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Thread: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

  1. #1

    Default desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    My baby is now 9 weeks old - I posted a couple of weeks ago here: http://forums.llli.org/showthread.ph...ain-at-7-weeks...

    I've now seen an IBCLC who said my ongoing nipple pain is almost certainly down to poor latch (not thrush). She gave me some advice for improving the latch, mainly making it more asymmetrical, and said not to leave the baby to keep "comfort sucking" if she's stopped swallowing. However, that was 10 days ago and despite trying to follow her advice, I'm still in pain and still pumping a lot because putting the baby on the breast hurts too much and/or is doing visible damage. I'm ending up in tears most days because I'm so frustrated, disappointed, and exhausted.

    As a side note, I don't find it easy to pump - I think she's getting enough but it is always a bit frantic to keep up with her appetite.

    Lots of people, including my (very supportive) partner and my (very breastfeeding-positive) mother have said that we should consider switching (partly or completely) to formula - as we have done so much to try to make this work, it's great that the baby has had only breastmilk for 2 months, and there's no point in continuing if it's making me miserable. (Happier mama makes for happier baby!) However, I will be really disappointed if we end up going down that route as I had planned to exclusively BF for 6 months.

    I am wondering if I should try nipple shields - I've heard that they can be problematic, but if the alternative is formula, would they be worth a try? and if so, how can I maximize benefits and minimize problems with them?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    The first thing I want to say is that if you don't want to stop, DON'T STOP. My first nursing experience was similar to yours: I had severe pain and extremely deep cracks for 5 months (yes, MONTHS), and I had to do a lot of pumping and supplementing in order to get my baby on track with weight gain. But I didn't quit and I have NEVER regretted that. Once my nipples healed up, I was able to start enjoying nursing, and I actually went on to nurse that baby for 3 years, which was 2 years past my initial goal.

    The only person whose opinion matters when it comes to nursing is YOURS. Well, yours and your baby's.

    2 months is still very young and very small. You know how you hear people say "Oh, everything gets better at 6 weeks?" Well, for some of us that is so much BS. Some of us have to wait longer than 6 weeks. Usually not all the way out to 22 weeks, like I did! If your pain is due to latch problems, then time is going to help and ultimately is likely to fix the problem completely. Bigger baby = bigger mouth = better latch.

    I do think using a shield might be useful to you, with some caveats. The worst problem with shields is that they can decrease stimulation to and milk removal from the breast by imposing a barrier between baby's mouth and your breast. They can also make feedings take longer, again due to reduced stimulation/suction from the baby. But if you are already supplementing with pumped milk, and in the habit of combining pumping with nursing, then I think you're okay to use the shield. If you nurse with the shield, just throw a pumping session in after you nurse, to make up for whatever the baby didn't give you. If you want a more precise equilibrium between what baby takes at the breast and what you need to pump in order to make up for lost stimulation, then you might want to consider renting a professional baby scale and doing weigh-feed-weigh measurements. IDK, for a lot of people that's a step too far in the crazy direction!

    What sort of pump do you have? Many pump issues can be solved by going up to a hospital-grade rental pump with correctly sized shields. If you already have one of those and are still finding pumping challenging, let us know exactly what's going on- how often you pump, when you pump, how pumping feels, etc.- and we'll try to help you troubleshoot.

    Finally, I totally understand the "happier mama, happier baby" side of the parenting equation. But believe me, your child will NOT remember this stressful interval in her life. My 7 year old doesn't remember me shrieking in pain when she latched on. Not even a little. But she does- vaguely- remember being 3 and having "pupple". And I can look back on the period of nursing her as one of the happiest in my life, despite the initial challenges.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Default Re: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    just wanted to say i totally empathize with you. reading your post just reminds me of the rocky start my son and i had too. i too was in tears most days, my nipples were cracked and bleeding and the pain was intense! i never ever thought doing something so natural would be so hard!

    my little man is 20 weeks old...nursing happily, pain free!

    hang in there, it will get better!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Default Re: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    I also sympathize with your pain. I was in a similar situation--my LO had a tongue-tie which was corrected at 9 days, but the latch was quite terrible for the first 3 months. Cracks, bleeding, intense pain, you name it. I also found myself in tears many, many days, thinking it shouldn't be this hard and painful to breastfeed. I continued to seek help, any advice from anyone I thought could help. I think the best help came from my local LLL leader who showed me better feeding positions (using lots of pillows to prop baby up to the breast was immensely helpful). I was very determined to breastfeed; I'd say that persistance was my best friend at those times. I thought I'd never get through it, but seeing my sweet baby's face and how much he enjoyed nursing, not to mention the incredible hassle I knew formula would be, kept me going. I think what ultimately resolved the problem in the end was 1. practice and 2. waiting for baby's mouth to grow bigger so that he was able to take in more breast.

    I know it's hard right now to imagine things will get better, but I promise they will if you keep going. I'm proof of that for sure! My LO is 10 months now and we're doing great with nursing. I'm so happy that I never gave up.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    I see no reason to not try nipple shileds at this point. Either they will make the pain worse worse, (it happens), not help but not make matters any worse, or help. At this point, what do you have to lose? They are quite inexpensive. The biggest problem with nipple shields is they are handed out like candy to mothers with 24 hour old babies in the hospital, causing all kinds of problems. Or moms buy them at the store not understanding the possible drawbacks. That is not your situation.

    If thrush has been ruled out, what about bacterial infection of the nipple? My understanding is this can cause great pain, and it can be cultured for (tested.)

    I have had latch pain with two of my children, (used shields with one) and yes it can take time for things to improve. You will know in your heart when enough is enough for you, and when you follow your heart, you can let go without regret if it comes to that. That's my theory anyway.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2011

    Default Re: desparate - should I try nipple shields?

    I would not be nursing today, at 19 months, if not for the nipple shield getting me through the pain in the beginning. I used them for a few days in the hospital and shortly after for latch problem, then stopped using it and the pain was horrendous, almost indescribable, no adjective seems to quite say how bad it was! I was crying with every feeding and literally stifling screams and didn't want to go back on the shield because of some of the negative things I heard, such as reducing supply, and I wanted to breastfeed so badly that I was hesitant to do anything that could compromise that, but it got to the point that I had no choice. And like you, I had people, my mom and my ob gyn (who I went to during the worst of the pain to see what was wrong but never figured it out) telling me to just switch to formula and I am so so so glad that I just started using the shield instead of doing that! The ob said something similar to what you were told, that "you should be enjoying your baby. Formula is not the end of the world!" And I appreciated their concern. My husband hated seeing me in the pain, I used to ask him to leave the room when lo latched on so he wouldn't have to witness it I was in such severe pain. We had to pump several times including in the middle of the night to get milk to try to give the hungry baby because I couldn't let her touch me, but she didn't drink out of the bottle very well. It was really touch and go. On the 4th week I was crying on the phone to the lc and she said "the nipple shield is a tool, use it!" ANd I will tell you that my supply INCREASED using the shield and the lc said this was because the latch was so much better that baby was getting more and I was relaxed because of less pain. My baby got plenty of milk. I was also pumping with a rental pump during this nipple shield time too and stocking away milk in the freezer. I know that someone said that shields are recommended too much in hospitals, and this may be true, but I have also talked to women who say they stopped breastfeeding because of pain and didn't know shields existed, they just stopped bf when the pain set in, so I have thought I wish more women know about the shields. After they saved us, I wanted to start a public awareness campaign to let women know! It made me sad to hear that women didn't know about them. I would hope that hospitals would at least let women know that after they get home and if pain sets in (and the pain may not start during the hospital stay, or it may be considered just mild pain during that time), - - let them know there is something out there that can help after they get home if it becomes unbearable, that they don't have to stop bfing. I was given the shield in the hosp. for inverted nipples and poor latch, and other women are not given the shields at the hospital I was in if they have no problem, but then after they get home and the pain sets in badly after a few weeks they just give up because the pain is horrible to deal with and they (like us) have well meaning people reminding them that formula would solve the problem, so they stop because they don't know how easy the shield could be. One woman told me that her pain got too bad to continue and when I told her about the shield she said that must be something new, but her child is still young, she just didn't know. And she gave birth in the same hosp. that I did. I feel that a lot more women would be breastfeeding if they knew about nipple shields. I feel like carrying around a placard! So.....needless to say I highly recommend it. Someone mentioned that bfing can hurt with the shield also, and in my case with the shield a had a pinching sensation because the nipple was being squeezed in there, but compared to the pain that I had and it sounds like you are having, that pain was something I could almost laugh about in comparison, and it was only a slight pinch at the beginning when she latched on, and not always, and I would describe it as extremely mild in comparison. The shield provides a barrier between your sore/injured nipple and the baby's gums so it seems that it could only help, but I can't speak about anyone else's experience, and I do know there can be a pinching feeling. I used the shield from 4 weeks (that fateful day I ALMOST gave up and made formula, my mom came over and opened up the formula canister that had come free in the mail!) until my lo was 4 months old and I weaned her off them, that takes some time too, after the baby gets used to the shield.
    So don't hesitate to use this tool that can help you! I shudder to think of how I almost didn't make it and I love the shield for saving us, I may have it bronzed lol instead of her shoes. I'm definitely a believer. My pain was so bad that I couldn't, I mean literally could not, wear a shirt of any kind, nothing was soft or light enough, so didn't leave the house for weeks. I know you don't need to know that, but after all this time I apparently still need to tell someone , and maybe it helps you to know you're not alone. I feel so much for you.
    Last edited by @llli*mydreamscametrue; April 29th, 2013 at 07:08 PM.

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