Reuben is already 3 and a half weeks old and I’ve only managed a handful blogs – how I thought I would have more time! Well, I do have lots time. I’m finally making the most of our Sky film package by watching back to back RomComs. But, all the while I’m feeding/burping/holding a sleeping baby/trying to put said sleeping baby down/picking up crying baby… and so the cycle continues at least for most of the morning and some of the afternoon, when Reuben might finally settle in his basket for an hour or so. At least he’s sleeping for longer at night!

So breastfeeding… Apart from the NCT breastfeeding session I posted about back in July I did very little thinking about and preparing for breastfeeding. I knew it was going to be tough but I also figured there’s little prep you can actually do without having a baby to practise with. It’s a learn on the job type of thing…

The first day and night was a bit of a blur of being completely shattered and euphoric at the same time. I don’t remember Reuben crying much to be fed and he was obviously really tired from the Morphine/the being pushed through a small hole experience that took way too long. What he did cry about was me trying to stuff a nipple into him mouth throughout the night. I was told I needed to be feeding him every 3 hours, presumably to make sure that I start producing milk. Thankfully I was in hospital so every time he needed feeding I’d push that magic button that made a midwife come see me, and she’d help me with the nipple stuffing. I have never been so manhandled in all my life but I really couldn’t have given a shit. Unfortunately he wasn’t latching on for more than a suck or two so he was struggling to get any milk. Fortunately I was producing enough colostrum so I could (with the help of a rough handed midwife) self express and he was getting a bit of nourishment that way.

The next day one of the breastfeeding experts (or as my roommate called them, the boob connoisseurs) came to help me to try and get him latched on. We tried sitting up, the rugby ball, lying down and still he couldn’t latch on. I was deemed to have flat nipples and given a nipple shield to try him on and he instantly latched on and fed for half an hour. It worked really well and he then started feeding for an hour, then 2 hours, so the three of us, Reuben, the nipple shield and I, were discharged everyone happy that breastfeeding had been established.

Meet my nipple sombrero 

Now, nipple shields are a pain in the arse. Nevermind the additional nipple waving you have to do before your baby is latched on making feeding in public rather embarrassing, I also spend my time whenever Reuben is finally asleep in his basket (he’ll sleep on me all day but putting him down really is a skill unto its own) washing and sterilising nipple shields. I think I now have 9 that are in constant rotation because my little man likes to have a little and often (reminds me of someone else I know).

I was concerned after a few days – actually an emotional wreck is probably closer to the truth thanks to those baby blues – that he would never be able to get off the nipple shields and I would be destined to six months of overt nipple waving and washing and sterilising nipple shields. Or I would have to express all the milk, thus losing my life and gaining popeye’s forearms (I’m having to use a manual breastpump…I did have a wonderful electric one until I dropped it. There were tears that night, let me tell you).

This concern was hightened by my midwife who told me that I needed to keep trying him without the shields as unless I got him off I would get mastitis (a boob infection that makes you feel like you’ve got flu). So, I tried to get him off and he would latch on now but he was in the wrong position so after only a couple of goes my nipples were totally killing me! Back on the shields I went, feeling incredibly dishearten and pretty much a failure. I spent quite a bit of last week weeping over my nipple shield (mainly because I was tired) because he would NEVER get off them and I would get mastitis and feel even worse than I do now…

Thankfully the health visitor (not my assigned one but a nice lady all the same) came to weigh Reuben, confirming that he was getting what he needed because he was now 8lbs (he was 7lb 11 when he was born), and also gave me a bit of support that I was doing OK and I needn’t panic about the shields. She would send a boob expert out to help but in the mean time I should carry on with the shields. When another week followed and no one had been out to see me I called up my health visitor in floods of tears worrying that if I didn’t get Reuben off the shields soon it would be too late.

My health visitor came straight out that day, bless her, and Reuben had put on another 7oz. She also told me that I was doing really well, she didn’t think I would get mastitis as I was feeding him regularly and expressing (she also explained that any build up in your boob can be seen and massaged out, so keep an eye on it), and as Reuben got bigger and better at feeding he should just grow out of the shields. Hooray! It’s not often, I’ve found (and from hearing all my NCT buddies experiences), that you get advice/support that you actually like to hear. So, although I’m not feeding him ‘properly’ and nipple shields are a pain in the arse, there is light at the end of the tunnel and fingers crossed it will all work out. I have a boob connoisseur coming out tomorrow to help me try and get him to latch on, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

I’d love to hear anyone else’s experience – mainly for moral support that we can get through it! Has anyone else had a similar thing with the nipple shield? Did you come out the other side?

I have now stopped breastfeeding – if you’re worried about how you will feel, please do read this post and hopefully it will shed some light and make you feel less guilty all at the same time! xx