My Midwife wanted me nursing as soon as possible to help my uterus contract and stop the bleeding. We tried several times to get Ethan to latch but he was so small that his mouth didn't open real wide and my nipples would go flat every time we would get started. My Midwife pretty much insisted we us the nipple shield. She showed me how to put it on and Ethan was nursing happily soon after. Looking back on it now, I'm glad she got us nursing because the bleeding did stop soon after. If it wasn't for the bleeding, I'm sure we would have taken our time and learned how to nurse without the shield.
For those of you who do not know what a nipple shield is: It is a piece of plastic that is elongated nipple. It sort of suctions to your real nipple and allows the baby to nurse easier. In short, it's like turning your nipple into a bottle. It is helpful for the baby to latch on and also to help with nipple pain and soreness. It is clear and hard to find in the middle of the night. It will make you worry your baby is going to suffocate on it if you fall asleep. I was also very bad at putting it on. For the first 2 weeks Eli had to do it. Then he went back to work and I had to do it my self. I told my midwife later that it should be made in bright colors or glow in the dark so you can find it easier!
Over the next 3 days we tried to get Ethan to nurse without the shield. There was a lot of crying from all 3 of us! On our 3 day appointment I told the midwife my worries of using the shield and she told me not to worry, that she had never seen any baby use a shield for more than 1 month. So I didn't worry and we continued to use it. I think it was for the best because there were so many things to worry about I didn't have the energy to put into that.
During the next 2 months we would go through times when I would try to nurse him without the shield. He would get upset and cry and I would give in and put the shield back on. Every now and then he would latch on and nurse! So I knew he could do it. After his 2 month appointment I thought "kid, it's time you learned to nurse right!" I couldn't use the excuse that his mouth was "too small" anymore; He was 10lbs 6oz, bigger then most babies when they are born. Plus, I was tired of carrying around the shield everywhere we went. So every single feeding I would start by offering the breast first. I would open my mouth really wide and wait until he would open his and then push his face into my breast. After awhile he caught on and we had success! No more shield!!! It was so much nicer at night to just roll over and nurse instead of having to fined the shield, wash the shield put it on several times before we got the right suction. And try not to fall asleep because who knew where the shield would end up.. I found it stuck in Ethan's neck rolls one morning!!!
The first week I was off the shield (that sounds like I was addicted to some sort of drug!) the pain got bad. Really bad. The only way I could nurse Ethan was laying down in bed. I remember Eli coming in the room to see if I needed anything (isn't he sweet?) and I would yell at him even if he just wanted to kiss me. I couldn't be touched while nursing the pain was so intense. I began to dread every nursing session and tried to prolong the time in between. I first thought it was just because we had to "start over" because we had been using the shield for so long.
Eli talked to his Mother (a former La Leche League leader) at my request and she suggested I go to a meeting. I found a meeting and showed up early so I could talk to the leader. She took one look at my nipples and told me I had thrush-prolonged or sudden onset of sore nipples during or after the newborn period (the nipples may be pink, flaky, crusty, and itchy, or red and burning). Sounds fun, doesn't it? She said she could help me with my latch but my nipples were so sore I couldn't stand to nurse sitting up or in public without crying. She told me to go to my midwife as soon as I could to get some medicine.
The Birthing Center got me in as the last patient of the day. The midwife gave me a prescription for a cream, told me to start using the nipple shield again and make an appointment to see the Lactation Consultant. Oh, I was so sad! We had just gotten off of it and I had to go back on it. I must admit, it was quite a relief of the pain and once I got my cream I was in heaven. I called the LC and she suggested I wait a day until my nipples could heal a little. When I went to see her we spent around an hour latching Ethan and moving him in different positions. She showed me how to correctly hold him and position his face for the proper latch. After my appointment she called every other day to make sure things were going well. Several times she called I had a few questions for her and she was able to answer them an guide me in the right direction. After seeing the LC we have never had to go back to the nipple shield.
As a first time Mother I wish I would have done things a bit different. I would have gone to LLL meeting while pregnant. While attending my monthly meetings now, I see pregnant women at them all the time. They will not know what a blessing that support and knowledge is until after they have their baby. I would have contacted the LC soon after Ethan's birth. One reason why I didn't was because of the money. A good LC does not come cheap but they are so worth it! (And formula is even more expensive then that hour session!) I ended up spending the money and going anyway and could have saved my self (and my husband and baby) so many crying and stressful nights.
I never once thought about giving up breastfeeding. This was all I ever wanted to do and there was no other option. When I had thrush I knew that there was something wrong and I needed help. The help is there if you look for it.
Ethan is now 12 months old and we have never had to supplement with formula. When I was tired or sore, I would pump and Eli would feed him from a bottle. After the first few months, that only happened a few times. I wish the birthing center would have encouraged me more to see the LC sooner but I can not blame anyone but myself.
Ethan at 2 months
As women we are in charge of our own bodies and if we really want to breastfeed our children then we will find the strength and support that is needed to do so. Unfortunately we can't count on the medical professionals to support us as needed. Best for Babies, a non-profit is trying to give Breastfeeding a makeover and to revealing and removing the “booby traps”- the barriers to breastfeeding that keep tripping women up! Take a look at this post on Lactation Professionals and tell them about your success or challenges with your LC experience.