She Says… Boobalicious

Well friends, it was bound to happen at some point. I have found myself in a relationship with someone who only loves me for my boobs. As a small breasted woman, I thought this day might never come. But babies don’t discriminate.

Any sized boob can make milk, and mine seem to be making enough milk to feed my ravenously hungry little boy for an hour, every two hours. If you do the math, that means that about half of my days and nights are spent sitting on the couch propped up by pillows and my beloved “My Brest Friend”, guzzling down water while my little one sucks every last bit of my energy out of my nipples. And although that description made it sound like I am under some sort of cruel house arrest, I love it. It is so satisfying to feel like I can give this baby everything that he needs to grow and thrive. Amidst the frustrating “learning moments” (for both of us!) there are long stretches where I just stare and stare at this beautiful creature I’ve created. Sometimes he’ll open his big, dark blue eyes and gaze back at me. These are the moments that make the others disappear. These precious, quiet moments are why people have more than one baby. They’re unbelievable.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Breastfeeding is NOT as natural or easy as one might imagine. I sort of knew this, having watched my sister struggle with nursing with her first baby, and having heard others discuss the dry, cracked nipples and mastitis and other terribly uncomfortable side effects of letting a newborn pinch and bite your breasts as he/she learns to eat. But I went into this adventure planning to try my hardest to breastfeed, and to push through the pain. Well, let me tell you something. As with labor, the pain was beyond what I expected.

A newborn baby who doesn’t know how to eat (and is STARVING)
+
tender nipples that have never been mushed around much before
+
an exhausted, slightly stressed out mama trying to do everything right without really knowing what she’s doing
=
recipe for disaster. Or at least some really sore boobs and a lot of tears.

Right after I gave birth and Owen was placed on my chest, the nurse helped guide his mouth to my nipple and we began what I thought was breastfeeding. His little mouth started to swallow immediately, and we all gasped and cheered as he took in the first few drops of colostrum. “He has SUCH a strong suck reflex!” “He’s going to be SUCH a great nurser!” “Wow, look at the little guy go!” exclaimed all of the nurses. I was elated. The post-pregnancy euphoria had me thinking that we had dodged some huge bullet and, miraculously, my perfect little baby already knew how to breastfeed. Go me!

Yeah, not so much. In the first two days, it seemed like things were going well… except that I was in agony. Nurses would come in and I’d say, “Does this latch look right?” and they’d smile and say, “Oh, you look great; he looks great. Don’t worry, the pain goes away pretty soon.” So I bit my lip and let Owen chew relentlessly on one of the most tender parts of my body. Perhaps since the rest of me was in pain as well, it didn’t seem so bad. But when I got home and the pain was still really intense, I began to think that maybe it shouldn’t hurt quite this much. Maybe one of us was doing something wrong. So I called my OB’s office and made an appointment with their lactation specialist. I had been visited by a lactation specialist in the hospital, but she pretty much manhandled me and the baby into various positions and said, “See how easy that was?”. Not really so helpful if I can’t recreate what she did. Anyway, the lactation specialist at my OB’s office was sweet and wonderful and calm and everything I hoped she would be. She had me nurse Owen the way I had been, and watched me very carefully. Then she gave me some tips. A little change in position here, a well-placed pillow there, etc. Slowly I began to relax my shoulders and neck and settle back into the pillows we had propped up.

After watching us for awhile, she said, “You guys are really doing great. Remember, he’s only 4 days old. It’s a learning process for both of you.” She was absolutely right. I took a deep breath and tried to remember that this isn’t going to happen overnight. Then she gave me the greatest gift I may have ever been given: NIPPLE SHIELDS.

I cannot sing their praises enough. Nipple shields saved my life. Well, at least my sanity and my poor, blister-covered nipples. Nipple shields are these soft plastic covers that go over your nipples that look like a nipple on a bottle. You suction them on to your nipples before feeding the baby, and as he sucks, your real nipple is pulled into the plastic nipple and the milk comes out of a bunch of little tiny holes, just like on your real nipple. It puts a buffer between the baby’s sucker and your nipples, but still requires the baby to suck hard and pull your milk out as he would if he were breastfeeding naturally. All I can say is…. ahhhhhh, sweet relief.

Since the nipple shields, our breastfeeding changed entirely. He eats like a champ and sleeps like, well, a baby. A perfect little baby. He still has his fussy periods, but in general, we’re a really happy family. Thanks almost entirely to my new best friend, the nipple shield. Someday (in a few weeks, most likely) we’ll have to wean him off of the nipple shields, but for now, I am relishing in my happy breastfeeding time, long sleeping periods at night and watching my baby grow chubby cheeks and adorable little fat rolls right before my eyes.

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27 responses to “She Says… Boobalicious

  1. A friend told me that if you can make it the first two weeks of breastfeeding, you’re good to go. I found that to be VERY true. I would gasp each time J would latch on, and then feel ok. After about two weeks (maybe three) it felt much better. Now it’s completely easy. Of course, now I have a 9-month-old that has teeth and wants to try new ways of sitting while nursing so that he can see around. Ha! It’s always an adventure being a mama! Keep up the good work! That’s good stuff you’re giving him!!!

  2. what a brilliant invention!!!

  3. What a great post! As a person who REALLY wants to breast feed, it scares me when I hear stories of people who have a hard time, but I do not want to be one of those women who give up. It’s important for me and most importantly for my baby. I’m glad it’s gotten easier for you!!

  4. I am so glad that blogs exist! Even though my husband and I are only talking about our ttc timeline, I am learning so much and so many of the questions I have are discussed.

    Thanks for such great new mommy posts!

  5. I had no idea breastfeeding would be so hard in the early days. I remember days when I would cry every.single.time I fed my son because it hurt so much, and my poor husband would just sit there, feeling helpless. I wanted to give up so many times, and I wanted to throat-punch all the people who said “just wait, it will get easier!” But it did! Started to improve around 4 weeks, and started to finally feel natural around 6 weeks. I still wouldn’t say that I love BF, but I like it now (at 4.5 months)

    Sounds like you’re doing great! Hang in there!

  6. Oh wow, I’ve never heard of nipple shields! I’ll definitely have to keep that tip in mind when the time comes. I’m glad it’s getting to be peaceful for you and that you’re even enjoying this time with Owen now!

  7. Thank you for this post! I’m very close to having my son and I want to learn anything I can about nursing because I’m definitely sticking it out even if it’s tough! I’m so glad to hear about what you’re doing and what works for you. It should help me!

  8. Nipple shields have now been added to my Amazon “Save for later” cart so that I’m ready to order on express delivery, if needed!! Thanks so much for the tip! See? Your pain helps others! 🙂

  9. In the last sentence you mention enjoying long sleeping periods at night; How long is he going now between waking up for feedings?

  10. Thank you for this post! I had a rough night with our girl and this morning I just could not imagine continuing breastfeeding. We’re in our third week and we’ve definitely come a long way, but my sore nipples and my confidence can only take so much. I’m definitely going to get some nipple shields and look forward to a good day of breastfeeding to motivate me to keep going. I completely agree with you on how wonderful it is to be able to hold your little one, provide so much, and just love them to pieces while BF.

  11. I use nipple shields too, they are a lifesaver! I had the same experience where she nursed great the first 3 times and then she just seemed to forget how 🙂 Enjoy the weight loss, nursing got me back in my normal jeans in 5 weeks!

  12. I’m glad the consultant was supportive of nipple shields – my sis in law was told NOT to use them, and when she did anyway, her lac consultant totally shamed her! I’m already planning to have them on backup if the need arises.

  13. Good for you for taking charge and not sitting around with sore nipples.

    And you’re right – the amazing moments feeding your little one and staring into his eyes are what motivates us to do it all over again!

  14. I nursed 3 babies many years ago and learned a few things. Most important: positioning is important. Baby should face nipple directly – not be underneath nipple. Next in importance: anhydrous lanolin is a godsend for cracked or chapped nipples and baby does not mind it at all – at least, none of mine did.

  15. I had a friend recommend nipple shields many months ago and I had completely forgotten. Thanks for the reminder! Those are on my must-have list now before the little nipple-biter gets here. Your blog is my favorite, I love that you explain everything I’m going to need to know soon!

  16. I totally had a shield on back up -just in case. I did not end up needing it. You just never know.

  17. Liz and Claire and Emma :)

    Kate, I just can’t get over how precious Owen is! So happy for you and Benjamin!
    I used NS’s when I was breastfeeding Claire – it was a lifesaver- so are “soothies” if you are having any pain they are incredible!
    Hope you guys are getting some rest – although if I were you I would just be staring at that adorable little guy:)

  18. I just found your blog recently. You deserve a huge hug for breastfeeding and for sharing your experience. I cannot wait to become a mom, and I appreciate women who share the real deal. Thank you!

  19. I used a nipple shield with 2 out of 3 of my kids. I used it the whole 6 months that I nursed because they just didn’t want to wean off of them & I just didn’t feel like fighting that fight. SO, if you come to the point when you think it’s time to toss the shield & it proves easier said than done, don’t stress, I have 2 big healthy boys to say it doesn’t matter how they get the milk as long as they are getting it. Good luck

  20. I’m so glad you found something that works well for you! It seems like there are so many unknowns, so thank you for sharing your experiences!

  21. Hi Kate. Just a lovely little lad you have there. He’s really gorgeous and the hair is too much!

    So did the lactation consultation talk about nursing post-shields? Is this delaying the inevitable pain of nursing (ie. will your nipples loose what strength they’ve gained while been protected by the shields making nursing painful again once you are shield-less)? Or do the shields allow your nipples to heal up so that little O isn’t further agitating an already really agitated area? Or did you just need a break from the pain in order to gather up your strength to keep going? I’ve got just 7 weeks left before our girl comes and I don’t have nipple shields on my list so trying to get as much info as possible!

  22. Christy, I wake him up for feedings every 2 hours during the day, and since he was gaining weight so well and was almost back up to birth weight at our last doc appointment, I am now letting him sleep until he wakes up at night, which is generally 4-5 hour stretches.

    Bridget, Thank you! That is great to hear that I don’t HAVE to wean myself off of them. Right now it seems like I will NEVER be comfortable nursing without them. Although I’m hoping that’s not the case, it’s great to know that my babe will be just fine if I use them forever!

    Rhiana, Those are great questions. Unfortunately I think it depends on who you ask. Some of the nurses at the hospital told me NOT to use the nipple shields because they could “cause problems” like the baby not knowing how to suck on a real nipple, and one nurse even told me that I would have to pump if I used a nipple shield (as in, I could never feed him normally once I use it). But the lactation specialist I saw at my OB’s office was much more positive (and hers was the advice I liked the most!). She said if they are used properly (fitted correctly, used consistently, weaned off at the appropriate time, etc.), they are nothing but good. She said that they offer my nipples some relief while the baby is learning to feed. If I wean Owen off of them in a few weeks, he will know how to eat better (how to pull the nipple in fully, get a good latch, suck without biting, etc.). So it’s not just delaying the pain… it’s putting a buffer between you and the baby while they learn how to nurse properly. Then when you stop using them, your nipples are a bit tougher AND the baby knows what he’s doing. Sounds good to me!

  23. Thank you for sharing your experiencies!

  24. Also, check out gel soothies. Like the sort for burn victims, you know? They make some that are breastfeeding friendly – Medela has 24-hour hydrogels and I think Playtex makes some 4-hour stick-ons.

    I used those off and on for the first two months while my boobs adjusted. I also used compresses, copious amounts of lanolin, a double pump, breast shells, and all sorts of homemade contraptions that didn’t help at all lol.

    Hang with it. Breastfeeding turns out to be worth it, I promise =)

  25. Oh man. The Power of the Shield.

    I hate, hate, hated breastfeeding when I started with my first girl last year. I hadn’t researched it at all and just expected it to be this natural, whatever thing. yeah. Not so much. Bloody, cracked, painful nipples have got to be high on the list of Most Effective Tortures, Ever.

    I was warned of the downsides of nipple shields, too – but if my LC hadn’t given them to me, I probably would have quit breastfeeding. They saved my boobs and my kiddo’s food supply!!! And you know what? We only needed them for a couple of weeks and then we successfully nursed for 9 more months without them.

    So yeah, I am all about the nipple shield. Woo!

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  27. Nice Blog! Have you seen tepelbedekkers before? I have seen some at http://tepelbedekkers.nl and those products might be interesting to blog about for you?

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