What is a nipple shield?
A nipple shield is a thin, clear, silicone nipple that is placed over mom’s own nipple to facilitate latch. Contact nipple shields are manufactured with a cut-away section so that baby can smell mom, and mom gets more skin-to-skin stimulation from baby. The nipple shield is typically a short-term solution, though some women have successfully breastfed for an extended period using it.
When is a nipple shield needed?
- If your baby is premature
- If your baby has trouble staying latched or has a weak suck
- If your baby refuses to latch to the breast
- If your baby is tongue tied
- If you have inverted nipples, or if your nipples are soft and flat.
If your baby has had supplements of expressed breastmilk or formula by bottle, this can cause nipple preference, and baby may have trouble latching to the breast. A nipple shield can preserve at-breast feeding in this case.
A nipple shield is not recommended as a solution for nipple soreness.
What are the pros of nipple shield use?
If your baby won’t latch without it, then the nipple shield is a good thing. It’s preserving breastfeeding for you and your baby. One study showed that 88% of mothers reported that nipple shields helped sustain breastfeeding for them.
What are the cons of nipple shield use?
Your baby may not transfer as much milk with the nipple shield, putting him at risk for slow weight gain and putting you at risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. As your baby nurses listen and watch for frequent swallowing. If your baby sucks 3 or more times for every swallow, he’s likely not getting enough milk. If you notice this, be sure your baby is getting the deepest latch possible, and start pumping after feedings at the breast, feeding this milk to your baby right away. Then work with a lactation consultant to improve feedings, even if you still need to use the nipple shield. Keep an eye on your baby’s wet and dirty diapers during this time (making sure he has at least 5 wet diapers and at least 4 bowel movements each day) to be sure he is getting enough.
Your breasts won’t be getting the same type of stimulation as they would if your baby was skin-to-skin with you, and your milk supply could decrease as a result. You can pump after feedings to protect your supply, though once your supply is well-established and baby is gaining weight you won’t need to pump anymore.
How do I get rid of the nipple shield?
Try to notice if there are certain times of day or positions when the baby seems more receptive and build on those.
- Spend time skin-to-skin and allow your baby to try to latch without the shield when he shows hunger cues.
- Start a feeding with the shield, and when your baby pauses try to slip the shield off and re-latch.
- Pump for a few minutes before attempting to latch (which will get the milk flowing and help the nipple to stand out).
- Let your baby suck on a clean finger before latching, teaching him to keep his tongue down and forward.
- Try nursing in a different position, or even while in motion.
- Drip milk on your nipple as baby is trying to latch.
- Make a “breast sandwich” by holding your breast firmly about 1 1/2 inches from the base of your nipple (usually at the edge of the areola just past where your baby’s lips will be) which makes a firm surface for baby to latch onto. You should flatten the breast parallel to baby’s mouth opening.
- Apply ice to your nipple before feeding to harden it.
- Offer the breast without the nipple shield when baby is sleepy or drowsy.
- Nurse with the shield on the first side, then try on the second breast without it.