formula for success (bye bye nipple shield)

As of today, I am (mostly) pleased to say I am no longer part of the breastfeeding fraternity.  Or rather, sisterhood.

Of course, I would rather breastfeed, happily for at least 6 months.  But just like Lottie’s birth, things dont always go to plan.

It all goes back to the first few days after the little one was born.  For her first few days in the nursery, Lottie was tube fed, as are many premmie babies. 

Then just as I was feeling about ready to commence feeding after she was born, on the second or third day, I ended up with an obstructed bowel (apparently this happens frequently after abdominal trauma, and was compounded by the fact a doctor told me to drink two litres of water in two hours, before anyone had confirmed my bowels were working properly after he surgery).

Anyway, the bowel obstruction was painful.  And having just been through labour pains, I can say it was ten times worse than labour and therefore spent the next couple of days dosed up on morphine and in no state to feed.

During this time, they began to give Lottie bottles (without my knowledge) which meant that a few days later when I was able to try breastfeeding again, she wouldnt latch on to my bare nipple.

Several midwives tried (and by tried I mean jammed her head against my bosom, giving me different order as to what I should be doing, depending on who was on duty) to no avail.

On the fourth or fifth try, one of the midwives gave me a nipple shield to use.

For the uninitiated, these are thin, flexible, silicon shields worn over the nipple to be used in situations like mine and also for women with sore, cracked or inverted nipples.

Finally, success!  Lottie latched on, thinking my nipple to be more like the bottles she had already gotten used to.

My happiness was short lived though, with all subsequent midwives who came to view my breastfeeding attempts telling me I should never have been offered one because it would be more difficult to wean bubba off them later on.

At the time I didnt see a a problem – she was feeding from my breast, relatively happily.  Isn’t what they all wanted in the grand scheme of things?

By the time we left hospital I was still struggling with the feeding but figured it would all get better once we both got the hang of things.

Fast forward a few weeks later and I was still struggling.  Lottie was grumpy, when she was awake (which thankfully wasn’t that often).  Darling boy kept telling me to feed her more, or offer formula, but I kept telling him ‘Baby Love says hunger is not the problem for unsettled babies’, then I’d get grumpy at him for insinuating somehow me, or my boobs, were at fault.

Turns out nipple shields are a boon for women who need to use them temporarily (for exmaple, a bout of cracked nipples) but using them in the long term can reduce your supply.

The fact that I had a traumatic birth and blood transfusion didnt help either as this can reduce your supply as well. That I didn’t get to feed Lottie for a few days after birth made matters worse.

So I ended up with a pathetic supply.

What to do?  I visited a lactation consultant at the hospital twice and was given a simple, yet physically hard routine to follow to increase my supply which involved 10 feeds of 40 minuts each a day, with 20 minutes of expressing after each feed.

This meant that each feed, expressing session, subsequen sterilising of equipment and settling of bub took around 2 hours, then in hour or less it was time to start again!

I was struggling, exhausted and frustrated, and bub was still grumpy. 

I tried fenugreek seed, I tried cashews (not that I minded that).  Nothing worked.

And to top it all off?  The expressing sessions alone kept me pretty house bound, but I was also loathe to feed in public with the nipple shield which meant I really had to get a boob out and attach a screaming baby to it.

Oh, how I envied the women in mothers group whose calm, happy babies latched on easily for a beatiful and discreet nursing session.

After all the feeding, expressing and so-called milk enhancing foods/herbs, at my last visit to the pediatrician he told me he wasnt happy with Lottie’s weight gain – while ‘adequate’ it was at the low end of the scale, so he suggested I top her up with a bottle of formula for one or two feeds a day.

Bub sculled the first bottle I offered her with gusto, and for the first time looked happy and content while awake after a feed. 

The doc also suggested I visit Possum Cottage, a local day stay centre for mothers experiencing breastfeeding and settling (among other) issues.

Off I went, wondering what I could learn that hadnt been covered by the lactation consultant.

First thing I was told was NOT to offer the bottle of formula instead of a feed, as it would further reduce my supply.

Instead I was to offer additional formula after every breast feed.

I was never keen on this idea as, like the expressing milk, it dragged out feeds to an hour and a half (an hour of feeding, then a bottle. then sterilising) but I thought I’d give it a go – if it worked, it worked.

For the first two feeds, it worked, Then Lottie stopped taking the boob completely.  By this I mean 40 minutes of screaming and thrashing about at the breast, only to be sated with a nice bottle of formula.

Understandably this made both of us upset and frustrated every time feeding rolled around.

So I did what most midwives would have you believe is a devilish act and gave her a full bottle of formula.  Next feed?  Same again.

And now a coulple days later I havent looked back (although I am giving her expressed milk when I can rustle up a bottle).

Darling bub is happy, content and alert.  I am happy, content and alert.

It might not be the ideal resolution to the problem, but for us it is working.

As an added bonus?  Today I had all the coffee and chocolate I could handle, with no worries about it contaminating my milk.

I thought I’d feel so guilty about this decision but I’ve given it a good shot for 8 weeks, sought help from the experts and done everything recommended in my well-worn baby books.

All I want is what’s best for my darling, and if formula makes her happy and well fed, formula for her it is!

(and here I need to plug a brilliant book called Staying Mum by Mara Lee which chronicles her somehwat similar story – even if your new baby experience is nothing like mine or hers, it is a good read for any new or expectant mum).


3 Comments to “formula for success (bye bye nipple shield)”

  1. This is so true. You have to do what’s best for your baby. I am breastfeeding but really just do not enjoy it. I am jealous that you are eating caffeine and chocolate. I have had to go on a really strict diet because it seems no matter what I eat affects the baby’s tummy. He has the worst painful gas and I’ve considered switching him over to formula. Since you have an infant, you might like this Mom’s Guide to Caring for Little Teeth ( It talks about the sugars in formula and suggests wiping the gums of newborns after each feed to prevent tooth decay – for breastfed babies too. It’s got tips for other ages too.

  2. We read the same books! I read Staying Mum, too! And yes – completely hear you about the guilt surrounding breastfeeding vs formula. It’s hard, hard work – all of it. Sorting out the feeding thing, and agonising over the best course of action. I had to do the same routine for 5 weeks – feed/express/top up with formula. This is the first week where we’ve tried to go for 60% of the feeds purely on breast, with all other feeds having a top up of either EBM or formula. And only because my supply finally feels like it’s coming along. And I had NONE of the complications at birth that you had to endure. And I’m sure I’m doing it “wrong” by the midwives’ book.

    But you’re right – ultimately it’s about you and your baby, and mental health is just as important for the family as is the physical. You’re feeding your bub! And it’s good, quality stuff too. And at least now you can spend the hours between sleeps engaging with your baby instead of trying to stuff milk down her throat. Always a plus side.

    • oh you’re sweet! glad to hear its working out better for you now. This whole motherhood caper is a lot more difficult than I imagined (although, generally, more than worth the effort!)

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