I can’t stress enough how hard my breastfeeding experience was in the beginning. I am lucky that I have a good supply and was able to pump all of Whitney’s food for the first few months of her life, because she wasn’t having anything to do with my boobs. My main problem was flat inverted nipples (sorry for the visual). I kept asking my midwife, lactation consultants, and doctor if I could use a nipple shield (a piece of silicone with holes in it that fits over your nipple), and over and over again, I got the same answer: shields are THE DEVIL. I was told that I should not, under any circumstance, rely on them because they promote bad latch, cause nipple confusion, and decrease your supply. I ignored that advice at around the 4 month mark when I gave up on nursing altogether and resigned myself to a year of pumping. I figured if the shield worked, it would be better than nothing. I wish I had been told earlier that the nipple shield might actually HELP because it would have saved me months of tears and frustration.
What the experts said about bad latch was true – Whitney definitely tended to suck on the tip of the nipple shield rather than take the whole thing into her mouth. That being said, at least she was sucking on my nipple (a miracle!), and I could re-position her at the breast so she took more into her mouth.
The experts told me that nipple shields decrease your supply because your baby isn’t able to get enough milk, so your boobs are never fully emptied and your body adjusts your supply as a result. I just pumped after every feeding, which increased my supply instead of making it go down.
The biggest downside to the nipple shields for me was how easily they fall off. I’d get midway through a feed and it would lose its suction, which is annoying enough on its own, but then Whitney would scream while I cursed and reapplied the shield. One day, about a month after I had started using it, the shield fell off mid-feed, and Whitney just continued on without it. I haven’t had to use a shield since, and I totally credit my breastfeeding success to it.
So, there you go. Sometimes the experts are wrong. Trust your instincts and when all else fails, a nipple shield might be your best friend.