Nipple Shield

What is a nipple shield?

A nipple shield is worn over the areola and nipple during breastfeeding. Nowadays nipple shields are made from soft, thin, flexible silicone, where before they were made from thick latex, which often caused more breastfeeding problems than it solved. Breast shields come a long way; 17th-century shields were made of pewter!

Nipple shields are also sometimes referred to as "breast shields" or "breastfeeding shields."

Breast shells are sometimes confused with breast shields, but breast shells are used to prepare your nipples before breastfeeding and shields are used during breastfeeding.

Mothers should try working on getting a proper latch, before resorting to artificial nipples and shields. Mothers should wait for their milk to “come in," as most babies will take to the breast when the milk starts to flow. 

A mother may decide to express her milk and feed her baby via a cup or syringe until all breastfeeding problems are solved.

baby breastfeeding, breastfeeding picture, baby, sweet baby

Reasons why Some Mothers Might Need Nipple Shields

  • Inverted nipples correction. A breastfeeding shield will draw out the nipple, with the suction created when the baby sucks. A breastfeeding shield will also provide sensation deep inside a baby’s mouth, which will encourage the baby to keep sucking. After a while, a mother's nipples will become more pliable, and the shield won't be needed anymore. A list of other nipple variations that may cause problems while breastfeeding. 
  • Premature infants sometimes experience problems latching on, a shield can make this a little easier for some babies. Research shows that premature infants have better weight gain when nipple shields are used.
  • When a baby has a nipple preference, a shield can sometimes help the transition from bottle to breast. 
  • Mothers with painful nipples can use a shield until the nipples have healed.
  • Mothers who have eczema of the nipples and areola.
  • Mother's nipples are too large. Using a nipple shield can sometimes give a baby something smaller to grasp onto. This will prevent some nipple pain.
newborn baby nursing, newborn breast feeding

A Good Latch with a Nursing Shield

  • A latch with a nipple shield should look the same as a normal latch, with a baby’s mouth wide open and a large part of the mother’s areola inside the baby’s mouth. If the baby is only sucking the nipple, the milk will stop flowing.

Cleaning Nipple Shields

  • Wash in hot soapy water and rinse after every use.
  • Some mothers like to boil it at least once daily.

Keeping Your Milk Supply Up when Using a Nipple Shield

  • You will need to pump after every breastfeeding session, to make sure that your breasts are drained sufficiently. The emptier your breasts are after a feeding, the more milk you will produce. Electric double action pumps are the best to use.
  • Pumping after feedings will also prevent mastitis.
  • Count your baby’s diapers, to make sure that he/she is drinking enough and keep an eye on weight gain. 

Infant weight guidelines.

Infant stool and urine guidelines. 

How to Use Breast Shields for Breastfeeding

  • To ensure that milk flows smoothly while breastfeeding, express some milk before putting the shield on.
  • Rinse the shield with warm water, to soften it and to make it a little easier to use.
  • Put the shield on your nipple with the edges of the shield turned up, moisten the edges with some breast milk and smooth them down.
  • Some breast milk can be applied on the outside of the shield, to encourage the baby to suck.
  • Make sure that your baby is sucking and swallowing.
  • NB: Never use cracked or broken nipple shields, they can hurt your baby’s mouth.

Signs that You are Using the Shield Correctly

  • The baby’s nose and chin should touch your breast.
  • The baby’s top and bottom lips should be flanged outwards.
  • The mother is not in pain.
  • The baby can be seen and heard swallowing.

Weaning the Baby from Breastfeeding Shields

  • Your ultimate goal should be to get your baby to breastfeed without a shield. You should keep checking if your baby can breastfeed without the shield. The reason for this is that your breasts will not be receiving the stimulation it should for proper milk supply increases.
  • Pump a few seconds before trying your own nipple, as this will elongate your nipple and make breastfeeding easier. A Lansinoh LatchAssist is a small device that can easily elongate the nipple, just before a nursing session. 
  • Feed your baby before he/she gets hungry and impatient
  • Put some expressed breast milk on your nipple to encourage your baby to drink directly from the breast. 
  • While using the shield, after letdown has occurred, try removing the shield and then see if your baby will drink.
  • NB: never cut a hole in the shield, as this could hurt your baby’s mouth.

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