As I sit here typing while nursing my son, I think back to just a few short weeks ago at how hard it once was for both me and him. On December 27 my son was born at 7 lbs 12 oz, and was just amazingly beautiful. I held my son to my chest shortly after birth and he suckled for a few short moments then fell asleep. After he returned to me, I kept trying to latch him and he just flat out refused. The nurse came in and tried to help, but she could not get him to latch either.
Before I left the hospital I had to do a New Mom class, in which they asked if you were going to breastfeed, bottlefeed, or both. Out of the seven new mommies, I was the only one who wanted to breastfeed. The nurse told me after I returned to my room that an LC would come in to make sure everything was going okay. That was such a relief to me, because he was not getting the hang of it. She came in a little later, took my son from me, undressed him and shoved him on my boob – which to a first time mom scared the crap out of me! She messed with his little mouth for a few minutes around my nipple and told me he was not a strong enough sucker. To my disbelief, the person who was supposed to help me just broke my heart. I looked at her and asked her what to do, and she said, “Well, you can just keep trying, but you probably should just give him formula to make sure he keeps eating.” FORMULA? Seriously – this coming from an LC. I said okay thank you, and promptly forgot everything she just told me.
As I was worrying about my son not eating, my MIL sat down next to me and reassured me everything was going to be okay. She asked if she could help and I agreed so she took my son in her arms, and was slowly able to latch him on. She did not force my boob in his mouth, or make him scream by undressing him, she simply put him on my chest and let him do it on his own. He was doing it- I was so relieved, yet he again stopped a few moments later. She reassured me everything would turn out okay, and that he probably was not yet hungry anyway.
During my hospital stay I continued to try to get him to latch without success, so when I returned home I was pumping what seemed like every waking moment, and fed him by bottle. We were both in tears almost every night. Then, I came across one of the best groups in the world – Breastfeed, Chicago. A friend of mine who has a little girl only a few weeks younger then my son was part of the group, so I figured it would just give me some added support. I posted what issues I was having and someone suggested a nipple shield. I was confused and a little scared on what that was, and had some awkward images in my head. Yet, I went to Target and found one. We went home, I completely undressed from the waist up, and I was determined for him to figure it out. I placed the nipple shield on and slowly tried to get him to latch, but he still refused.
I continued to pump about 8 times a day, if not more, and tried at least once daily to get him to latch. I would pump for a few minutes to get my milk flowing, so it was not much work for him, tried to latch him, and when that did not work, I would try with the shield. It seemed like he would never figure it out, and I started getting very depressed. I felt like I was not supplying my son with his nutritional needs. My husband came home from work many times to me and our son half naked in our bed, both crying – and me, desperately trying to get him to eat. My husband was such a trooper and would take our son from me, remind me that I was an amazing mother, and would walk away, letting me gather myself together. I started talking about switching to formula because I simply had had enough. I told my husband that if our son didn’t figure out breastfeeding by the time he was 3 months, I was done. I was reading parenting books, talking to other nursing moms that I knew, and would check Breastfeed, Chicago daily. Looking for tips and tricks to get him to latch.
After 11 weeks of trying, my son finally latched with the shield – yet I tried not to get too excited. After 24 hours passed and he still hadn’t needed a bottle, I was officially ecstatic – enough so to call my MIL and my own mom to tell them the amazing news. Yes, he was still using a shield, but he was latching! That meant the world to me. After 6 days of using the shield I was going nuts – trying to remember to take it with me, trying to place it on my nipple when I was half asleep – the thing that made breastfeeding possible for us was starting to wear on me. So, I placed him to my bare nipple, and to my surprise, he latched! I sent a picture to my husband at work, and of course posted on Breastfeed, Chicago almost immediately. Now, a week later, I sit here typing with my son lying across my chest, boob in his hand, eating away. I never though this day would come. I ended up in tears many nights, regretted having to give him a bottle, hating with a passion being confined to the house due to having to pump so often… yet now everything seemed so worth it. Just to simply say I breastfeed my child!
I joke that my son figured out breastfeeding just so he could avoid formula. He and I were determined to make him a boob boy!
I hope you have found this inspiring, and know that to be able to breastfeed your child may not be the easiest thing you will ever do, but is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.
My name is Diane and I can proudly now say I am a breastfeeding, baby-wearing, cloth diapering mom. I am 21 years old and married to the love of my life, Tyler, and we have one son named James. I have my nursing degree, although that is on pause so I can be a SAHM. My husband is a video game programmer in the city of Chicago. My only goal for my son is to grow up happy and healthy and for us to be able to provide him whatever he wants/needs. However, if you ask his daddy, he would say he wants James to be able to program before he can read!
Editor’s Note: Before you resort to using a nipple shield for yourself, please make sure to talk to a knowledgeable and supportive lactation professional, and read up on all the pros and cons of nipple shields. Find out more here.