Using nipple shields correctly
What to Know
- Learn when nipple shields might be necessary to support breastfeeding
- Understand why professional advice is essential
A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple designed to be worn over your nipple while breastfeeding. Nipple shields may be recommended to support initiation of breastfeeding or sustained suction during feeding for moms with flat, inverted, sore or cracked nipples or for babies who have trouble latching on, such as those with a weak suck, preemies, babies with a cleft lip or palate and babies with low muscle tone (hypotonic babies).
It’s ideal to be under the care of an expert (like your doctor or lactation specialist) when using nipple shields as there are several important factors to consider:
- Sizing – nipple shields should be sized specifically to your nipple. An ill-fitted shield will not help correct the initial problem and can even create additional problems as well as frustration for both you and your baby.
- Weaning – in most cases nipple shields are intended for temporary use. Prolonged use of shields may interfere with demand and can even result in a decrease in milk supply because your baby isn’t coming in direct contact with the breast to efficiently remove milk. Having an expert help you put a plan in place to wean your baby off of the shields is essential.
- Support – if you’re considering using a nipple shield, discuss this with your doctor or lactation specialist to be sure you are getting diagnostic guidance as well as all of the appropriate supports that make sense.
What to Do
Reach out to Happy Family Coaching or seek out a seasoned lactation consultant who can help you evaluate whatever challenges you’re experiencing and who can guide the appropriate use and fit of nipple shields should you need them.
The right lactation consultant can evaluate your needs, your baby’s latch and positioning and assess best treatment and support options. If you do need shields, the lactation consultant can also fit you properly, guide usage and help determine when you may stop using them.
Get proper latching and positioning support
A Happy Family Coach or in-person lactation consultant can help you with this.
Whether or not you’re using nipple shields, you’ll still want to practice a proper latch. Read Breastfeeding Basics 101: Learning an effective latch and Breastfeeding Basics 101: Positioning to get started.
Keep your supply up
Because using a nipple shield may interfere with milk supply, it might be necessary to pump in addition to breastfeeding so that you can maintain your milk supply until your baby has been weaned from the shield.
See Breastfeeding Basics 101: Supporting adequate milk production and talk with a Happy Family Coach about ways to keep your supply up.