Nipple Shields for Nursing: When & Why To Use Them

If your baby is having problems latching, nipple shields may give temporary help. Find out who should use nipple shields, how to use them, nipple shield sizing, and more.

Nipple Shield Breastfeeding

Nipple shields are intended for moms who are experiencing serious latch problems and should be used temporarily under the guidance of a lactation professional in your area. If you're experiencing nipple pain because your baby isn't latching properly, it may be time to try nipple shield breastfeeding. 

How to Use Nipple Shields

Your lactation consultant can help you the first time you use a nipple shield to breastfeed your baby and will guide you step-by-step through fitting your nipple shield and using it while nursing your little one. Keep in mind that nipple shields are not recommended for the entire feeding unless your healthcare professional explicitly recommends it. Instead, begin nursing your baby with the shield in place for a few minutes and then remove the shield to try latching your little one directly onto your breast. 

Who Should Use Nipple Shields?

Nipple shields are not necessary for everyone, but there are certain circumstances that may call for their use, including:

Nipple Shield for Sore Nipples

Nipple pain can make the breastfeeding journey challenging. The last thing we want is for you to get discouraged, mama! Before weaning from breastfeeding because it's too uncomfortable, try working with a lactation consultant to utilize nipple shields and help ensure your baby is latching properly. This may help minimize nipple pain. 

Premature Baby

A nipple shield can help a preemie create suction and position the nipple in a way they may not yet be strong enough to do themselves. The shield holds the nipple in an extended position, ideal for breastfeeding, and allows your baby to pause and breathe without having to reposition afterward. This makes it easy for your baby to return to the breast and feed effectively. In fact, research shows that milk consumption increases when a nipple shield is used with premature babies. Once your baby gains strength and skill, you can usually wean from the nipple shield. 

Flat or Inverted Nipples

If you have flat or inverted nipples, your baby may struggle to latch. The nipple shield is shaped like an extended nipple and gives your baby a larger area to latch onto. Feeding through the shield helps draw the nipple out while making it easier for your little one to latch onto your breast. 

Getting Started Using Nipple Shields

Remember, nipple shields are a temporary way to help your little one learn to latch properly and breastfeed effectively. Because the shield is firm, it stimulates the roof of your baby's mouth - which encourages improved suckling. 

Lactation Consultant

It's important to always use nipple shields for nursing under the care and advise of a board-certified lactation consultant. They will work closely with you to ensure the nipple shield is being properly placed and used correctly. Your LC may also recommend that while you are using nipple shields with your baby, you also pump frequently with a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump to initiate and build your milk supply. 

Nipple Shield Sizing

Choosing the right size nipple shield is important when using while breastfeeding. Be sure to consult with a lactation professional for help determining the proper size nipple shield for you and your baby.

Learning to breastfeed with a nipple shield should be a temporary solution to your baby’s latching issues. As your baby gains strength and becomes able to latch and feed without assistance, you can put the nipple shield away. It’s hard to predict how long this process will take. Sometimes it resolves quickly, while other situations take a bit longer. Work with the lactation professional at your hospital, as well as your pediatrician, for proper follow-up care to make sure your baby is gaining weight.


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