (ditto on breastfeeding). However, she’s not much older than a year right now, and barely a toddler. I see nothing wrong with cosleeping until the arrangement no long suits the child and/or the parents. There is nothing “hard” or “bad” about this practice except in the eyes of those who would not choose this arrangement for themselves. It’s like holding me to someone else’s standard … our kids do things that aren’t convenient for us, but instead of automatically changing a child’s schedule or habits to suit our needs, sometimes it makes sense for the parents to change their schedule or habits to suit the child’s needs. Not always, but sometimes.

    So … you’re doing what’s right for you and Nora and that’s all that matters!!!

    1. “although when she wakes overnight, she still demands the boob! If she wakes up much later than midnight but earlier than 5:00 a.m., she will have a hard time falling back asleep even with nursing, unless I bring her into bed. Occasionally she will sleep in her crib from around midnight to 6:00 and then be up for the day”

      OH MY Your Daughter could be my sons twin (so to speak) this is my Life right now!!!! Exactly same time sleep and wake and same thing – I too bring him into our bed to get a few more precious moments of sleep ! Glad to know another Momma is going through the same thing 🙂

  5. Great story Christa! You are such a strong woman, good for you for sticking with it! And I love that you’re being rebellious 🙂

  6. You are doing an amazing job and I’m so happy to hear you are still going strong! I too have encountered some of the problems you wrote about, but once you overcome them, it all becomes worth it. At 17 months I still nurse Mia to sleep because it’s our precious time together. You and only you know what’s best for your child so I say do what feels right and natural to you and Nora!

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