Save the nipples!

You’ve been warned: this post is about boobs in the least sexy way possible. If that doesn’t appeal, head on over to this more lighthearted post. 

Up until shortly before Mackenzie was born, it never occurred to me that breastfeeding would be hard. Intuitively, it just makes sense that the way humans have survived and thrived must be natural and easy.

NOT TRUE. As a cursory internet search and the proliferation of La Leche League chapters will quickly demonstrate, breastfeeding is rife with challenges.

My first month was difficult. Mostly in the pain department. There were weeks when each feeding found me gritting my teeth and curling my toes and whimpering under my breath as tears streamed down my face. There was that weekend when I could only bear to latch her on the right, and that other time when the left was the only one I’d let her near. There were the blisters and the bleeding and the elaborate pillow arrangements and the early morning despair.

mackenzie milk drunk 2 weeks
Her milk drunk face is the only thing that kept me going.


Six weeks in, I’m happy to report that while the girls are still (STILL!) healing, we’ve gotten through the worst of it, and I wanted to share what helped me survive those first excruciating weeks. Here are my save the nipples breastfeeding essentials:

Lactation consultant

I saw lactation consultants while in the hospital with Mackenzie, so when Nathan suggested that I make an appointment with a private LC, I was skeptical at first. I’d already gotten instructions and help latching; what else would they do?

But I reached a point of desperation and finally called one. Gamechanging. She was worth her weight in gold. In one appointment, her guidance totally reversed the direction we were headed in, helped me back down from my breaking point, and helped prevent additional damage to the girls.

Ameda ComfortGel Pads

ameda comfortgel pads

Lifesavers, these things. When you’re in pain, these offer a cooling barrier between your nipples and your bra. When you have open wounds or new skin that is attempting to heal, these protect you from those grabby fibers in your bra or clothes. If you don’t know what I mean, just trust me.

I’ve tried all the brands on the market, and the Ameda pads are hands down the best. The Medela and Lansinoh pads are a little too sticky for my taste; I wanted a barrier, not a bandaid. The Ameda pads are more expensive than the other brands, but they do last longer. Even if they didn’t, they’re still worth the extra cash.

NUK Lanolin

nuk lanolin with avocado

This was a gift from a mama friend, and I’ve restocked a few times already. Soothing, lubricating, and safe for baby. Win.

Golden Salve

the golden salve

I used this to help heal wounds. The lanolin is a great moisture barrier, but the Golden Salve will actually promote healing. Bonus: if you’re chafing in, ahem, other areas, thanks to wearing diaper-sized maxi pads for weeks on end, this helps out that situation, too.

Advil, advil, advil

Just do it. You need this.

My brest friend pillow

brest friend

I add this one to the list reluctantly, because truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with this pillow. Or really, more of a I-need-it-but-I-hate-it relationship. After I first saw the LC, every time Mackenzie was hungry, I would religiously get into my glider and use no fewer than 3 folded up towels plus this pillow to help us get the latch right. I loathed having to go through this ritual 10-12 times a day, but being diligent about positioning and support did help me heal.

The pillow is really not made for tall ladies; I need several other pillows or folded towels propping it up underneath to get it to the right height. All that arranging is fucking annoying, especially at 3am when you really just want to be in bed and your baby is frantic. The “lumbar support” is more uncomfortable than supportive. But the waist strap at least helps it stay closer to your body than a regular old pillow would.

Support from your family and friends

Everyone who helped us in those early weeks was really supportive of my breastfeeding Mackenzie, and very sympathetic to the challenges. My husband would help me get set up in my glider, then hand-deliver a hungry baby so I didn’t have to manage the set up while also wrangling a starving, screaming baby. He’s the one who originally encouraged me to see the LC, and he was right.

My mom, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law, all of whom came and stayed with us and helped in those early weeks, were all so supportive and empathized with the frustrations and challenges of establishing breastfeeding. Their encouragement and willingness to listen to me vent went a long, long way.

If you have any items to add to the list, please share—I’m still in the process of optimizing this ritual, 8-12 times a day.

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3 Replies to “Save the nipples!”

    1. Oh Crista, I’m so sorry, it’s so hard. Hang in there. It’s completely worth it in the end (and you start forgetting the hard parts really quickly).

      Or don’t hang in there if it’s not the right thing right now. Do what is best for you and Isla. Sending you all the hugs and solidarity. <3

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