My Love-Hate Relationship with a Nipple Shield

The entire time I was pregnant, I planned on breastfeeding. With not a great deal of support, though, I was also realistic that it may not work out. Brian is a total rockstar hubby, and he has been really supportive, and so has my mother-in-law. My family and friends totally do not get it. Needless to say, there isn’t a huge pro-breastfeeding movement where we live.
When Jake was born, we didn’t get to attempt breastfeeding right away because of my hemorrhage. Fortunately, the Mr. didn’t let them give him a bottle, but J still wasn’t great at latching on. I requested to see the lactation consultant at the hospital a few hours after his birth, but was told the LC wasn’t there that day. The nurses did an okay job of helping, but when we were discharged the next day, I was still nervous that he wasn’t feeding so well. Because he was a little jaundiced, we had a follow up with our pediatrician when he was 3 days old. At this point, my milk still hadn’t come in, and Jake had lost some weight, so I was scared they were going to say that he needed supplementation with formula. They didn’t, but they did say that we would have to keep a close eye on his weight, and the nurse recommended a nipple shield to help him latch. Did I mention at this point I had cracked, bloody nipples? I thought I’d try anything to help him nurse, so we immediately went to Target to buy a Medela Nipple Shield.
First off, if you don’t already know, nipple shields are thin, silicone nipples designed to be placed over your own nipple while breastfeeding. They are often recommended to help with flat or inverted nipples if the baby is struggling to latch on. And it did. After trying it, Jake started eating so. much . better. Win!
But it is kind of annoying, having another thing to wash all the time, not to mention feeling around trying to find it in the dark when J wakes up at night. Or trying to wrangle a crying baby, a nursing cover, and putting on a nipple shield when we are on the go. And did I mention it’s clear? So remember where you sit it down unless you want to spend exactly 8 million hours looking for it. Oh, and he totally won’t nurse without it, even at 4 months old. Well, sometimes he will try for a minute, but then he gets frustrated, and then I get frustrated and we put the shield back on.

Here’s the thing: a nipple shield is probably what saved my breastfeeding relationship with J in those early weeks… But now, we are so dependent on it. On the flip side, I feel like he has struggled way less with nipple confusion between breast and bottle, because he feels silicone either way. And it really helped my nipples to heal once he stopped latching on incorrectly.
If you have one and it works for you, great! If you don’t need one, even better. But, if you are struggling in those early days, I would highly recommend seeing an LC before going this route. It works for us, but it’s definitely not an ideal situation.

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