You would think that by the time a mother gets to baby number 4 that something as mumsie as breastfeeding would be a walk in the park right? Not for this mum of 4.

You are also led to believe that breastfeeding is easy once your baby hits 6 weeks. My baby and I missed the deadline.

I have been breastfeeding for 7 out of the past 11 years. This is my 4th baby. I have 10 years experience as a breastfeeding counsellor, I have a Bachelor of Health Science, I have studied the mechanics of breastfeeding, I have attended many breastfeeding conferences over the past 10 years. I have read many breastfeeding books.  You’d think it would be easy for me. It’s not. It’s still a rocky road. I’m still struggling to get a good latch. I’m still using a nipple shield. I still worry that I don’t have enough milk even though I know I do.

I can see him growing and getting pudgy, he’s happy and content most of the time and he pees like a champ. So no problem there. My supply is good.

My problem is an inverted nipple on the left side. I’ve written about my dodgy left boob before. I couldn’t get my 2nd son to latch on to it AT ALL. Baby number 3 did well after 6 weeks on a nipple shield. Baby number 4 is doing well on the right side sometimes with, sometimes without the shield but I wonder if he will ever be able to feed of the left side without the shield. Whenever he tries, he gets frustrated and damn near tears the nipple off. He certainly can’t drain the breast without it. I’ve tried using a nipple sucker to draw the nipple out before he feeds but it’s still really hard for him to get on without the shield.

What do I hope to achieve by telling the world this?

Well.. this.  That breastfeeding is not always easy, even when you’ve done it before and even when you have all the advantages. Hey, we even had a drug free birth, uninterrupted skin to skin contact  and a perfect self latch after his birth. This is like the holy grail of successful breastfeeding beginnings. He’s never had a dummy, he refuses to even entertain the idea.  We’ve done all the ‘right things’, followed the textbook perfectly and we are still struggling. THAT’S OK. It will get easier as he gets older and bigger and stronger and the tissue that makes my nipple retract instead of pop out will change and it WILL work.

Secondly. Nipple shields gt a bad rap.

They are not evil things that reduce mum’s supply and create bad habits. They help mums and babies to breastfeed. If you need to use one to breastfeed, do it. In the old days they were far more likely to reduce supply but they have come a long way since then and generally only have a minimal effect on supply. My theory is that if you’re using them full time, your supply adjusts to it the same way it adjusts to more or less feeding. Emptying the breast is a very impotant factor to getting and maintaing a good supply and if a nipple shield can help you do this, awesome!

As for weaning from the shield, I’ve done it successfully before. All of a sudden my baby  got frustrated with it and I kept losing it in the middle of the night. I started trying to feed without it and was successful most of the time. Within a few days, I was successful all the time. I think I’m at the the very beginning of that process now. I try without often, usually because my toddler has taken off with it and I have to find it before I can feed. I succeed often on the right and occasionally on the left but there is a liberal amount of pain and suffering involved.

Mostly, I just want mums to know that it’s OK if  breastfeeding is hard. It’s hard for most mothers at some point, even those that make it look easy. It does get easy. It gets super easy. And when it gets super easy, you are so glad you stuck with it.

And most of all… I want to tell myself that I am doing a damn fine job even though I’m struggling with it. And soon it will be easy for me and my itty bitty one. If you’re a mum, you should tell yourself the same thing often. You’re doing a damn fine job, even though it’s hard.