This is purely my experience and opinions. I love how ever a baby is fed because chunky little cheeks are now my favorite! This is just a part of my breastfeeding journey, and I want to share for other moms who may be having a similar experience. Breastfeeding did not come natural for me, but I wanted it so bad that I was absolutely determined to make it happen. My breasts literally grew from a B cup to a triple D or more. So maneuvering these bad boys was NOT like the YouTube videos I watched… (a mom with perky boobs that is able to wear a nursing tank without a bra while discretely latching baby on, MEANWHILE… mine flop to my stomach for the entire world to see)
YEP MAMAS… ALL MODESTY IS OUT THE WINDOW!
If you have read my blog about my birth story then you already know things don’t always go as planned… On day 3 of breastfeeding I decided to contact a lactation consultant about my little guy’s latch. This is after cranial work, chiropractic adjustments, and some breath stealing latches…. 😦 OUCH! The lactation specialist from Natural Beginnings came to our house the same day and she was absolutely amazing. I recommend that every first-time mom or even experienced moms contact a lactation consultant. We had one in the hospital, but sometimes you don’t realize how much help you need until you get home.
I had bloody, cracked nipples, and Paxton did not want to latch on the left side at all. The LC also checked immediately for lip or tongue ties. She determined that I had flat nipples and the left nipple was slightly inverted (apparently this is pretty common… your nipples will change with time). At this point in motherhood… I was afraid to introduce pacifiers, bottles, etc… because of the fear of nipple confusion or refusal to go back to the breast.
(Obviously that didn’t last long… this is my guilty face after telling my husband for 5 weeks that he wasn’t allowed to give Paxton the pacifier yet.)
The LC recommended we use the nipple shields for a short period until my nipples healed. I immediately felt relief using the shield, and I was extremely happy that I was able to continue breastfeeding.
Okay so what is a shield?… A nipple shield is a clear, thin, and flexible silicone nipple, worn over your nipple. Most nipple shields today have a small cut out that should be placed where the baby’s nose will be. This allows the baby to smell mama and still have skin-to-skin contact. The best way to create a good seal with the shield is to run it under warm water until it softens and then slightly invert it before sticking it to the breast. Basically the shield pulls the nipple out and makes the nipple large enough for baby to latch.
The shield weaning attempt… About 1-2 weeks later my nipples were completely healed and little guy DID NOT want to go back to the breast without the shield. The shields made it easier for him to latch and weaning was torture for both of us (and my husband). Torture meaning screaming and frustrated Paxton= STRESSED MAMA. I read tons of blogs, watched videos, but there really wasn’t too much information out there. A lot of moms talked about just going cold turkey and forcing baby to adapt. I personally didn’t feel right about doing that because I wanted our breastfeeding relationship to be a peaceful and pleasant experience. I also talked with other moms who used the shield their entire breastfeeding relationship, and they were thankful to be able to continue breastfeeding. So this helped encourage me to make peace with the shields. Yes they were a pain at times but my conclusion was…
#1 Baby is still at the breast
#2 My nipples don’t hurt 🙂
#3 Baby is gaining weight, he is pooping and has plenty of wet diapers
#4 My milk supply is great (because of decreased stimulation to the nipple sometimes milk supply can decrease)
Once I accepted the shields I released the “need” to wean. There were days we would give it a shot without the shield. Sometimes he would latch for 2 minutes, sometimes 10 minutes. Some days he was so cranky, and I decided not to mess with that little lion cub. 🙂 Some days I just felt like relaxing and not thinking about it, so I didn’t. Even though we had some frustrating nights of losing that clear almost invisible shield, we made it work. My point to all of that is if you’re struggling with weaning I would recommend as long as baby is gaining weight, there are no lip/tongue tie issues, and your milk supply is sufficient then DO NOT stress about it. I totally get it though, using a shield makes breastfeeding a little more difficult in public or for night feedings, but the main focus is that your baby is still able to receive your nutritious, perfectly formulated milk.
Ultimately as usual Paxton had his own plans… I specifically remember waking up in the middle of the night to him latched on without the shield… sooo I knew he could do it! He slowly started latching longer until one day he literally took the shield off and latched on and we haven’t looked back since. Some babies will just learn that they can get milk quicker without the shield and learn to prefer the breast… This happened for us at a little over 3 months old, so it is possible! The truth is now that teeth are involved, parts of me miss that annoying shield.
Here are some suggestions for trying to wean off the shields…
#1 Give it time and patience, try to feed baby without the shield when baby is most relaxed… for us this was our morning feed.
#2 Buy a Nipple Everter. This little tool is so much easier than getting the pump out every time. It basically pulls your nipple out some to help the baby latch. For moms with flat nipples, and if your nipples are not cracked or bleeding, I would try this before the shield. However, if you are already using the shield and you want baby to practice latching without, give this a try!
#3 Along with the nipple everter try some ice on the nipple to make them hard then try the latch again.
#4 Increase skin-to-skin contact as much as possible. We took lots of baths together, co-slept, and did lots of babywearing (keep an eye out for my next blog on babywearing:) )
#5 This really should be number one ;), but CHIROPRACTIC CARE!!! I cannot stress this enough, cranial issues and mild birth traumas can play a role in latch issues. (BTW… mild birth traumas can occur in any birth) So be sure to take your baby to visit a chiropractor with experience in pediatrics to have their cranials, upper cervical spine, and temporal mandibular joints (TMJ) checked for possible dysfunctions.
A special shout out to all the mamas out there whether you are exclusively pumping, exclusively breastfeeding, formula feeding, using or not using a shield, have tried breastfeeding and for whatever reason you are not anymore, YOU ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL and you are all feeding beautiful babies. I look forward watching our future generations change the world! I love you all!
Please share any personal experiences in the comments section! These are just a few tricks that helped us, but I look forward to hearing from other mom’s experiences!
Nipple Shields: A Review of the Literature by Anne Chevalier McKechnie and Anne Eglash, from Breastfeed Med. 2010 Dec; 5(6): 309–314. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2010.0003