Photo courtesy of Christie Drozdowski

An Open Letter To My Nipple Shield For Saving My Boobs

You were there from the very beginning. I mean, within hours of meeting my new baby daughter, I met you as well. My nipples were terribly flat making it difficult to learn how to get my fresh, hungry babe to latch on and drink the colostrum that began to come to the surface for her. We were cuddled in the hospital bed with pillows all around learning about the best ways for me to hold my daughter while she nursed. I was staring down at my precious baby, marveling at and willing my breasts to do what lots of women had told me was one of the most remarkable things about being a mother. Just, thank god for you, nipple shield, for saving my precious boobs.

I was tired, overwhelmed, but ever so hopeful as I stroked my little one's soft face. I remember when my nurse brought you to me. "Let's try this," she said. Like many things about being a new mother, I had no clue you even existed. It was a somewhat odd sensation to feel the silicone between my breast and her mouth, and I hesitated to believe you'd be helpful in my first endeavor as a mother. However, you were shaped in such a way that a little opening left room for my daughter to still feel the warmth of my skin. "It's a contact nipple shield," my nurse explained. "As your baby sucks, your flat nipple will fill the shape, and she'll be able to latch better as she learns how." My milk hadn't even come in yet, but I already felt thankful that something like you was made to enable continued breastfeeding when my nipples weren't quite able to do the job properly yet.

Photo Courtesy of Christie Drozdowski

Once my milk came in and we were at home getting the hang of everything, and my nipples weren't so flat from how swollen and odd my body felt after birth, I would look down and see — in between the little suckling breaks my newborn would take during feeding — the milk that would gather in and around my nipple and the shield. What a reassuring sight to see that it was all working well, and she was getting as much milk as she needed.

As she continued to gain weight as a healthy 1-month-old, I felt comfortable prolonging my use of you. And I swear, you saved my nipples during those early months! I would check if my baby could nurse without the shield every once in a while, and she'd do just fine, but perhaps there was something comforting about having you there. As your name suggests, you were protecting my nipples, which meant you were in essence preserving the privilege of this achievement in mine and my daughter's new relationship.

Photo courtesy of Christie Drozdowski

Perhaps it was silly to become so attached to you — to take that little delight in the routine of cleaning you each day and setting you back on the table in the nursing nook I'd prepared in my daughter's room. But just like I took pride and an odd joy in the pumping gear I acquired along the way and the murmur of the humming pump in the early hours of the morning (that I still believe to this day began to sing different phrases to me each morning!), you were a prized possession of mine. It makes sense to me, after all, that I might find a bit of comfort — and even confidence — in something so small when everything about my world had changed in an abrupt, wild, yet magnificent way. You were like an accessory to my new-mom wardrobe, however curious that might sound. But accessories are used to compliment an outfit, and that's exactly what you did with my first-time breastfeeding journey.

My babe and I soon found our rhythm without your assistance, which is your end goal anyway. I put you away for the last time in the drawer where my daughter's first pacifier (the one she got from the hospital, too) is kept, because she found her thumb and didn't require it anymore either. I feel like you're happy there, and while you wait to potentially be used again should I have another baby to nurse, I hope you know how thankful I am for you. My nipples are forever in your debt.

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