Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TBD: Inverted Nipples

I so never thought I would write about something as personal as my nipples in a public forum. That said, it was one topic of breastfeeding that I couldn't find a ton of information on, and a topic I desperately needed to learn more about BEFORE she was here. 

To start at the very beginning. When I was pregnant, I think about 20 weeks or so, the nurse at my OB's office gave me this info sheet about how to tell if you have flat/inverted nipples and what to do if you're planning on breastfeeding. I checked mine out, thought that one of them might be inverted, and proceeded to follow their tips. It said to try using nipple shields to gently apply pressure. I went out and bought a set. I chose to go with the Tommee Tippee brand shields because they were 1)cheaper and 2) said they fit all sizes... since I didn't know what "size" my nipples were, I thought it was the best option.

I diligently wore my shield every day for the last couple of weeks of my pregnancy, sure that I had "fixed" things and was all set. Then Fynn was born and I tried to nurse. One side (the "good side") was great. She nursed well and was happy. Then I tried to switch to the other side... and I couldn't get her to latch. I met with a couple of lactation consultant in the hospital to find the best techniques and positions to help Fynn latch. These ladies were great, and helped her nurse... but they didn't help me do it on my own. Not once in the hospital did I get her to latch onto the bad side. Somehow, I was convinced that things would be fine when we got home. Call me naive, call me over confident, call me stupid... but I thought things would be fine.

Once we got home, things obviously didn't change. She could only nurse well on one side. Once my milk came in, I got really engorged and uncomfortable (this eventually led to mastitis... but that's a whole other post). I took to pumping my left side and feeding that to Fynn through a syringe just to make sure she was getting enough to eat. I tried using my nipple shield while nursing on that side to help her get a good latch. Nothing worked. We went to Fynn's weight check when she was a week old and were told that she was losing weight.

My heart broke. Here I was trying to do my best for my baby... and she was losing weight. I almost threw in the towel right then. I remember sobbing to Drew in the parking lot of the doctor's office that I was the worst mom ever because I couldn't even feed my baby. We talked about stopping to get formula on the way home.

But my husband, he is the most amazing man in the world. He knew how much breastfeeding meant to me, and he wasn't going to let me quit just yet. He reminded me of the breastfeeding support group that was being held that afternoon. He encouraged me to go, try it out, see if it helped. If not, then we would get formula on the way home. 

So I went. One week postpartum. And sobbed to all the women there about what an awful person I was and how I couldn't take care of my baby. The lactation consultant who ran the group, came over and watched while I attempted to nurse. She showed me how, because my nipple was inverted, it wasn't hitting the roof of Fynn's mouth when she went to latch. Newborns need that stimulation. She showed me ways to pinch my nipple to help get started and also informed me that my "one size fits all" shield... didn't fit. Which is why it wasn't helping.

On the way home we stopped at the store and got a new shield, one that actually fit. We went home and nursed successfully on that side for the first time! I actually cried I was so happy. We used the new shield for about a week until all the successful nursing fixed my nipple and we were able to nurse without it. 

Though an inverted nipple wasn't the last of our nursing issues, it was the one that impacted, and almost ended, our nursing relationship right from beginning. I discovered that I needed to be a better advocate for myself. I knew in the hospital that I wasn't learning what I needed to be successful at this. The lactation consultants were great, but they we're showing me what I needed and I didn't know enough to ask. It took an amazing LC, who works with new moms every day, to get the help we needed. I'm so grateful to her for all her help, and to Drew for not letting me be a quitter.

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