breastfeeding,  motherhood,  Suffering

An experienced mother becomes a hand-wringing idiot

Hi there, just checking in for a quick second tonight whilst I gulp my illegal beer down (definitely not Whole 30 approved) and wait for dinner to finish simmering. (Deeply ironic paleo beef stew, since you didn’t ask.)

So about that boob injury I referenced last week on the blog’s Facebook page. Yeah, go head and cover yo eyes, male readers, because it’s about to get real.

Evie is 8 whopping months now and while she is of course old enough to wean to formula and of course there is nothing wrong with formula feeding your baby. NOTHING. I’m just…reluctant. You see, about a week ago something went horribly and terribly wrong one one side of her nourishment delivery system and suddenly there is like blood and cursing and all kinds of writhing in pain at every feeding.

It’s been difficult to know what to do, because while my brain (and my very supportive husband) are like wean that baby you’re squirting blood in her mouth and oh the suffering (sorry for that detail. Just…sorry.) my mother heart (and I suppose my oxytocin-addled mind) are like nooooooooo, must nurse the baby until she decides she’s done and my particular favorite, THIS IS SUCH A BONDING EXPERIENCE! HOW MUCH DO YOU FREAKING LOVE YOUR BABY RIGHT NOW?! which is a totally true statement, but it feels weirdly amplified by the very real hormonal hit that accompanies each nursing session.

So. That leaves us here, on Tuesday, one week into the great boob trauma of 2014, whereby I have decided on 4 separate and consecutive days that I am going to a. wean her, b. wean her to one side only (is this possible? It doesn’t feel possible), c. call my $$$ lactation consultant who is literally on speed dial and drop another Benjamin on a cozy private conversation, or d. go to Whole Foods and buy all the organic formula made from the delicate tears of pastured, free range celestial cows.

Here is where the rant ends and the questions begin.

Mothers of the nursing variety, have you ever/has someone you’ve known weaned a baby to one sided feeding? Did you look like a sideshow specimen in your clothes? Did the awful one-two punch of nipple trauma + engorgment finally abate and you found yourself left with one sufficiently productive breast? Can you explain to me why it’s fine to write “breastfeeding” but when I write “breast” I feel like I’m 13 years old and male on the inside?

Any comments or anecdotal accounts are welcome, but just know that I’ve tried all the lanolin, all the pumping, all the weird natural concoctions and all the healing compresses. There’s still a situation resembling the San Andreas fault, and I’m pretty sure that I will never, ever look or feel the same on that side.

(Dad, I hope you stopped reading a long, long time ago.)


  • Mitzi

    Yes! I had the same, or similar, with all three of my babes. But right at the beginning, like first month for all. The pain was excruciating. The nipple shield (totally feel 13 typing “nipple”) got me through.

  • Ellen Johnson

    Ugh. I feel ya. I’m dealing with similar issues over here. I pumped some pink milk this morning and I almost puked at the sight of it. I have no advice about one sided nursing, but gel soothies and motherlove nipple cream are helping a bit over here. My next step if things don’t improve is the nipple shield. I used it through my entire one year of nursing with Sara and I never had an issue. I really wanted to be a normal nursing mom this time. Sheesh, it’s like a full contact sport!

  • Amy Salisbury

    There are so many immune factors and other benefits to nursing beyond nourishment and bonding, spend the $$ on the lactation consult, not at whole foods (that formula don’t come cheap!) and see what can be done. Nurse one side til the nipple heals and then you most likely will be able to resume two. Pray for you!

  • Charlotte (WaltzingM)

    All three of my oldest children weaned themselves at about 6 months down to one side only and funny enough, they all chose the same side. I think it was because I was unconsciously putting them on that side more than the other. I asked my midwife if it was a bad thing and she said not at all. She said that Asian women, because of the traditional garb that only opens to one side, often times nurse their babies from one breast only. So, it’s possible and it’s not harmful. Will you look like a freak? Depends on your boobs. I am very small chested except when I am nursing so the difference was pretty obvious for a couple of months but I think I noticed it more than anyone else. I admit that I did stuff the other side when I had to go out in nice public where I knew lots of people like Church, not the grocery store. And by stuff, I’m not talking about socks and tissue paper like a 12 year old girl, I think I used a couple of extra nursing pads in the small side and that was it. Hope that helps. Feel free to email if want more info. If you only need to do it until that nipple heals, I did that too with my #4. He bit me at the age of 3 months and did so much damage that I had to pump and bottle feed for a month while it healed. (Yes, he had teeth at 3 months old!) The pumping was easier in the nipple than breastfeeding. We did supplement a little bit with formula but he was fed mostly breastmilk and after I was healed, he went right back to nursing until he was over a year old.

  • Christy from fountains of home

    Ugh. Poor Jenny. I just think breastfeeding can be the absolute worst — I have a love/hate relationship with it. But I’ve been at this point where the hormones make you so upset that both the breastfeeding and the thinking of not breastfeeding make you so sad and upset and each option is literally the worst case scenario. I think we each boy I had to go to formula before a year because I got pregnant and my milk dried up or what have you and they actually all have great immune systems and seem healthy thus far in their lives. So no regrets either way, you’re a great mom!

  • October Rose

    I didn’t deliberately wean my son to one side, but he decided he didn’t like the left for some reason. You can certainly produce enough for her from one breast at this point … but you WILL be lopsided. Mine was noticeable. I grinned and bore it and resolved not to let it happen again for future children!

    I am sorry, I have never dealt with that much nipple injury except in the very beginning, so I don’t have advice. 🙁 I am shocked that it costs you so much to see a lactation consultant; I believe with our insurance it was only $60. Maybe without the insurance it would’ve cost that much. The consultants at my lactation center sent me to an apothecary that mixed me an ointment that was anti-inflammatory and healing. But it was a custom prescription–and definitely not a “natural” remedy–so that’s no help for you. 🙁 What an emotional decision, I hope that you can be at peace (and find some relief!) soon.

  • Amelia Bentrup

    Yikes…that sounds so painful. Sorry about that.

    I would suggest calling La Leche League and getting some help from them..they are volunteers so will help for free. . There are ways to speed up healing and it’s possible you got thrush or some sort of bacterial infecton in there that is preventing healing. Come to think of it, you might want to call your doctor, as if it is thrush or a bacterial infection you may need a prescription.

    Another suggestion would be to maker sure Evie drinks water before each nursing, just to rinse her mouth out. Since she is 8 months old, I’m assuming she eats solids, so if there are small food particles in her mouth when she nurses, that could be irritating. See if you can rinse her mouth out just to make sure, (Sorry more milk with your cheerios. ;))

    If that doesn’t help, I would suggest calling the lactation consultant and getting help from her.

    Weaning to one side would be a last resort (yes it is possible and no you won’t look that lopsided…but I would definitely call for help first because I think there IS help for you.).

    So sorry about that again..and I will pray for speedy healing.

  • Micaela Darr

    Yes, it’s possible. It may not be necessarily a permanent situation, but do it for as long as you need. If you nurse her on demand on the good side, it *should* start to produce more and allow her to get adequate nutrition. Praying for a quick healing!

    P.S. delicate tears of pastured, free range celestial cows? Dyyyyyyyying.

  • Olivia

    Praying for a quick recovery! My sister-in-law had mastitis on one side and baby stopped nursing on that breast, but has been nursing on side fine and dandy for several months now! Totally doable 🙂

  • Adrienne

    Oh, honey. That is the worst! We had a verrrrrrrry similar situation when Ev was, I don’t know, maybe 11 months? The hormones are the worst. I temporarily weaned to one side and let the other side heal. We picked right back up where we left off as soon as everything healed up- it worked out just fine.

    Trust your mama instinct, you’ll get it right for the both of you.

    Also, hormones are a B*&#%!!. True facts.

  • Laura Smeby

    Yep! First daughter went to just one side at 5 months and nursed until 17 months. Second daughter quit that same side at 11 months and is still nursing now at 16 months. No supplementing necessary. My midwife assured me, it is quite normal and okay:)

  • Blythe Fike

    Ugh. It seems like you have lots of good advice here. I was not sure about leaving peter when I went to Dallas because he wasn’t a pro bottle baby but I was gone for 3 full days and guess what- he loves his bottle. Annnnd he still wants to nurse. So, now I feel like I have this perfect little situation of nursing when I want/it’s convenient, and bottling when I want/it’s convenient. Maybe give yourself a little vacation and see if she’s into a bit of both worlds when you’ve had time to recover? If not- no biggie bc you’ll have healed boobs

  • Erin

    -Have you tried a nipple shield on the injured side? This can protect the wound from reopening quite as much.

    -Do you have a pump? Nurse as little as possible and relieve any pressure engorgement on the injured side as needed.

    -Is it possible the wounded side has thrush (itchy? scaly? does baby have signs of thrush like white that doesn’t rub off in her mouth or a diaper rash that won’t quit?). Thrush can make wounds more painful and slow to heal but you’d have signs of it.

    I’d honestly just offer the uninjured side for a few days. Your supply is well established after lactating three times and having a solid nursing relationship for 8mo now. When your injury heals, you can go back to offering that side and your supply will come back with time (offer the “weak” side first to build the supply again. Drink your water, nurse on demand (which you may find increases), and yes, it *is* indeed possible to nurse on just one breast- twins nurse and mama doesn’t sprout a new set of boobs, yes?;)

    I know its icky to think of the baby getting some blood with her milk, but its really not a big deal and won’t hurt her one bit (though yes, it makes me squeamish too!). The large issue here is getting your body to effectively close up the injured site and you’ve given it a good week and nursing on that side while writhing in pain *isn’t* working out.
    If your wound isn’t healing or starts looking infected, call your doctor.

  • Gina

    I’m nursing my first baby, and after I stopped using the feeding pillow, I unconsciously used my right breast more and more since my right arm is stronger. This breast has always been a tiny bit larger, but not by much (read: you don’t notice it if I’m wearing clothes). Now my baby is 7 months old, and she pretty much exclusively eats from my right breast. It just seems to never run out. I offer her my left one about twice per day to keep up production in it, but she always gets bored after a couple minutes since the right one has a much stronger flow and she gets inpatient. If I don’t feed her for ~4 hours, my right side gets somewhat engorged, but it’s not painful. Point being: yes, it’s possible to feed baby from only one breast. Btw, did you know that there’s some tribe somewhere (sorry forgot the name) where the women purposefully only use one breast to feed? I have no idea why…

  • Martha Winstead

    Oh no! What a horrible situation! I say go to the lactation consultant, money spent healing yourself is money well spent!!! It’s not at all self indulgent to want to hold on to the Breastfeeding relationship with your little girl. Also, my first nursed on only one side at night and I didn’t see a huge difference in size, I might just be unobservant though 🙂

  • Ginny

    I am so sorry!!! Everyone has offered such good suggestions, but one source that I did not see was It is a research based, free site with TONS and TONS of information on breastfeeding. I was introduced to it by a co-worker when I was pregnant with my first child and continues to be a go-to resource for questions, answers, and help. I have turned to them for questions on medications to increasing supply to bleeding nipples to all those uneducated questions/comments people make about nursing/weight gaining babies/formula. Take a look at KellyMom, they may have some other ideas as well.

  • Bonnie

    I have always nursed more on my left side than my right because I’m right handed and I’m the only one who can tell a difference in my breast size.

    With my first I went through something very similar. One of my nipples had a deep crack and was SO painful, what with the blood and infection. If I were you I would spend money on a visit to my midwife, stop nursing on the injured side until it is healed (following her instructions for how to express milk and not get mastitis), and then reintroduce that side once the nipple is healthy again. Obviously we’ve got different breasts 😉 but it may be fairly easy to build your milk supply back up again.

    Especially since she’s eating table food I don’t think you’ll need to get any formula.

    You are such a good mom, Jenny! Now take care of yourself!!!

  • alishiahanson

    My fourth and fifth babies ended up only using one side by the time they were about nine months. Then they totally stopped at about fourteen months. So you wouldn’t be the first. And even when I’m not nursing my boobs are not the same size. I have to wear a padded bra that I bought at Soma (the best bra source and now they make nursing bras!)–super sneaky boob equalizer!

  • Becky

    First, make this your mantra, “There are many ways to be an excellent mother.” Also, read this, it will help! Yes, you can wean to one side if you want to but be sure you aren’t actually making your injury worse- I know not emptying the breast can make things worse with mastitis, for example. And, I probably would lean LLL just because they are free and you need reassurance more than you need expert advice. I second the person who says that you may wind up being able to build up your supply again once you’ve healed. I think I may still be just about to make more milk and my youngest has been weaned for almost 2 years… Apparently bodies can have long memories. 🙂

  • Michele Chronister

    Not much to say that hasn’t already been said…but I feel awful for you. Maria has broken skin in the past (such a chomped!) and that’s just so painful! I’d echo LLL and one side if need be…but also remind you there’s nothing wrong with switching to formula if you need to. 8 MO is a good chunk of time to nurse for, and you can feel proud of that. 😉 Wean only if you want to, stick with it if you want to. It probably would be worth trying to favor the undamaged size and get treatment for the injury and go from there. But trust your gut. 😉

  • Carrie

    I had this same thing happen with my first. I was young and stupid and didn’t want to go to the doctor until he was getting so much blood that he would nurse and then puke up the blood after nursing. Makes my stomach turn to think of it. I don’t know what I was thinking! And the pain was so bad that I’d grab my husbands hand and squeeze it like I was in labor, literally gnashing my teeth.. 🙁
    Anyway, it turned out to be thrush which us basically yeast in the nipple and baby’s mouth. Meds cleared it up quickly and we nursed for almost 2 years. So, I’d say get thee to a doctor and see what they say.
    As far as one sided nursing, or going to formula…as long as baby’s getting fed, it’s all good! Were you thinking of weaning before the pain? If you were, I’d jump to formula and food. If you were happy to nurse until this, then I’d say go one sided until you heal, maybe supplementing if you need to, but then jumping backin with both feet (breasts?)!

  • EW

    I’ve never had your specific weaning problem (sorry), but I will tell you that I struggled with moving to formula because I could never find an organic cow’s milk formula that didn’t have carrageenan and/or MSG. I thought I was sunk, because I have read too much about what MSG does to the brain and carrageenan to the gut to pump them into my infant (and MSG has many guises, as you may know from your paleo dieting, being labeled anything from “citric acid” to “yeast extract”). Then I learned from LLL that goat’s milk is an excellent breastmilk substitute. The proteins are way easier for the baby to digest than cow’s milk or soy proteins, and you don’t have to worry about those weird preservatives and additives found in formulas. We’ve used goat’s milk on all our babies since, and it’s been great for us. I know not everyone is averse to formula, but I am, and so this find felt like a small miracle.

  • Kris

    I would vote for a doctor visit for you, AND a lactation consultant visit, if you haven’t already done that. That being said, you can easily wean to one side. I have a friend whose last daughter only would nurse on one side, so she just went with it. I also have one side that produces WAY more milk than the other and all my babies preferred it – weird, I know. But by the time they were Evie’s age, they mostly nursed on the one side and not so much on the other. Your body will adjust.

  • amy

    You can definitely wean one side if that’s how you need to go – I did that once because HOLY SHIT that nipple got torn up something fierce :(. I pumped for comfort first, you can also keep cabbage leaves just on that side to help with swelling/lower your supply on that side.

    All that being said, I hope you figure out what’s best for you. I’ve had to stop nursing three times and it sucks. If you have to do that, you can always talk to me about how you feel. Some women don’t care one way or another, but I found it to be a great loss. I second everyone, though, about seeing a good IBCLC (not just an LC or some “breastfeeding consultant” or self-proclaimed whatever). Only you know what’s best! BFing is soooo emotionally draining when there are issues like this 🙁

  • Minerva

    Hi Jenny, Great blog. Trust me, one side is perfectly possible, supply and demand is your friend. My left boob was a dismal failure (pain, bleeding..) so I gave up on it when DS was about 6 weeks old. I fed him exclusively from the right until he weaned himself at 11 months. No problem, no pain, no lopsidedness, no nothing. I’m left handed to boot, so it worked perfectly.

  • Katie

    One sided nurser here, it can be done. Also, if you think it’s infection or thrush eating raw garlic can help. I chop it into small pieces & swallow it with water several times a day….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *