Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The nipple hat

There are so many things I am looking forward to with this new baby - all of the first milestones: smile, laugh, sitting up, rolling over, etc. The baby snuggles, the rocking, the tummy time. Strangely, the one thing I am not excited about is nursing. Don't get me wrong, I am a complete believer that "breast is best" and fully intend to nurse this next one as long as possible (however long that may be).

I have friends who seemed to have no trouble nursing their children whenever, wherever. They always seem very relaxed about the whole situation. The baby latches with no trouble and they somehow manage to nurse and even switch sides without completely exposing themselves or dropping the baby. It looked so easy. Before I had children, I just imagined that was how it would work. Ummmm - no. Not so much.The problem is that I am not a good nurser. I started out breast feeding with the best of intentions. I assumed that we would struggle at the start but once we learned to latch and practice a bit, both baby and I would become "naturals".

But, for us, nursing was fraught with complications. I was told by the hospital lactation consultant during our first attempt that I had flat nipples. They didn't seem flat to me! She suggested I try a nipple shield "just to get things started".  (For those unfamiliar - a nipple shield is a small rubber sombrero looking thing that fits over your nipple to allow for a better latch. It looks like a tiny hat for your nipple.) Unfortunately, the nipple shield worked SO well, that I could never nurse without it after that. Which doesn't seem like a big deal, except that it ended up being somewhat messy due to my infant's frequent habit of pulling away from the breast with a shield full of milk still in his mouth (resulting in a milk bath all over me and sometimes him). They were also hard to use as a "casual nurser". As much as I wanted to be one of those laid back mommas who could nurse at the park, or while holding my baby in a sling, the nipple shield made it complicated. I struggled to find a way to hold the rubber hat in place while balancing the baby in the other arm. Not to mention figuring out how to wash it and sterilize it when we were out and about!

Due to the hindrance of the nipple shield and my supreme lack of coordination, I frequently found myself at home  nursing from the bed with my boppy. It was the only secure location where I knew I would have plenty of room to spread out, felt secure that I wouldn't drop the baby, and was able to entertain myself while feeding. However, with the arrival of baby #2, it is less practical and likely that I will be able to sequester myself in my bed for nursing sessions.

There may also be some animosity between myself and the nipple hat because I suspected that Ben's sudden desire at nine months to switch from suckling to biting might somehow have been attributable to the rubbery bottle-like feel of the shield. Unfortunately, I was never able to break him of the habit and we ceased nursing and went to straight pumping shortly thereafter which I found both disappointing and heartbreaking.

In any case, because of all of this, I have some anxiety about returning to my role as "milk machine". I feel strongly that nursing is very important and a wonderful thing to do for your baby if you are able. I just want to be good at it, you know? I am secretly prayerful that because this is the second baby, it will somehow be easier and all just fall together in some magical earth-mother type way. I am also pursuing options to avoid the shield if at all possible. Medela makes these things called "Nipple Formers" (I kid you not) and they look like this:

I am wondering A) how comfortable these could possibly be, B) how long I would have to wear them for, and C) what they will look like under my bra. In spite of my skepticism, I am willing to try anything once. If my nipples remain flat,  at least they will still have their favorite accessory to fall back on...their hat!

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