Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Breastfeeding with Flat Nipples

Women’s nipples come in many shapes and sizes. But can a woman ever have the 'wrong sort' of nipples for breastfeeding?

Whilst it is true that babies breastfeed rather than "nipple-feed", sometimes the shape of a woman's nipples can make it more difficult for her baby to nurse. In order for him to feed effectively, the baby must be able to grasp the nipple and stretch it forward and upward against the roof of his mouth. If he is unable to do this effectively, perhaps because the mother has flat or inverted nipples, the consequence can be prejudicial to both mom and baby, as this mom discovered the hard way...

You are about to read the story of a new mother whom, unbeknown to her, had severely flattened nipples. It took a catalogue of medical malpractice, a battle with self-centered relatives, and a speedy trip to ER before she discovered the root cause of all her problems.

Growing up I'd never seen breastfeeding. The first time I saw a human breastfeed I was about 16 years old. When I found I was pregnant, breastfeeding didn't really cross my mind. Not until I googled "what formula is best for my baby?" and was hit with a huge "DUH." 

I thought to myself, “I've been carrying around these breasts for SO long it would just be stupid not to use them when they finally have a function”. So I started reading. I "liked" tons of pages on facebook. I read about booby traps here and there. I watched youtube videos of women nursing. But really in my head I never thought I would have any trouble. I thought Baby + Boob = Job Done!

Prenatal Depression

My pregnancy was difficult. I had hyperemesis. I went 28 weeks without being able to eat anything, even ice. I had an infected PICC line, allergic reactions to medications. I was told that because I did not eat enough, I should expect a small baby. The ultrasound guessed 5lbs.  As a result from all of these complications I was also seriously depressed. 

Skin to Skin Prevented 

Fast forward to the day of my son's birth. After a quick delivery the doctor refused to allow me to hold my son until the cord was cut. I sat and stared at my baby for 15 minutes waiting to hold him. But after the cord was cut she still did not hand him to me. Despite my written request for skin to skin right after birth she handed my newborn to my husband. 

My husband was in awe and I sat quietly and watched them bond. About 5 minutes in I asked to hold him. He had been out my body for 20 minutes and I'd yet to hold him. I finally got my hands on him and put him to the breast. He was rooting but not latching. It wasn’t at all like the breast crawl video I'd watched 100 times before. 

After a few moments of struggling I finally was able to get the first latch. I was ecstatic but my nurse didn’t seem to care. She picked him up off my chest and broke the latch I worked so hard to get. She said my baby would be back in 15 minutes but instead he was gone for over 2 hours. Despite my demands and threats they only brought him back when they were ready. 

When I finally got my newborn back I was bombarded by visitors all wanting to hold and awe over their new grandchild and nephew. He didn’t cry much and I thought that he would cry when he was hungry. I tried nursing but he just did not latch. 

By that night he was screaming. He was so hungry. He hadn't latched but one time all day. My husband ran out and bought me a hand held pump. That night I fed my baby with a medicine cup. I was too afraid to use a bottle. 

The next day, still in the hospital, family came again and rushed each nursing session. I thought he was nursing but he really wasn’t getting anything. He wasn’t latched properly.

Again that night I fed him with a cup. I paged the nurses and asked them for a lactation consultant. But I never saw one. The nurses told me to only feed him on schedule and not to hold him too much. I received so much bad information it was unreal. 

Bottle-Pushing Family

When I was home my guests begged me to give him a bottle. They wanted to feed him. They teased me for being over protective because I refused. They didn’t understand the concept of nipple confusion. There were comments like "does it hurt yet?" and "give him a pacifier so he will lean to suck". 

At night time I was feeding my baby with a syringe. My son was born at 7lbs, and now, 2 days later, he weighed only 6lbs 1oz. By this point, he had high jaundice levels and it wasn’t just about food but also about getting rid of his jaundice. 

Bottle-Pushing Health Professionals

I drove to the hospital every day so they could prick my newborn and check his levels. Every day they pressured me into formula. And every day I said no. They didn't even give light therapy as an option. It was always “you are not feeding him enough, he will probably need formula, and if It's not better tomorrow we will admit him to the nicu.” 

"Nursing with the shield".
It was hard. I second guessed myself, my body, and my milk. I cried as I nursed him then topped him off with a syringe. I had this huge fear that I would fail him. Then finally someone on the internet told me about flat nipples. That was it! That was my problem. I tried a nipple shield at it worked wonders.

Mysterious Pain

Then, just when I thought my breastfeeding troubles were over I woke up in terrible pain. I went to the ER in fear that something was wrong with my gallbladder. Instead the doctor just decided I had a pulmonary embolism. He said I needed an MRI to make sure that wasn’t the case. But I wouldn’t be able to nurse for 2 days. I signed out against medical advice thinking I would pump enough for 2 days and go back. The doctor was very irritated with me for not "just using formula." 

When I got home I laid in bed sweating. I was covered in sweat and freezing cold. I couldn’t get out of bed I felt so bad. I'd never heard of mastitis before. I didn't know what was wrong with me. An online friend ended up telling me that she thought I had mastitis. 

I went back into the hospital ER that night with a high fever and told them exactly what she told me. By then my breast was bright red and hot to the touch. It made sense now! Until I figured out I had flat nipples, my breasts had got over-engorged because my baby was unable to extract the milk efficiently, which led to the mastitis. The ER doctor on duty told me it was a good thing I didn't have the MRI because the best treatment for mastitis is nursing. I went home and my husband brought my little boy to me every hour so I could nurse him. By the end of the weekend I was better. 

If it weren't for online support, I would not be the accomplished breastfeeder I am today. It educated me enough to get through all of the difficulties. With the exception of very few women, breastfeeding is totally possible. I decided to breastfeed and I did everything in my power to breastfeed. I knew that my baby needed breastmilk. Not powder from a can or cows milk, but real live human milk. He has never had a drop of formula, and I’m mighty proud of that. I am also donating my breastmilk to a friend/neighbor who is an adoptive mother. 

I find the action of women who never even try very selfish. I cannot understand how we as a society have become so self-centered that we will give our babies far less than they deserve.”

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