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Breastfeed Anyway: Nipple Shield Hell

by Deidre Rautenberg, New Westminster, British Columbia

Our horror started after and “it will never happen to me” cesarean section. I woke from a general anesthetic and my friend tried to put Chloe to my breast to nurse. She snuggled there but was too groggy from the drugs to do more.

Twelve hours later, after I begged to see my daughter, the nurses granted me two supervised minutes. When she was 18 hours old a nurse watched my first attempt at breastfeeding and promptly brought a nipple shields. The nurse checked every few minutes to see that I was using it. I felt that if I didn’t comply, they would take my baby away.

Chloe was brought in with a soother. Another nurse gave her a bottle of sugar water, before bringing her to me again. I used the nipple shield as she cried without it and I was scared they would take her away for disturbing others.

By the fourth day I gave up the idea of breastfeeding without the nipple shield, and from then on we struggled with poor weight gain, me nursing with the shield and some formula. I took anti-depressants (since then I’ve been shocked to learn how many c-section moms go on them.)

We were going back to the west coast to visit our family, where breastfeeding was the norm. Two days before we left I had an energy surge to try nursing without the nipple shield. I lay beside her and offered her milk. She refused. I sort of straddled her, and squirted some milk into her mouth. When she latched on, I let her stay and assisted by pumping my breast. All day I never gave in to the shield, but I would give in to her soother. She had two bouts of 10 minutes painless good latching. I held in my excitement.

The night was long. We let her have the shield once for half the nurse, then took it away. The next day we had even better results. During the plane ride we relied heavily on the nipple shield. Chloe would only nurse without it when we were lying down.. At this point I was very discreet, and humiliated by having to use it.

When we arrived home it was sunny. All our family was there to greet us and celebrate. Everyone told us how beautiful Chloe was and how fortunate she was to have parents who held her and loved her all the time. My sister went with me to nurse Chloe down for a nap. I warned her it might not work, but all that love had a huge effect on us. Chloe nursed lying down (not with me straddling her) and my sister and I talked babies. I couldn’t believe it worked; no nipple shield needed.

And now Chloe is almost two, and I love it when people raise their eyebrows. I am pregnant and have been urged to stop nursing, but why would I give up our afternoon nurse that puts us both down for a nap?

Chloe has food allergies to many things; she was never meant for formula. No child ever is. I wonder how much more severe her allergies would be if she received no breastmilk. Neither of us are ready to give up nursing, that took five months to get right.

Chloe’s soother has been gone for over a year. There won’t be one for the new baby cause she’ll be nursing the minute she comes out.

Here’s advice from someone who sent through nipple shield hell: Nursing right away is very important. Have a homebirth or get out of the hospital right away. Have an experienced nursing mom around you as much as possible, before and after you give birth. Throw away all formula samples. We’ve lost the skill and need to learn it from those that still have it. Those that can teach it need to be patient and confident in our ability to nurse our children.


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