Nipple confusion. Pediatricians will tell you this little phenomena hasn't been proven, that it is something made up by lactation specialists to scare women away from formula and pacifiers. However, I would like to have them visit my home and witness my son attempt to breastfeed after a series of terrible advice given to us by medical professionals.
This blog could exclusively be about breastfeeding now. So much has happened in the last four weeks, but honestly most of my time has been spent on the couch attempting to master the art of latching, let down, and "lefty". Without further ado, I shall give you a rundown of my new life as a breastfeeding couch potato.
Shortly after Everett was born, we attempted our first breastfeeding adventure. When the nurse tried to help me latch him she observed, "You have flat nipples. You'll need to wear a nipple shield." I assure you I had no idea what she was talking about. What are flat nipples? Then I looked down. "What the hell happened to my nipples?! I swear they used to be here!" During pregnancy I had porn star nipples. Seriously, it was embarrassing. To have giant DDD knockers nipping out even in the hottest of weather was a source of constant embarrassment for me. Apparently when one gives birth, one also loses her nipples. Seriously, even my areolas disappeared. It was weird.
Anyhow, a nipple shield was put in my possession, and things went downhill from there.
Jeff and I took Everett to his first visit with the pediatrician on day 3. I mentioned earlier that he lost 11% of his birth weight, and we were encouraged to supplement with a bottle after each feeding. The pediatrician encouraged me to continue using the nipple shield, and also told me to limit Everett's time at each breast to 10 minutes, then offer a bottle of pumped breast milk.
A few observations in retrospect: the hospital gives nursing women laxatives, which are then passed to newborns via breast milk. The hospital also gives new mothers high doses of pain medication, which also pass to baby and make her/him even sleepier than usual. So you have a sleepy baby that is on laxatives...no wonder Everett lost so much weight. He wasn't eating because he was drugged, and he had laxatives in his system cleansing any bit of milk I could get to him.
Anyway, we followed the peditrician's advice and moved on with life.
Everett was taking a bottle like a champ. You hear about babies hating bottles after breastfeeding is established, so I was pleased he was doing so well. This will make it convenient when we need someone to watch him. However, he also stopped latching completely, despite the fact that I was wearing a nipple shield. He would scream at me, kick his legs, and move his face away every time I brought him close to my chest. Since I was instructed to only have him at each breast for 10 minutes at a time, the only food he was taking came from the bottle.
My mom's friend, a lactation specialist, came to our house to get Everett to latch with the nipple shield. It turns out getting milk from a bottle is 100x easier than sucking it from a human. Our goal was to get him on the breast and at least suck a few times. To do this, we had to take his screaming, flailing body, put his mouth close to the edge of the shield, then squirt pumped breast milk into his mouth with a syringe. It worked. Once he "latched" to the shield, we had to squirt more milk into the corner of his mouth to get his sucking reflexes started. He eventually discovered that being on the shield had some minor rewards. BUT he would fall asleep after only a couple minutes of sucking.
Here's where people offer advice on how to keep him awake...we tried EVERYTHING. I stripped off all his clothes, changed his diaper, tickled him, and even put cold wash cloths on him. The little bugger knew that if he just waited it out we'd eventually give him food in a bottle. They may be young, but they sure are clever.
I was having difficulties getting Everett to have any interest in Ol' Lefty. He did minimal amounts of activity on the right side, but once Ol' Lefty was introduced to his face, he either screamed bloody murder, or fell asleep. I couldn't even trick him into thinking he was on the right side. He just hated everything about poor Ol' Lefty.
Everett was gaining weight, but slowly. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me, my milk supply, or maybe his mouth. Jeff and I drove across town to see a lactation specialist at the hospital (not the same one who gave us the nipple shield). When we arrived, she asked why we were still using the nipple shield.
"Well the other lactation specialist told me I'd need to use it all the time because I have flat nipples."
"No you don't."
So we tried latching Everett without the shield. Oh my, I have never heard the child scream with such terror. Even after he was born, a sound so sullen had never passed his lips. I put the shield on because it was well past his scheduled feeding time and he immediately latched. The nurse was dumbfounded.
Yup...nipple confusion is real.
FYI my milk supply is fine. It was literally dripping all over the hospital bed. The nurse commented on how thankful she was that the pillows were made of plastic.
The pediatrician (while I was out of the room) asked Jeff why I was making breastfeeding so hard on myself...asshole should try it himself.
I threw the nipple shield across the living room, yelled "F*** YOU!" to it, and got Everett to latch to my actual nipple for the first time. I was so excited that I texted a few people, cried, and rewarded myself with two glasses of wine.
Having had enough, I stopped offering Everett bottles after feedings. The pediatrician is not aware of this fact, but I really want breastfeeding to work. I paid another lactation specialist (our 4th) to come to our home and assess our situation. She gave me advice on how to slowly wean off the shield, and spent a good 3 hours staring at my chest, Everett's mouth, the latch, and our positioning. Everett literally fed for 2 hours straight, and he even refused a bottle afterwards. Victory!!! However, we were still battling with that darned shield.
I am pleased to announce that as of 3 days ago, we are completely weened from the nipple shield. Everett is feeding exclusively from the breast, and has finally established his own pattern. He will be weighed again this week, so I will keep you all posted on his progress. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the worst is behind us.
He did establish some pretty bad habits with the shield. He did not have to work too hard to latch to the silicone. He could basically suck the shield into his mouth like a straw, and real nipples do not work quite the same way. I'm incredibly sore from our learning curve handicaps, but am hoping this will all be worth it in a few days.
For now, me and my nipples will have to endure the adjustments to our new life.
Top 10 reasons I hate nipple shields:
- It took twice as long to feed Everett as it does now.
- They are easy to lose, which presents a challenge when your son won't eat without it.
- It is impossible to nurse discreetly with a shield.
- Milk drips out the bottom and all over your clothes/the couch.
- They get knocked off the breast during feedings if Baby is at all active - which Everett is.
- They are clear, and therefore impossible to find when they get knocked off.
- According to my research, they are almost always unnecessary.
- They can lower milk production since Baby is not adequately stimulating the nipples.
- Less skin on skin contact with Baby; in fact he would often lose the ability to breathe when the silicone got stuck to his nostrils.
- Teaches babies that the feel of plastic yields food...so unnatural.
And I shall now leave you with a Christmas photo of Everett: