This is part two of my breastfeeding story. Part one is here. Or for a quick recap…
Our baby was bottle fed a mixture of expressed breast milk and formula, for the first 11 days of his life, and then with the help of nipple shields we packed away the bottles! Fantastic, big step forward! But then nipple shields are just like bottle teats that you put on your breast so again, I was reminded by midwives about nipple confusion, I might always have to use shields, and because they can effect your milk supply my milk might not be enough and we might have to top up and then he’ll prefer the bottle because its quicker… We got in a lactation consultant who was fabulous and so encouraging. She diagnosed his tongue tie, which we had released, and encouraged me to carry on offering him my breast without shields whenever I could.
The tongue release didn’t have any noticeable effect, although I guess in some ways we’ll never know. I continued to offer without shields occasionally, but had made my peace with them, I had accepted that he would use shields and I was OK with that. Really once I got into the swing of things with them, it was just as easy as feeding without (most of the time). Occasionally Aidan would grab one and throw it on the floor or there would be a bit of a panicked moment if I’d not run the steriliser, but all in all using the shields wasn’t too bad.
Then, a few weeks we offered him a bottle for the first time since starting with nipple shields. I had mastitis and felt so ill, I was worried I might not have the strength to hold him so I expressed and my husband tried the bottle. Aidan flat out, completely rejected it, with full on screaming and thrashing. OK, good to know. But he then went on to reject the nipple shield, uh oh, had we screwed him up completely?!
Nope! He latched on without shields and ate a full feed like that for the first time EVER in his life. It was totally random, no problems getting him latched on and off he went, like he’d been doing it since day one! He was about 15 weeks old. Barring a few days when he was feeling a bit under the weather and I guess just wanted a comfort and something very familiar, all of his day time feeds are now without shields. I then started using the shields only as a bit of a bedtime indicator but the last couple of days I’ve stopped doing that too. What a complete turn around! At 18 weeks old my boy is breastfeeding without the help of shields. It feels amazing to be feeding my baby the way I had imagined.
A few things I want to say that I couldn’t pull together into the above.
- At the time when my emotions were all over the place, hearing people say ‘it doesn’t matter how he’s fed’ really upset me, because it mattered to me. It’s OK to feel disappointed or upset if things aren’t working out how you imagined, whether that be with the birth, gender disappointment, feeding or anything else. It is 100% OK and normal. Talk to someone about it, a partner, parent, friend or your midwife. No one will judge you for your feelings. Sometimes it’s just important to vocalise your feelings and then it feels like a huge weight is lifted. Once I told my husband that it mattered to me how we fed our son it helped massively. He knew that I was going to need a bit of extra emotional support and he was fantastic.
- Feeding with nipple shields is not second class breastfeeding. If you look online you will find people who believe that the only way a baby should be fed is from your bare breast. It’s true that sometimes feeding with nipple shields can change your milk supply, I’d recommend finding a good lactation consultant or a reliable breastfeeding support group with trained professionals if you’re going to use nipple shields. They can offer lots of help and support.
- If you are expressing and feeding your baby that way, your baby is still breastfed. Just because the milk is coming from a bottle doesn’t change the fact that they are getting breast milk and you can still get that closeness and bond with your baby in the same way while giving them a bottle. If you are feeding them exclusively breast milk this way then you are absolutely brilliant, huge respect mamma. It is possible, here’s a link to an amazing woman I follow on Instagram who is worth a follow for so many reasons, she is expressing so her baby can remain exclusively breastfed while she works full time. Stretch_studentmidwife
I would 100% recommended anyone who is struggling with feeding to see a lactation consultant.
So I guess the next stage on the journey with be weaning! Stop growing up little bean!