For all long time readers of bring joy, you know how much I believe in breastfeeding. With five kids, I have racked up a cumulative 82 months (or 6.83 years!) of breastfeeding (I am still currently breastfeeding my 20 month old son).
Though breastfeeding has certainly come back into vogue in recent years, there remains some misconceptions around nursing in general. I hope that through sharing my story & as well as the stories of other women, women can be empowered to give breastfeeding a chance.
Today Tiffany, a long time bring joy reader & commenter, shares her story. She & I were fortunate to meet in person a few years back as our US Air Force husbands were stationed in the same place for a brief period of time.
Inspired by her commitment to breastfeeding, I asked Tiffany to share her experience. This is part 1.
Image: by Jess Fielder Photography
I wasn’t sure if I could breastfeed
When I finally delivered Eames, he was limp and blue & was taken immediately to the other side of the room while my midwife stitched me up.
After about 10 minutes, he was given to me to hold.
He was wrapped up already, because they wanted to take him to the NICU to check on some things. I held him for about 5 minutes & adored his beautiful face that looked so much like his dad.
He looked straight into my eyes & made small noises while we took each other in.
Then, he was taken again. I saw him one more time for a few minutes before they transferred him to a sister hospital so they could do further testing that wasn’t available at my location.
I wasn’t prepared for this…
I didn’t get to see my baby again until he was 3 days old.
I had had my heart set on breastfeeding, & I had learned how important skin to skin was during those first few hours and days of a baby’s life.
I was devastated that not only had we not had skin to skin, we hadn’t even spent time together!
His first meals were formula, in a bottle, given from a nurse.
Would he even know I was his mother?
That question ran itself through my mind & it absolutely terrified me.
Reunion in the NICU
When we were once again reunited, we immediately did some skin to skin but waited a bit before attempting breastfeeding. His first tries at latching didn’t go well, he seemed to be completely unaware that food was even nearby.
There was also the fact that instead of being in a private room, reclining in a comfortable bed with all the time in the world to connect with my baby, we were in an expansive NICU with beeping and nurses all around us, sitting in an uncomfortable chair with only a thin sheet between us & everything else going on.
The environment & his weak attempts at my breast left me feeling even more discouraged. After a few separate tries, a nurse suggested (as in retrieved, opened, and handed over) we tried a nipple shield.
Is Kellymom right or is my nurse wrong?
I vaguely remembered reading about nipple shields on Kellymom, how they were often handed out unnecessarily & without clear instruction of how to wean from them. Clearly this nurse didn’t read Kellymom!
But as things weren’t going well, I didn’t feel I really had a leg to stand on to argue so we went ahead & tried it. Eames immediately latched & began nursing. From then on, he was breastfed for every meal.
The nipple shield did pose some problems (maybe just annoyances, in the grand scheme of things)- feedings were very long. Those first few weeks, he nursed at least 45 minutes on each side!
Also, while nursing in public is already pretty difficult at the beginning, it was near impossible for us. Trying to stay modest (I am large chested and not comfortable with being exposed) while holding the nipple shield in place & getting Eames onto it was quite a juggle!
And there was also having to make sure I always had the shield with me when we went anywhere. As time passed, I tried to not stress about when he would wean from it, & I can now say that was the very best way to go about it.
Post nipple shield
Around 3 months, I started encouraging him to either start or finish feedings without the shield on. If he wasn’t digging it, I didn’t push it.
Then around 3.5 months, one day he just latched without it, & we never turned back!
I have since seen countless women on forums asking if they should ditch the nipple shield, or if it’s a bad thing to use it. While I’m sure there are times they’re thrown at new moms unnecessarily, I don’t think that the idea of a nipple shield should automatically be linked with negativity.
Now at over a year of breastfeeding, those 3 months seem like a tiny moment. I am so glad that it helped my son & I establish a nursing relationship quickly, & without stress, even after an experience that had me convinced that our hopes for breastfeeding had been completely sabotaged.
Breastfeeding–12 months & beyond
Now that we’ve passed the 12 month point, I’m realizing we’ll be facing a different set of challenges-I’m planning on nursing Eames well into toddlerhood, but since I only know a handful of people who have nursed longer than a year, and no one who’s gone past 18 months, I don’t have any personal examples of this being done.
Luckily, this is something I feel a lot more confident in facing compared to my immediate challenges I had at the beginning of my journey.
Can you relate with Tiffany? What’s your breastfeeding story? Please share in the comments below!
Tiffany is a mother and US Air Force wife who loves to paint & bake, & is passionate about all things relating to motherhood, health, & Harry Potter.
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