Breastfeeding isn't always a smooth journey for everyone, some mothers tend to experience difficulties when feeding their little ones but it is important to remember that these difficulties are completely normal. A rough breastfeeding does not mean nursing your baby isn't for you. A common issue that often occurs when breastfeeding is getting your baby to latch on correctly. This can happen to experienced mothers as well as first time moms, so it is essential to have patience in this matter, your baby may take time to properly latch on when you breastfeed. However, there are instances where some babies struggle to latch on and a short-term solution that has been used for years to aid the process of latching, is to opt for a nipple shield instead.
What Is A Nipple Shield?
A nipple shield is a silicone "nipple" you place over your own to help your baby latch. Since these devices are soft and flexible, they will not irritate your skin nor will they move around during feedings because of the suction cup-like design. The hole in the tip of the nipple shield allows the milk to flow through into your baby's mouth.
When To Use A Nipple Shield?
Now, nipple shields are not necessary for everyone, but there are certain circumstances that may call for their use, such as:
Sore Nipples - Breastfeeding can cause sore and sensitive nipples however some mothers tend to experience more pain than usual which is most likely caused by the incorrect attachment of your baby when breastfeeding. Sore and painful nipples can make your breastfeeding journey a discouraging one so before weaning from breastfeeding because it's too uncomfortable, try to utilize nipple shields that could help your baby latch on better for the time being.
Premature Baby - A nipple shield can help a premature baby create better 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. Once your baby gains strength and skill, you can usually just wean from the nipple shield.
Flat or Inverted Nipples - If you happen to have either 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.
How To Use A Nipple Shield Properly
Nipple shields come in several different sizes depending on the diameter of your nipples. While you should consult with your baby's pediatrician or your physician on the size and which type of nipple shield is right for you, we have curated the right way to use a nipple shield.
First, you will want to moisten the edges of the nipple shield with lukewarm water to prevent it from moving. Remember not to wet the edges as this could cause the shield to slide off. Once the edges are lightly lubricated, gently turn the nipple shield inside out. Then, you will want to smooth it onto your breast, so the tip of your nipple fits into the nipple of the shield. It should be tight against your breast with your nipple extending into the tip. Squeeze some milk into the tip, or drip some milk onto the outside of the nipple shield to encourage your baby to latch on. While nursing, you can occasionally gently squeeze your breasts to encourage a good flow of milk into your baby’s mouth to keep him nursing whenever your milk flow slows down. Once you are done feeding your baby, wash the nipple shield thoroughly in hot soapy water, or in the dishwasher after each use.
These signs mean you’re using the shield correctly:
- There is no pain or a stinging sensation when your baby is feeding.
- Your baby is attached deeply onto the breast.
- The shield is not dented when your baby is latched.
- You hear and see your baby swallowing.
- Your baby is sucking and swallowing in a regular pattern.
- You can feel your milk flowing through the nipple shield.
- You see milk in the shield when your baby is finished.
- Your baby is urinating and defecating regularly.
- Your baby's appetite is regular.
- Your baby isn't hungry or crying right after feeding.
- Your baby is gaining weight.
When Should You Stop Using A Niipple Shield To Breastfeed?
Nipple shields are designed to be a temporary solution while your baby learns how to breastfeed on their own. However, some babies may use a nipple shield for the whole time they’re breastfeeding. Other babies wean off the nipple shield to bear breastfeeding. Ideally, you should wean your baby off the nipple shield by slowly introducing skin-to-skin contact with your baby or by progressively removing the shield when feeding.