Breastfeeding is Still Hard (Nita’s experience with Raynaud’s Syndrome)

Second time mama, Nita, shares how painful vasospasms nearly destroyed her breastfeeding experience.
women in coral dress holding a newborn baby to her chest

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I was so excited to nurse again. After having to wean my first son when he was 16 months due to lactational amenorrhea, I knew this time I’d love to nurse for an extended length of time if the opportunity allowed itself.

The perfect start

Luksh was born in the spring. It was a fast and healthy delivery. Unlike with my first son, Luksh latched immediately. I still remember; within the first hour he made his way to my breast for his first dose of colostrum. I was so shocked. Jaidev wasn’t able to do that. Am I already comparing the two? What!

When I brought Luksh home, he continued to nurse. With the knowledge and experience I gained from my previous experience; I knew what to expect.

My milk came in sooner.

Latch was perfect. It took some learning, but it wasn’t as great of a challenge like with my first son.

Supply was great. My baby was gaining weight and I could feel those let downs.

The cluster feeding took place. I knew exactly what to do: get comfortable and get nursing.

Sounds like a pretty perfect start, right? Well, we took a bit a of a derail.

Mother with long black hair nurses baby under a blanket on a couch in front of a white wall.

Onset of pain

About five weeks later, I started to experience a throbbing and aching pain to my left breast. I’m not talking about the kind of pain that Tylenol relieves. This pain was intense, it made me clench my entire body and it lasted for 1 – 2 hours. The pain typically occurred in the night, when everyone was asleep and when I should be sleeping. But of course, #teamnosleep.

I booked myself a few visits with local breastfeeding doctors and after being treated for mastitis and ruling out a tongue tie we came to the conclusion I was likely experiencing Raynaud’s Syndrome to my lactating breast. At the time, I didn’t know what this was. I learned later that it was vasospasms because blood flow to the nipple becomes limited or cuts off. We trialed a few medications and I also implemented lifestyle changes to prevent onset of the vasospasms but not much helped.

Side note: for those of you who live locally in Winnipeg, there are a team of doctors who are trained in breastfeeding. The service is free of charge – it’s called the Winnipeg Breastfeeding Centre.

For me, the pain was worse than labor (for reference, I opted out from the epidural). I’d like to think my pain threshold is pretty high. Eventually, it started to take a toll on my physical and mental health. Nothing made sense – latch was great and supply was great – why couldn’t this just go away? I remember calling my doctor in late August, and I told her “I’m giving it one more week, and if it doesn’t stop, I’m ready to wean”. I gave it my best shot. I did.

To my surprise and wonder, it stopped. I remember it clearly – the last painful spell I had after months of dealing with this daily was over the September long weekend. To this day, my team of doctors and I aren’t fully sure if what I struggled with was Raynaud’s Syndrome or perhaps the pain was a manifestation of stress. Juggling a young toddler and a new born baby is no easy task.

Mother with long black hair sits cross legged on a hard wood floor nursing a baby.

An honest reflection

Some days, I think about that time and the likelihood that the experience left me with post-traumatic stress disorder. Other days, I wonder if throwing in the towel or being more open to a mixed feeding approach would have been better for my own mental health. It’s hard to tell.

As I write this, Luksh is now 15 months and we still nurse frequently. He loves it and most of all, I’ve come to love it again too. What’s the point of this second story? To reiterate that breastfeeding, even for the second, or third, or fourth time can still be hard.

What was your experience with breastfeeding like? We love hearing breastfeeding stories!

jess and nita, registered dietitians
Meet Jess and Nita

Hi! We’re both Dietitians & boy mamas! We’re here to help you confidently raise kids who will grow up to be lifelong Happy Healthy Eaters. Dig into our site for kid-tested recipes & feeding tips. 

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