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In Praise of Nipple Shields August 1, 2008

Filed under: Schmooper — booksunread @ 5:03 pm

Breastfeeding of the Schmooper (seriously, needs better alias) did not get off to an auspicious start.  I think it was just a combination of bad timing and a reluctant nurser; by the time we got down to our room and settled it was late Saturday night.  I didn’t have a very good nurse that night, and didn’t get a lot of help with getting him going on the breast.  Sunday morning, I had a much more helpful nurse.  Then it was time for his circumcision, which put him out for several hours; just in time for the lactation consultant to arrive.  So we didn’t make much head way that afternoon.

By 9 Sunday night, 24 hours after his birth, he still wasn’t reliably latching and sucking on the breast, so they put him on the “sleepy baby plan” and had me start pumping and supplementing him with bottles of formula.  Monday, we had two pretty good sessions with the lactation consultant, but it was definitely a two person job to keep him working on sucking.  I needed both hands to position my boob and his head, and the consultant would rub his head, feet, and back, or jiggle his arms to keep him awake and sucking. 

We left the hospital with a rented pump and the encouragement to keep going.  I had good breasts, good latching technique, just keep trying at every feeding and he would eventually get it; especially as my milk came in.  However, of course, as time went on and he got more and more quick and easy flow bottles (despite frantic trips to Target for the slowest flow nipples available), the less attractive my slow-ass nipples were to him. So every feeding was a cycle of me trying to force his screaming cry hole onto my boob, with Miguel halfheartedly trying to stimulate him and asking, “Can we give him the bottle now?”  Then one of us would give him a bottle and I’d pump for 20 minutes, then take another 10 minutes to clean the pump gear, put away what I’d pumped and then try to get back to sleep. 

Once I started pumping out some milk, we were warming and cleaning two bottles a feeding, since it wasn’t enough by itself and he still needed formula.  Meanwhile Miguel was advocating ditching the boob altogether, cutting out some steps and feeding him formula.  We were all raised on formula, millions of babies get formula, there is nothing wrong with formula; etc.  Every feeding was a tension filled argument of him accusing me of being stubborn and just wanting to breastfeed for the sake of my womanly imperative, and me telling him to STFU since he hadn’t read any books, been to any classes, and in short, didn’t know anything about feeding a baby.

Wednesday the visiting nurse came, and the verdict was the same-great breasts, good technique, he’ll get it.  By the time we made it to the pediatrician on Thursday to meet with the lactation consultant there, Miguel and I were about ready to come to blows.  We had a huge come to jesus meltdown in front of this poor lady about how our tolerance to keep trying was different.  She suggested seeing the lactation specialists at the local children’s hospital, and taking away the bottle completely and syringe feeding.  Both of which Miguel flatly vetoed as being way too much effort compared to feeding him formula.  Breastfeeding just wasn’t that important to him.

And then my boy completely confounded the lactation consultant by latching on, yet full out refusing to suck.  She said she’d never seen it before.  Looking at the bottled milk we’d brought, she said that my milk was still in transition, and to keep trying until it fully came in.  After we left, she called the hospital specialists for us and they were reassuring that this kind of thing was pretty common; once my milk was squirting down his throat at the end of week 2, we’d be much more likely to be successful.  In the meantime, back it off, give everyone a break; try the breast a couple feedings a day and don’t push it.

In the meantime, my SIL, who had a bottle fed preemie she had trouble getting on the breast once she was out of the NICU, recommended nipple shields.  I mentioned it to the lactation consultant and she counseled against them, saying it would actually create another barrier, slowing down the milk transfer and frustrating him further.  I’d heard that lactation consultants typically frown on the shields so I wasn’t surprised.  However, I was willing to try anything at that point.  I ended up buying both a latch assist thingy to kind of draw the nipple out and get the milk flowing for him a bit, then the silicone nipple shield. 

I tried the combo for a few feedings off and on over the weekend, and actually got him to latch on and suck, since the smooth plastic of the shield was so much like the bottle he’d gotten used to.  He was getting some milk out with each try.

Sunday afternoon, Miguel’s parents and sister arrived.  The next feeding, my SIL sat with me and encouraged me to keep him going on the breast with the shield, and we actually got in a full feeding on each side.  We call her the boob whisperer now.  His last bottle was on Sunday, and he’s been on the boob ever since.  I was gradually able to phase out the nipple shield and then the latch assist.  He latches on and gets it going all on his own now.

However, all has not been smooth sailing.  At his follow up visit on Tuesday, he was exactly the same weight as last week, which was not great.  Still, the doctor was optimistic that he’d only been on the breast for just over 24 hours, his number of wet and dirty diapers was good, and he didn’t seem to be in any distress.  He told us to keep going, and we’d check again on Friday. 

Of course, the second he left, Miguel said “I’m concerned about his weight,” despite the doctor telling us it was no cause for alarm.  And since he’s been on the boob, any time he is fussy or won’t settle down after a feeding (because he is a baby and they cry sometimes), Miguel badgers me that he’s hungry, we should give him a bottle.  I know that all this comes from a place of love, and over-protectiveness for his helpless little son, but it is truly making things 10 times harder than they need to be. 

He finally went back to work yesterday and I breathed a huge sigh of relief; now the baby and I can be alone to work out the kinks.


One Response to “In Praise of Nipple Shields”

  1. TwinMommy Says:

    I’m so proud of you for continuing despite the stress and tension! The nipple shield was great for me too. Unfortunately my boys had too many intestinal problems and we were on and off formula and away from bm too often. In the end I still pump every 3 hours (they’re 5 months today) and I have about 3mths worth (for one baby) in the deep freezer. I really hope it gets easier for you- so many women have such a great time with it and it is sooo much easier AND you really strengthen your bond with your baby. I wish I could hold mine more. I’m in a constant cycle of feed both, pump, change diapers, clean bottles, clean pumping pieces, play, they nap, etc…very little one-to-one time with each one 😦

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