Many mothers with babies swear by the Eat, Play, Sleep routine. It’s a simple enough concept: Feed your baby as soon as she wakes up, then let her play (or squirm around on the floor), and then put her down for a nap. Volia! Baby now has a “schedule” or a “rhythm”.
I tried to implement the Eat, Play, Sleep routine with both my girls. Babykins had dismal results–we had more of an Eat, Play, Burp, Cry, Eat, Cry, Sleep routine. Sweet Pea isn’t proving to do any better–she currently has an Eat, Play, Burp, Eat, Freak Out Because She Doesn’t Actually Want To Eat, Fall Asleep in the Moby Wrap. Sometimes she even throws in Spit Up a Prodigious Amount for good measure.
So, has anyone had real success with the Eat, Play, Sleep routine? Likewise, why do breastfeeding books claim that breastfed babies almost never need to be burped? My little ladies beg to differ on that point.
Note: This post will talk about breastfeeding in some detail. I don’t believe it will be a crass discussion, but my idea of modesty was completely skewed after pushing a baby out of my body. If discussing breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, I instead offer this old post that has nothing to do with parenting and everything to do with the time we almost burned down the farm.
If you are to say, “Nipple shield” in front of a mother who has breastfed, you’ll get various reactions. Some will laud this tool as a miracle that saved their breastfeeding relationship. Others will declare that using one just lead to more problems. Some of the more hardcore lactavists will sneer at it as an unnecessary device that just encourages a newborn to be lazy and not fix a bad latch. And some mothers will say, “Nipple shield? What’s that?”
I fancy myself as a bit of an expert on using a nipple shield since I’ve been nursing Babykins with one for over 13 months. Do I recommend using one for that long? No, but it is what it is at this point.
A nipple shield is a thin piece of silicon that is often described as having the shape of a tiny sombrero. The shield is placed over a mother’s nipple during a feeding session. It is supposed to help breastfeeding is several ways. First, it’s supposed to protect the mother’s nipple from her baby’s strong suck, especially during the early days when both mother and baby are trying to figure out how to get a good latch, especially if the mother has flat or inverted nipples. It’s also useful for controlling milk flow when a mother has an overactive letdown or if a baby has a small mouth (this is especially useful for premature babies). I was given one by my hospital’s Lactation Consultant (LC) because Babykins managed to maul my breast in less than 24 hours after her birth (I think we got an “A” for effort and “F-” for execution).
A tool that helps with nursing pain? Why don’t all mothers use one?!
As mentioned, the nipple shield can salvage a faltering breastfeeding relationship. It can also complicate it. There are 3 primary concerns when using a nipple shield.
- It enables a mother and baby to keep using a bad latch. While this can sometimes be true, most mothers want to wean off the shield as quickly as possible, so they continue to try to fix their baby’s latch. The shield can make it more bearable as they do this.
- It can cause a mother’s milk supply to drop. Because the shield does create a barrier between the mother’s skin and her baby’s mouth, this can mean that the baby won’t empty the breast properly. This in turn can signal the mother’s body to make less milk.
- It can lead to poor weight gain for the baby. Sometimes the shield can prevent the baby from getting as much milk as they would without the shield. Likewise, if the mother isn’t producing enough milk, this can affect a baby’s weight gain. This is the main problem Babykins and I had while using the shield. She’s always gained slowly and we still don’t know if the shield was the cause of this or if it’s just her genetics. However, since she never took to a bottle (she spit everything back up, even after buying a fancy-pants bottle nipple) and refused to nurse without a shield, we just kept plugging along.
Other problems include increase risk of infection, a baby refusing to latch with the shield, and problems weaning off the shield.
But I’m using a shield! What should I do?
I have 3 main pieces of advice for mothers using a breast shield.
- Nipple shields should be used under the guidance of an LC. Many women don’t realize this, especially since shields can be easily purchased at places like Target or Amazon. An LC will help a mother and baby get a good latch and will be able to watch for breastfeeding problems. I’ll recommend trying a nipple shield for any mother having nursing problems, but I always tell them to do so with the help of an LC.
- A baby nursing with a shield should be weighed at least every 2 weeks. This helps to catch any weight gain problems early. Also count their wet and dirty diapers like you would for any baby.
- A mother nursing with a shield should pump or hand express at least once a day (or more if the baby is having problems emptying the breast). This will help the mother’s milk supply and help prevent mastitis.
Weaning off the shield
Admittedly, I’m probably not the best person to give advice about shield weaning since we’re still using one, but here are some of the more common techniques I was told.
- Start the nursing session with the shield and pull it off after your milk letdown (you know, so you don’t drown your baby with your milk geysers).
- Offer you shield-free nipple when baby is sleepy.
- Go cold turkey. Take the shield away for a couple of days to see if your baby will figure it out.
Keep in mind (especially with #3) that you don’t want to make weaning into a battle. This can lead to a nursing strike. If things start getting ugly and your baby is becoming upset, use the shield and comfort that baby!
Tips for the long haul of shield use
My lactation consultant told me that average use of a nipple shield is about 21 days. Some babies take longer to wean. Some babies never wean (*cough* Babykins *cough*). Here are some useful tips I’ve found for long-term nipple shield use:
- Keep more than one shield on hand. This is especially useful if you have more than one nursing station in your home. It’s such a pain to get set up for a nursing session with your floppy newborn, only to realize that your shield is at the opposite end of the house. It’s also useful for those times that your flailing baby knocks the shield off in the middle of the night and you can’t find it in the dark.
- Always keep a spare shield in your diaper bag. It’s a terrible moment when your baby is screaming to be fed or comforted when you are out and about and you realize you left the shield at home. I learned that at Babykins’s 2-week doctor’s appointment. o.O
- Wash the shield with mild soap and water. This will keep it clean and prevent infection. If it starts looking scuzzy, replace it.
- To help the shield suction to your skin, lick your finger and rub it on the outer rim of the shield. Seriously, it helps.
Want more information?
For more information, check out KellyMom and The Leaky Boob. Also, I am not a lactation consultant, nurse, or a doctor, just a mom nursing her child. You should find professional help if you are concerned about your baby’s health.
While ideally a mother will be able to nurse without the shield, it is better to have the baby nursing at the breast with the shield than not nursing at all. If you aren’t able to wean off the shield and you have a healthy baby, well, you just keep on nursing your babe the best you can. And if you want to share shield stories, drop me a message because I have many! 🙂
Often parents have ideas about how they will rear their children before having a baby, only to completely change their minds once they are actually rearing their children. I had many ideas about how motherhood would look for me prior to getting pregnant with Babykins that actual experience is changing. Nursing in public is one of them.
Before I started nursing, I was firmly in the “Public Nursing is Just Fine as Long as the Mother Covers Up” camp. Oh, how enlightened I was by embracing breastfeeding while accounting for socially acceptable behavior. After all, breastfed babies should be able to eat anywhere that bottle fed babies can, but a woman must maintain her modesty. Nursing covers seemed to be the perfect solution. How hard could it be to nurse a tiny baby under a big blanket?
*Insert maniacal laughter from experienced nursing mothers*
First off, breastfeeding may be natural, but it does not come naturally to most mother/baby pairs. When a baby is first born, he or she needs help properly latching onto the breast so they can get milk and not injure the mother. In order to help the baby, the mother needs to be able to see her breast. Covers, even the ones with boning that allow you to see the baby, make this task almost impossible.
In a couple of months, the baby will be able to latch on without any help and will have better head control. So then a mother should be able to cover without any problems, right?
Sure, except that around 3 or 4 months old, the baby will become more aware of his or her surroundings. That means every unusual sound MUST be investigated and that pesky cover is just an annoying hindrance that MUST be escaped.
So what options are left for a mother if she cannot nurse with a cover and cultural norms demands that she keeps her chest covered? She must find a private place to nurse. Sometimes a changing room can be used, although it is cramped. Sometimes secluding herself in a car will work, but it can be hot and uncomfortable. And sometimes it comes down to trying to find a quite–but not private–place to wrestle with her nursling and the cover. There seems to be no good solutions as long as she cannot simply nurse her baby uncovered.*
I’m no longer firmly in the “Public Nursing is Just Fine as Long as the Mother Covers Up” camp. I personally still prefer to either find a private place to nurse Babykins or battle the nursing cover. However, if a nursing mother prefers not to cover up while nursing in public, she’ll hear no complaints from me! I understand now that she’s just trying to feed her baby.
*You might be wondering why bother with public nursing when you can just give the baby a bottle. There are a whole slew of reasons: pumping is annoying, some babies won’t take a bottle (*cough* Babykins *cough*), and the fact that babies get hungry unexpectedly are just a few reasons.
Babykins is a multitasker. Now that her days are filled with eating solids, pushing herself about, eating her toes, chatting to her stuffed animals, and other such baby activities, she’s often too busy to make breastfeeding and sleep two separate activities. Yes, I have a baby who nurses to fall sleep and, more often then I would like, nurses to stay asleep (*cue dramatic music and cut image to frowning sleep expert*).
This has been going on for about 6 weeks, but the last two weeks have been particularly rough. As in, often not letting me put her down for longer than 30 minutes for a nap and waking every 1.5-2 hours at night. I consider it a pretty amazing feat on Babykins’s part to make me–the person who almost never naps in the car because sleeping upright is too uncomfortable–fall asleep for an hour or two in the glider multiple times (yes, I know that this isn’t safe. It’s not like I’m consciously choosing to sleep in the glider instead of the bed at 3 a.m). Who would have thought that 11 lbs of baby could be such a strong force? I certainly didn’t.
Oh, I know we could do things differently. I know we could sleep train. During a particularly bad night, I even let her cry for awhile. But it just doesn’t feel right for us yet.
But after these past couple of weeks, I think we may be turning a corner. Babykins has taken at least 1 long nap without me nursing her the last two days. Last night, I had 4–that’s right, 4–uninterrupted hours of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is a funny thing because I feel great today. I even smiled at church!
And even if these last few days have been a fluke, we’re still moving Babykins out of our room and into the nursery. Hopefully she thinks it’s as great idea as my husband and I think it is!
I’m a little late to the game with this book, but last week I read Boob Hell by Rebekah Curtis. The book is the true story of a Mrs. Curtis’s breastfeeding journey with her firstborn. As the title indicates, feeding her daughter wan’t a joyfully magical time that books like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding portray a breastfeeding relationship to be (to be fair, I did read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding before Babykins was born and it is a knowledgeable resource. I just had to separate myself from their romantic notions about breastfeeding).
Boob Hell is a quick read. While sometimes the character names are difficult to follow (she refers to her husband as “Dad”, her mom as “Grandma”, and so on) and the conclusion could have been longer, I found myself laughing at many of her humorous descriptions of the difficult aspects of breastfeeding. I also found myself almost in tears in some parts as she aptly described similar situations Babykins and I have dealt with. From the difficultly of dragging your postpartum self to your newborn’s baptism to utilizing equipment that you didn’t know existed before becoming a mother (*cough* breast shells *cough*), her story relates to my own (although I think I’m going through what she labels “Boob Purgatory”–I haven’t had anywhere near the amount of pain she has described, mostly because a lactation consultant gave me a nipple shield on my second day of breastfeeding). Most of all, I found myself relating to her anger about how unprepared new mothers often are for the physical and emotional toil to feed our children.
One of her last comments about breastfeeding shows how widely women’s experiences can vary:
Some people have nursing easy and some people don’t. Some people quit and some people don’t even start. Some people love nursing and some people hate it. Some people get skinny nursing and some can’t. Some babies get huge nursing and some are tiny. Most people without any personal experience of breastfeeding don’t get how it completely takes over your life, and you just have to be nice to them about it. Those are the things everybody should know. (pg. 137)
So who should read this book? Aside from anyone who wants to, women who have experience breastfeeding would probably enjoy it the most–Be that someone who only breastfed for a few weeks or months, are currently breasfeeding, or have breastfeed numerous children. It would not be helpful for an expectant mother because it may terrify her. Rather, give her a book like The Womanly Art of Breasfeeding, help her build some sort of breastfeeding support system, and be ready to sympathize with her once the baby arrives and breastfeeding isn’t going perfectly.
There is a lucrative business for baby stuff. Despite new parents being told over and over gain that a good portion of this stuff isn’t necessary, most of us find ourselves wading through a sea of baby things once our little ones come home.
Some of these items are truly necessary–items like a car seat, a safe place for baby to sleep, a way to feed baby if breastfeeding is a struggle. Some things are extremely nice to have. Babykins sleeps peacefully in her swing during the day, so I am thrilled that we have it! And some things seem silly in hindsight but are purchased in a fit of sleep deprived desperation. That’s how I wound up paying $30 for a stuffed animal to help Babykins sleep. It still hasn’t given me the peaceful bedtime I was promised.
Yet there still seems to be areas untapped by the baby stuff business; untapped areas that have items I would pay out big to have:
1. A cure for hiccups
Baby hiccups sound fun and cute, but Babykins has a tendency to get the hiccups when she’s tired. Have you ever tried going to sleep with the hiccups? It’s not easy! I’m under the impression she’s not alone in this tendency.
2. A cart to safely put a car seat in and have room for your purchases
Because shopping with a baby isn’t hard enough, carts are designed to be anti-infant. Either you put the car seat in the big area of the cart and have no room for anything else, or you carry/wear your baby. The latter option is especially loathsome on the rare occasion that Babykins actually falls asleep during the drive to the store.
3. An easy-to-inflate/deflate exercise ball.
Our only guaranteed soother for Babykins when she hits complete meltdown mode is to put her in the Moby and bounce with her on an exercise ball. This works well enough at home, but it’s too cumbersome and time-consuming to bring the ball with us everywhere we go.
4. A pocket-sized nursing pillow
Breastfeeding isn’t as intuitive as you might think. Babykins and I still rely heavily on the help of a Boppy or pillows. Again, this works at home but pillows just don’t fit into the diaper bag.
5. A pacifier hold-inner
While I have nearly perfected driving while reaching into the backseat to hold Babykins’s pacifier in her mouth, I’m hesitant to think that this is a safe way to drive. Having a way to keep that stupid piece of plastic in her mouth would be FANTASTIC!
If you have heard of any of these items, please let me know!
What baby item would you pay anything to have?