Tips from a breastfeeding flunkie

I don’t think everyone who doesn’t breastfeed – or starts and then switches to formula – is a flunkie, I promise. But I went into this having read all the books and taken all the notes from the classes and ready to ace the breastfeeding test – and I didn’t. In fact, I was so well-researched and ready to follow “the rules” that I got totally lost when it was time to adapt to make things work. So, this is my perspective on breastfeeding in the hopes that it helps someone else who just can’t figure out how this whole thing is supposed to work.

If you have flat n*pples, you’ll be okay, but be prepared for pain and a frustrated baby. Mine couldn’t figure out how to latch on because there wasn’t an obvious thing to latch on to. Over time, he broke up the tissue around my n*pples and they do stick out now, and it was just as painful as it sounds. Even if you have flat n*pples, make sure your baby is latched correctly to minimize the pain.

You’ll be offered a breast shield almost right away if you have flat n*pples, and you can do as I did and refuse it (actually, I kept “losing it”) so that your baby learns to suck on a breast. I’m glad I did that. Later, however, the lactation consultant did recommend one for getting us back in the groove so I wish I hadn’t actually gotten rid of them. If offered, take and hide them.

If the pain gets really bad (or only sort of bad, because you’ll be all gung ho and willing to deal with pain for the sake of your baby until suddenly you’re in tears and can’t stand the idea), bust out the breast pump. I have to say, after days of my son sucking on my painful nips, the breast pump was a welcome relief because nothing was touching the surface of my n*pple.

You CAN absolutely supplement with formula sometimes and not be a failure, and your baby can have formula and breast milk in the same feeding!  The night  I gave in and gave him formula from a bottle, I figured it was all over… and so by the time we saw a lactation consultant the next day, the fire in my belly to breastfeed had been replaced by the argument that helped me feel less guilty, and my attitude didn’t ever recover. What I could have done, had it occurred to me, was give him a half ounce of formula to knock the edge off his hunger and then shift to the breast. In fact, we did that later on, but by then my supply had fallen and we’d gotten used to the convenience of formula. If you do this, be prepared to win the battle with the tiny frustrated baby who now expects all sustenance to drip out of a n*pple into his mouth without any effort, but once you know he’s not STARVING, it’ll be easier.

Buy a few different bottles and have them stashed so that you’re not frantically researching them in a haze of guilt and disappointment. Freeze them if you must so that you’re not tempted every time bf’ing gets hard, but have them around. I’d suggest a Dr. Brown’s, Avent, and Mam, since those all get good recommendations from people who breastfeed. Make sure you have slow flow n*pples.

Okay, that’s all I have for now. Good luck!

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4 thoughts on “Tips from a breastfeeding flunkie

  1. I also have/had flat nips, and we ended up using the breast shield for a good 3 months. I know it’s not recommended for use that long, but my babe didn’t have any problems going between that, the unshield-ed nip, and a bottle for 6 months. We love the Tommee Tippee bottles; they have a really wide n*pple which is supposed to mimic nature. I think my lactation consultant would have died if she knew we used the shield for that long, but it worked for us!

  2. After reading this post and googling flat nipples, I think I have them, too. I’m 10 weeks pregnant and really want breastfeeding to work out for us, but now I’m scared! Hopefully a lactation consultant can help before and after I give birth.

    You are awesome for sticking with it as long as you did and giving it your all! I’m sure it is very difficult.

  3. For nursing-moms-to-be: for the discomfort, those Soothies gel pads are amazing (and huge, so you can cut them in half and save money). Also, get your OB/midwife to write you a prescription for all-purpose n*pple ointment (APNO). I dunno if most will do it as a precautionary thing, but in the event that you have any cracking, you’ll want that. I was fortunate not to have any cracking but I’m pretty sure that’s because my midwife gave me the APNO from the get-go.

    As for the flat/inverted nips, a friend told me that if she hooked up to the pump for a few minutes before she nursed, they’d pop out enough for her daughter to latch. I don’t know from experience because I have the exact opposite problem (my old roommates said I have p*rn star nips), but it worked for her so it may be worth a shot for someone who doesn’t want to use the shield.

  4. I also have/had flat nips and used a breast shield for the first 5-6 weeks. i don’t think it would have been possible for me to breastfeed without it. My daughter just couldn’t latch on successfully at first. I tried using a pump beforehand and it didn’t really help. I actually think being a little over zealous with trying to make my daughter nurse without the shield (somewhat unsuccessfully) in her first couple days of life actually contributed to her becoming dehydrated and jaundiced and needing to go back to the hospital for light therapy 😦

    After that happened we used the shield 100% of the time. I think it helped reduce all of the pain in the early days and weeks. My lactation consultant recommended we keep using it thru the first month as she felt my daughter’s mouth was too small to get a good latch. once she got a little bigger we slowly weaned her off the shield by sneakily removing it a couple minutes after she started nursing. It was a fairly easy transition, but it did take a week or two to get her fully off the shield. Even after she was nursing well most of the time we continued to need it occasionally when she was tired or extra hungry or otherwise frustrated. But we eventually got to the point where we didn’t need i at all, and she’s been feeding like a champ ever since. hooray! So for thse that are pregnant with flat nips, I’d recommend:

    1. see a lactation consultant before giving birth to talk over what to expect in the early days of breastfeeding and to plan for how you will deal with any difficulties
    2. use the breast shield if your baby is having trouble latching. keep using it as needed thereafter. your baby might not need it for every nursing, but they likely will when they are tired/frustrated (e.g. for the 3am feeding).
    3. get a few breast shields cuz those darn things are easy to lose and you don’t want to be without it at a key moment.
    4. keep going back to the lactation consultant for advice as you work to transition off the shield. even if you mostly know what to do it’s great to have their ideas and tips as well as moral support/cheerleading

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