Ethan was born in Australia, and my experience as a pregnant lady in the land down under was that *everyone* seemed to be breastfeeding. It was widely accepted and very much the norm. I actually don’t even remember being asked if I had a preference for how I would feed my child whilst I was pregnant. It was just assumed that it would be by boob.
I was quite passionate about trying everything I could to establish breastfeeding and due to being surrounded by women who were breastfeeding or had breastfed, I was given two things. One, complete confidence that it was possible (awesome) and two, a total false sense that it would be super easy (not so awesome).
Needless to say, the day Ethan was born, our first few feeds were fumbly, painful and full of instruction from midwives. The support was fantastic and very eh… involved (after having 6 pairs of hands consecutively up my van-doot during the labour, at this stage I was quite desensitised to having my boobs poked and prodded). But along with the collective will to ‘succeed’, (and I cringe at that term because in my eyes a well fed child is a successfully fed child), there was definitely a sense of overwhelming pressure to make breastfeeding work.
After three days of manipulating his latch and my breasts, one midwife asked me if I’d ever thought of a nipple sheild. I had no idea what such a thing was, but it turned out to be a little silicone disc that fit perfectly over my nipple and this thing was a complete saviour. Ethan latched on immediately and had his first, proper, full and pain-free-for-me feed.
The shield became our best pal and the only way I could get Ethan to latch on.
At my six week check, the midwife asked to see me breastfeed Ethan to make sure all was going well. Without thinking I popped open the little yellow case, put on the nipple shield and immediately noticed the disapproval on the midwife’s face. She then told me that using a shield was ‘not allowing my baby to get the full benefits of breastfeeding and further more, if I continued to use it after 12 weeks, he would never be able to feed without a shield’.
Talk about guilting the mother. Here I am feeling great about feeding my son and then immediately my efforts were not enough, all because of a little thin piece of silicone. It’s amazing how in those fragile early days, one piece of misplaced advice can crumble your confidence.
I continued to feed using the shield, albeit self consciously, and at bang-on four months old Ethan refused to latch on with the shield and latched onto the boob perfectly fine by himself unaided. We continued unaided with breastfeeding until he was one year old. To this day, I like to think it was his big two fingers up to the lady who told us we were too dependent on the shield and would never do it (in her words) “naturally”.
Did any of you use a nipple shield? Or receive any particularly unhelpful advice in the early days?