So long training wheels! A breastfeeding story

Madison is now 5 weeks old and I’m so glad that I can report to the lactation police that we have let go of our “training wheels!”  They’ll be so proud! (Sarcastically speaking, of course.)

Why Blog About This?
I wanted to write this blog for 2 reasons; 1. to document the progression of our breastfeeding journey and 2. to talk about my detest for the term “training wheels” as a it relates to using breast shields for nursing.  I feel like any mom that can and wants to breastfeed her baby should be able to do that any way that she can without judgement.  Every time “training wheels” were mentioned to me in relation to using nipple shields I felt judged.  As a new mom I only want to do what’s best for my daughter and myself.  I felt like while I was trying my best, that best wasn’t good enough because I was using the nipple shield.  It took me 3 1/2 weeks to stop questioning if I was really doing what’s best for Madison.  I needed to rejoice in the fact that Madison is healthy and growing.  If a health baby is the result of using a nipple shield when nursing then so be it!  That’s what nursing looks like for us, which may be different from what nursing looks like for another mother-baby duo.

Back Story
Several years ago I found a lump in my left breast doing a self exam at home.  After further review by my gynecologist, I was sent to a specialist for a mammogram which validated that the lump was indeed there.  I was then scheduled for a visit with the top breast surgeon in our area.  At the time I was in my late twenties and scared to death!  My mom had breast cancer and passed away in 2003.  I know all of the statistics and keep up with the research.  Amid recent breakthroughs in the treatment of breast cancer I was still scared to death.  Well, long story short, what had been thought to be a tumor ended up being a deep tissue staph infection.  Who knows how long I had it, but I was so relieved.  My only takeaway  from the whole ordeal was an inverted nipple on my left breast. That inversion was the result from the metal marker that was placed by the lump prior to my visit with the surgeon.

Fast Forward to Madison’s Delivery
Right after Madison’s delivery I started to breastfeed her.  My nurse provided me with a nipple shield for my left breast to help with the inverted nipple.  Madison was so small at delivery (5 lbs. 14ozs.) that I also used the nipple shield on my right breast to help her latch.  On the day we were scheduled to be discharged, I requested one last meeting with the lactation consultant just to ask some final questions I had.  The consultant I had been working with wasn’t there that day, but the consultant on duty came in.  As I started to get myself ready to nurse she asked why I was using training wheels.  I had to ask what she meant.  She explained that using a nipple shield to nurse is a lot like using training wheels and that one day we would graduate to being able to nurse without them.  I took her comments as an insult immediately but didn’t let my hormonal self out of her cage.  I nursed, listened to her feedback and answers to my questions, and thanked her for her time.  Thankfully, I wouldn’t have to see her again!

The next week we had Madison’s 1 week appointment and that included a session with the lactation consultant at the pediatrician’s office.  The lactation consultant seemed really sweet and knowledgeable.  That is until she also questioned my use of training wheels.  I explained my inverted nipple and Madison’s little mouth and she also gave me the goal of one day being able to nurse without it.  Well, I’m shouting it from the virtual mountains!  Today we have exclusively nursed with no “training wheels.”

The Transition
I began transitioning away from the use of the nipple shield organically.  It was not at the request or judgement of anyone else.  Continued nursing has helped my nipple inversion and we have some traveling coming up soon.  Discontinuing the use of the nipple shields would remove a level of complexity from the process.  It took a few days to get to the point where we could complete an entire nursing session without them, but we did it!  I believe the biggest transition was the difference in the way she latches on (the shields change the shape of the nipple).  Regardless, now we no longer need to remember to pack the shields, clean the shields, remember to pack the cleaning stuff for them, etc. Now that I think about it, this transition takes a couple levels of complexity out of the process!

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