I sat down with Michelle Fretz to get her take on something a lot of new moms ask about: Nipple shields.
What was it like the first time you nursed Ellee?
The first time she nursed in the hospital was not perfect and blissful, like so many mamas seem to experience. My nurse was more than helpful and the lactation consultant in the hospital was super sweet too. All Ellee wanted to do was sleep, though. I thought something was wrong. In an effort to be prepared for anything, I had done some research on lip ties while I was pregnant (I had one when I was a baby). I asked the LC if we needed to be concerned about Ellee having any ties. I’m pretty sure she thought I had no idea what I was talking about, as she quickly felt around in Ellee’s mouth and told me we were good to go, but that Ellee was just “a sleepy eater.” There were only a few times in the hospital where she nursed REALLY well, but all the professionals seemed to think all was well, so Ellee and I kept trying the best we could.
When did you begin to think something was “off”?
At about 5-6 days old. My milk had come in, but she was super fussy when it came time to eat. Getting her to latch on took a lot of tears and coaching. We both cried and I kept encouraging her to latch on. She would latch for a few sucks, and then just couldn’t stay latched. Each day she would get increasingly more anxious at feeding time.
How did you get the diagnosis of a lip and/or tongue tie? What did you do?
My best friend, Mary Hunter, was my biggest help. She called some people who called some other people and got some help to come to my house. The person that came over was a [Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition] Peer Counselor and she thought that Ellee might be tied. She recommended that I call Lori Wenner for a professional consult. Ellee was 10 days old when I talked to Lori. She asked me several questions and determined that she needed to come watch Ellee nurse, so she came over. She watched us try to nurse (which Ellee did really well while Lori was there, OF COURSE). Then she felt around in my baby’s mouth and immediately knew that she had a bad tongue tie and a top lip tie as well.
How were you introduced to the idea of a nipple shield?
Lori suggested that we use a shield to get the proper latch and she provided us with one. She showed me how to put it on and get it to stay while I coaxed Ellee to latch on. Lori stayed for a while to make sure we had the hang of it, too.
What was it like when you first started using a NS?
It was GLORIOUS!! I swear I heard the heavens open up and angels sing. My baby was FINALLY able to nurse without us both crying. The first feed with the nipple shield she nursed for 45 minutes straight.
How did it affect your nursing relationship?
Honestly, I wouldn’t still be nursing at 14 months (GO US!) if it weren’t for that NS. I was ready to call it quits when she was a week old because of immense pain and heartache each time she nursed. I loathed the NS after we got used to it. I didn’t like having to carry it around with me. Didn’t want to have to wash it every time she fed. I just wanted to be able to nurse in public effortlessly like all the other moms. I’m telling you, I hated that thing. Then one day, I finally woke up and realized that the thing that I hated the most is what was keeping us breastfeeding. That little piece of silicone is what was allowing my tiny baby to receive the nourishing milk that I was providing for her. Once I made peace with using a shield, life was SO MUCH easier.
Would you recommend a NS to other mothers, why or why not?
If a Lactation Consultant endorses a NS for a mother, then I absolutely think that mom and baby need it. Does everyone need to just go out and buy a shield because they have pain or because their baby is having trouble latching? No way! I made peace with the NS, but if I could have avoided using it for four months, that would have been optimal. Do not start using a NS just because you’re having a little bit of trouble.
Michelle is a SAHM who has been nursing her daughter for 14 months. She enjoys crafting and coffee in her spare time.