Working as a lactation consultant, I meet many mothers who are at their lowest. They have asked me for help because their breastfeeding is either painful or they are not sure if they are breastfeeding correctly.
I met a mom recently that I really admire for her perseverance and sense of humour. I asked her if I could share her story because it highlights so many important truths about being a first-time mom and breastfeeding. She finally contacted me after a very scary evening when she realised that despite having a “perfect” latch, she needed help.
One night she decided that she needed to empty her breasts before she went to bed because if she left them, she would be in even more pain in the morning and correctly so. She took a very hot shower and then started to hand express into the basin. Her goal was to relieve the fullness. After trying for a while and experiencing a lot of discomfort, her husband helped her. To her relief, the milk started to flow and the pain was reduced. Through tearful eyes she looked down and to her horror she saw that her milk had turned black.
She started to panic and worry, as any mother would. What had she been feeding her baby? Would her baby be ok? After a bit of time and comforting, her husband was able to explain to her that it was her mascara that had turned the milk black!
If any mom is crying and in so much pain that her milk turns black (due to tears and mascara) it is time for professional help.
When I was with her, the first thing that I noticed is that her baby had a very good latch. This surprised me because she said latching was so painful. I could see how much pain she was in by looking at her shoulders and seeing the hesitation just before she latched her baby. However, the latch looked correct just as her family had told her.
This is also an important myth to talk about. Often a latch may be good but it might not be comfortable for the mom or baby might not be able to transfer the milk from the breast to the mouth. Even if the latch looks perfect, you still need to make sure that both mom and baby are comfortable. When the baby detached, I could see what the problem was immediately.
Her nipples had been squashed flat and they had a little white line on the tip. This is a sure sign of a shallow latch. What happens here is that the nipple is not deep enough into the baby’s mouth which results in the tip of the nipple is pushed up on the baby’s hard palate which causes the pain or damage. After a few adjustments and a few practice latches, her nipples were more round after the feed and also there was no white line.
With the deeper latch, her milk supply would increase, and with pain-free latching, the baby would be able to transfer more milk more effectively. This would result in a more content baby and less need for frequent feeding.
If you are pregnant and you want to know what to buy or know about breastfeeding, the most important thing to know is that if you are in pain or doubt yourself, ask for help from a lactation consultant. Other things you can do to prepare yourself are:
- Go to a breastfeeding talk before you have your baby
- Learn about normal infant behaviour
- Find a breastfeeding support group in your area that you can join and watch breastfeeding videos on Youtube that are made by lactation professionals.
- Remember that you should not be in pain
What I love about this story is that my client had lots of good support from her family and her husband. He was with her and helped her with what she needed. The story also highlights how important it is to ask for help when you know something is not quite right. If she had asked for help sooner, it would have saved her weeks of pain and also reduced the risk of her having a lowered breast milk supply.
- Registered Dietitian
- Certified Lactation consultant
- I became a dietitian because of my interest in breastfeeding and nutrition. However, only when I had my two children both prematurely did, I realise how much help and support mother’s needs. No textbook can prepare you for NICU. My breastfeeding experience with my children is why I became a lactation consultant. I now help mothers in their homes with breastfeeding issues. Another of my dreams was to establish My Breastpump. My Breastpump was created to supply mothers with affordable, quality, hygienic and comfortable breast pumps. This desire came from my struggles in finding a breast pump that worked for me. While overseas I learnt about the Ameda brand of breast pumps which is internationally recognised as a leading breast pump in technology and focus on mothers. My Breastpump hires out closed system hospital-grade pumps and supplies personal pumps and accessories. To learn more about My Breastpump go to www.mybreastpump.co.za
- Visit for more info: https://mybreastpump.co.za/content/aboutus