Saturday, October 8, 2016

Gentlemen, Know Your Nipple Shields

This is a nipple shield, and you just might need a few.

As you’re expecting your first baby, you may think the feeding of said newborn is something you, as a dad, don’t have to worry about; perhaps the only thing you don’t have to worry about.  Well, I'm sorry, but... well... you do.

As you may have heard, breastfeeding is a beautiful thing that strengthens the bond between mother and child; nourishes the kid like no other kind of food can; and helps to build their nascent immune system.  All of these thing are true.

What you may not know however, is that the mother of your child has heard all of the above, over and over since way before she became pregnant.  She’s heard it on the evening news, the morning talk shows, twitter, just about everywhere.  And in the months running up to the blessed day of deliverance, excuse me, delivery she’ll hear it even more.  Doctor’s offices, midwive's offices, and every pregnancy book, and web site available are slathered with ever more positive breastfeeding missives.

Here’s the thing though.  Even though La Leche, your doctor, your midwife, your mother-in-law, and heck even your own mom are loath to admit it: sometimes breastfeeding just doesn’t work at first.  The good news is that it will work eventually.  The bad news is that given the huge burden of the aforementioned breastfeeding expectations, when it doesn’t work?  It's a bit of a let-down. (That's a totally intended breastfeeding pun.  You'll find out.)  Expect sobbing and lots of it.  Labor, as well as your newborn's pheromones, (Number 3 caused some people to literally sob just by being handed to them), generates an overflow of hormones in everyone in the room.  Hormonal overflow + Unexpected La Leche Induced Stress = Sobbing.

When and if this happens, the first thing you’ll need to have is a handful of nipple shields.
Pro-Tip: Buy them ahead of time.
While virtually none of the breastfeeding material will mention nipple shields, they'r the first thing your midwife/nurse/doctor will suggest when breastfeeding doesn't go as expected.  However, when I made the emergency run to Target to pick up a pair after the birth of our first kid, they were almost sold out!

The second thing you'll need is a box of Similac.  I was raised on the stuff; my  mother could't breastfeed because of complications during pregnancy.  Even so, before we had our first kid, Similac was nothing to me but an entertaining anachronistic reference in a Bob Schneider song[1].  Nevertheless, you might need some to tide Junior over until all systems are go.  As you're madly scrambling through the store, you'll be looking for a logo like this:


The last thing you'll need is an appointment with a lactation coach.  That's right, there are coaches for breastfeeding.  Who would have thought?  It'll cost about $85, and they may or may not tell Mom, anything of any real value.  Our lactation coach was apparently educated at Hogwart's in Slytherin House.  She explained that you make a distinctive noise, (that sounded for all the world like a hiss), and then slap the baby's mouth onto the at-ready nipple.  However, when I summarized her method as "OK, got it.  Hiss, and slam the kids face onto the breast," our coach was more than a little aghast.  So, as I say, the value of the advice is debatable.  But, you know what?  That's not for us dads to judge.  Because what makes the $85 more than worth it is that the beloved mother of your child is going to exit the appointment with a newfound sense of stability and confidence, and life will go back to the normal, even simple routine of constant low-level stress induced by sleep deprivation shared by all new parents.

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