This post has been a long time in the writing. I wanted to write about our breastfeeding journey second time around as my post about my experience breastfeeding Josephine received so many comments and emails from Mama's who had experienced the same thing. I attempted to write it when Coralie was a few months old and I felt I had got to grips with the whole breastfeeding malarkey but, your know, life with two kiddos got in the way. Then I thought about writing it as Coralie turned one and our journey came to an end. But, well, life with two kiddos got in the way. So, better late than never, here's our story...

I hate to use the word 'closure', but I knew that the only way I'd truly get over and lay to rest all my feelings around my first breastfeeding experience would be to try and succeed in breastfeeding our next baby. And so it was one of the things I was most excited about when we found out we were expecting Coralie. But of course, it was also one of the things I was most nervous about. My milk stopping after ten days with Josephine rocked me to the core. I grieved for a part of motherhood I wouldn't get to experience with her and it took me a long time to get over it.

Of course it in no way affected my relationship with Josephine, or how wonderful, healthy and intelligent she is. But it knocked me - my confidence and my self-belief. By the time Coralie was born I had come to terms with it in most ways, but I knew in my heart I wouldn't completely heal until I had succeeded in breastfeeding her. It was all about me, and knowing I had conquered this.

This time, I had prepared myself too. Not just mentally, but practically. I had tubes of Lanolin nipple cream and the most expensive nipple shields I could find at the ready, and no midwife was going to tell me not to use them this time.

Coralie's first feed was glorious. She latched right on and settled down for a 45 minute feed. I was so happy, and I honestly felt the weight of my last traumatic breastfeeding experience lift (and it really was traumatic. I don't think anyone can fully understand the disappointment and sadness that can come from wanting to breastfeed your child and not be able to unless you've been through it too). As the days went on, I started to get sore and Coralie was often so frantic about feeding that she struggled to latch on. As I tried to work out with the midwives why this was, and use different methods to ensure Coralie was latched on properly, the fear and panic of the same thing happening again set in. I was constantly messaging my best friend Laura (who had had her third baby boy, George, just 3 weeks before I had Coralie and who had also been unable to b'feed her first two boys but was now successfully breastfeeding George) asking for advice.

Around day three I pumped enough milk for Josephine and Ben to feed Coralie using a bottle and to give my sore nipples a rest and then I sterilised the nipple shields. As I went to use them for the first time, I realised they were huge (who knew they came in sizes?!) and Coralie just couldn't get any milk out with them on. I messaged Laura and she sent her husband straight over with an envelope full of different sized and shaped nipple shields that she had collected while attempting to feed her eldest, Oliver. Thank goodness for best friends (and their obliging husbands!) I found a couple that fit perfectly and got straight on to feeding Coralie.

Pain-free. Almost. I sat back, relaxed and she happily drank, drank, drank. The relief was palpable.

Within a couple of days the cracks had begun to heal and we settled into a beautiful rhythm of feeding. Coralie was going 3-4 hours between feeds and then feeding for an hour or so. She was content and happy and sleeping really well for stretches of four hours or so through the night.

And after an initial and substantial weight loss, she was putting weight on too. Despite the midwives advice against them, I felt confident in feeding with the shields - and Coralie was thriving.

Once the cracks and pain were but a distant memory, I tried the odd feed without a shield. But Coralie just couldn't get the latching on. She was frantic and impatient and when I did finally get feeding, she'd quickly pull off and we'd have to start the whole process again. It was stressful for both of us, and I felt sure the poor latch and constant coming off and on wasn't helping her Colic. It seemed like a pointless thing to do when I knew that if I popped a shield on, we'd both be happy within seconds. So I did.

And I fed Coralie with nipple shields every single feed, give or take one or two here and there, for the whole year I breastfed her. They were quick and easy to put on, small enough to carry out in their little case with no problems at all and, as we were sterilising dummies anyway, that process was no extra hassle.

I can wholly and honestly say that without nipple shields, I don't think our breastfeeding journey would have been the same. Whether or not it would have turned out the same way as Josephine's, I'm not sure - but I do know it would have been stressful and painful and could have taken away from those blissful newborn days. I loved every second of feeding Coralie. Each feed in those first months especially, healed the pain I still felt from my first breastfeeding experience. I loved that Josephine would breastfeed all her babies too, and that sometimes she'd even pretend to use a nipple shield.

I've had a few emails, and IG and blog comments, from women asking about how nervous I was about being back in that 'first time' zone. That they too had suffered similar problems with their first babies, but the idea of not knowing what to do with their second was scary. And I agree. It was, in a lot of ways. But it was still SO much easier than being a first-time Mama. I knew everything else I was doing; I knew what went wrong the first time and prepared for it to happen the second time too and most importantly, I trusted my instincts over those of a midwife I had only met five minutes ago and had the confidence to ignore their 'advice' about not using shields.

I have nothing but respect for most of the midwives we met during our pregnancy labour and post-natal period with Coralie (and midwives in general) - they were lovely and supportive and full of brilliant advice and smiles for both our children. But the breastfeeding advice in my experience still fell short, in most cases. Once again there was little preparation for anything but the ideal breastfeeding scenario, and as I got more and more sore there was little more advice than 'just keep going'. I asked about nipple shields in those first few days and was informed of only the negatives - that the baby will never take the breast again, wouldn't get the milk needed blah blah. We asked about expressing to give my boobs a rest, and give me the opportunity to sleep a little longer, but I was met with a stern 'why? It's much better to continue - battle through. There's no need to express. Your baby may not take the breast again after a bottle. She'll get confused.' I trusted my past experience, and the experience of my friends, and I ignored them. When the midwives came, I didn't feed Coralie and to all intends and purposes, kept my expressing and using nipple shields a secret.

Then, when we had our first home visit from the Health Visitor and I was feeding Coralie with shields, I was met with quite ridiculous claims about why I shouldn't be using them. Apparently Coralie would need weighing more regularly because she was likely to not put on weight as well with me using a nipple shield. Had I not been so determined to do this my way, and confident in trusting what I thought was best, I would have been floored by this. To be honest, I still was taken aback and concerned if she could be right. New mothers are so vulnerable, I think most women would have been. Despite this, I continued. 10 days later the Health Visitor popped round again and quickly had to eat her words when Coralie was weighed.

11oz gained in 10 days.

There was no fighting that, and our Health Visitor was blown away. I told her I felt that was good enough for me to carry on using the shields as and when I needed them, and she sheepishly agreed. I felt quite triumphant. But it shouldn't have taken such overwhelming proof that using nipple shields was not the negative most of the health professionals we dealt with had implied.

The reason I'm writing this post, the reason I've kept my word about putting this experience in our journal, is because I fear for those women who are getting the same advice as me and are being told the same scare stories when they bring up the possibility of using nipple shields and expressing. By no means do I think all midwives are saying these things (I know they're not - friends have had very different advice) and I understand that to an extent they're following guidelines. But surely a mother being able to breastfeed her child, by whatever means if that's what she wants, is what we should be striving for? Nipple shields and pumping, whether used for a few days or a few months, can ensure a breastfeeding journey continues when it would have otherwise been cut unnecessarily short, causing, if anything like me, so much disappointed and despair for the mother.

If we have a third baby, and I feel the need to express or use nipple shields again, I hope I have the confidence (in that haze of newborn hormones) to tell the midwives that I disagree if I'm met with the same advice; to tell them about my experience feeding Coralie and to question whether they should be saying such things. Because us Mothers need a break. We need to be supported and not shut down when we ask a question; we need to be told both sides of the story - the risks and the positives. We need to be granted the space to make the right decision for our bodies, and our babies and our families.

With regards to breast vs. bottle, and written by a mother who has fed each of her babies differently, here's my stance. There are so many positives to breastfeeding; it's free (woo!) and it's so practical - on hand, at the right temperature, ready to go as soon as you need it (particularly amazing at 3am!) but I hands down deny the assumption that you will bond better with your baby if you breastfeed. Do I have a better bond with Coralie than Josephine? Don't be ridiculous. Do I love her more? I'm mortified that anyone would ever think that - of course I don't.

The slogan of 'Breast is Best' is all well and good - and I'm most definitely an advocate of breastfeeding - but it's not that simple for so many women. If you choose to use formula, that's great. If you breastfeed with no problems at all - I'm genuinely so happy for you; you are truly lucky. But if, like me, you've struggled and fought and felt both the physical and mental pain of breastfeeding, I hope you find the support you need. And I hope that this post gives someone the confidence they needed to follow their instincts and try something different to give their breastfeeding journey the best chance it has.

Read about my first breastfeeding experience here.

Pictures taken by my lovely sister, towards the end of my breastfeeding journey with Coralie. They will be cherished forever.


  1. I often read here, but never comment, or at least not until now. I had similar problems with my oldest - lots of milk but problems with latching on. She cried, I cried...it was an emotional time. I used shields for 8 weeks with my older daughter, trying every now and then to see if she could do without out, and then one day she just did it. I was so thrilled! I ended up breastfeeding her for 2 years with no further problems. My younger daughter had no such problems, and I breastfed her for 3 1/2 years! I am happy you found a way that worked for you both. Love the photos!

  2. I think you're really courageous for persevering, Nell. Good on you! Kellie xx

  3. Breastfeeding my first child was such a stress. In his case, breast may not have been best, but I refused to quit until his first birthday. It was miserable for both of us. Unfortunately, I didn't have a steady resource, and the professionals I spoke with all gave me conflicting advice. Good for you--not only for your success in continuing and listening to your gut, but for finding a way that was joyful for you!