I had always imagined I would breastfeed my baby should I ever have one, so when I fell pregnant there was no question in my mind about it. When I gave birth, breastfeeding got off to the best start but it wasn’t long before my nipples were sore and bleeding. Before my daughter was even a week old I was ready to give up. Breastfeeding with nipple pain made me dread every feed.
After giving birth the midwife placed Amelie on my chest, she did the crawl into position and the midwife helped her to latch on. It was the most wonderful feeling. I was so in love with my new baby and feeling the connection with her in that moment was indescribable. Breastfeeding had got off to a brilliant start!
After being moved from the delivery suite to our own room, because of Covid-19 restrictions, we were very much on our own. We muddled through and carried on feeding on our own. Within hours blood was spotting from my nipples. The midwives that checked in on us said that shouldn’t happen and worked with us for a few minutes on a better latch but everything was done at arm’s length and there wasn’t much time available so we were told just to keep practicing.
Within hours blood was spotting from my nipples.Bekki
In hospital, midwives could only help us at a distance
It wasn’t long before my nipples were incredibly sore
Within 5 days I’d developed deep cracks in both nipples. The scabs couldn’t heal because of the frequency of feeding and the pain really began to be an issue. It got to the point that I would dread feeding my baby because of the toe-curling pain of each initial latch.
Breastfeeding in the middle of the night in those early, hormone-crazed, sleep-deprived days can be lonely and difficult enough but facing searing pain along with it was getting too much and threatened my mental state. Each day the damage was increasing but I really wanted to breastfeed so I persevered and read/watched every resource I could find online to improve our situation.
After just one week I was ready to give up
After one week I contacted a lactation consultant as I was on the verge of giving up. Karen came to see me the next day and was an absolute miracle worker. With her guidance things improved almost immediately. She worked through different positions with me, making feeding more practical.
She also boosted my confidence so much. My baby was only a few days old but already I had begun to feel like I’d failed at being a mum. But with her encouraging words, I knew I could continue to feed my baby for as long as I wanted and was right for us.
To use nipple shields, or not to use them?
The only issue I had left to deal with was the damage. As Amelie was feeding relentlessly, there was no time for my nipples to heal. With a better latch, the damage wasn’t increasing but it would be a long time until it would heal and the pain was unbearable. I’d read about how nipple shields might help but so many people seemed to demonize them. I heard they could cause nipple confusion for baby, that my baby wouldn’t gain weight if I used them, and that I wouldn’t be truly breastfeeding if I used them!
After several more days of enduring the pain, I decided to give nipple shields a go. It was that or give up and bottle feed. Thankfully, I can say they were a game-changer! It still took a couple of weeks but my nipple damage completely healed. My baby fed perfectly and continued to gain weight and I no longer resented feeding!
9 weeks in and we’re a proper little team
I would urge anyone faced with a similar decision to do whatever they need to to make things work for them. The judgemental opinions of others shouldn’t register with you at all. It’s your baby and your decision. If mum is happy and baby is happy then nothing else matters.
Amelie and I are now 9 weeks in and, even though it is relentless and hard at times, I am so happy I continued to breastfeed. Seeing her thrive, knowing all of her sustenance comes from me makes the hard times so much easier to cope with. We are a proper little team and we’re doing pretty well!
Seeing her thrive, knowing all of her sustenance comes from me makes the hard times so much easier to cope with.Bekki
What are nipple shields?
Nipple shields are soft thin silicon teat-shaped covers that are placed over nipples before feeding from the breast. They have a hole in them to allow breast milk to come through. Many mama’s use nipple shields if their nipples are sore from breastfeeding, or if they have flat or inverted nipples and need help attaching baby to the breast. Nipple shields may also be used to help babies achieve a better latch, particularly if they were born premature.
You can view the different kinds of nipple shields available here.