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Breastfeeding Magazine

Using a Nipple Shield – How, When And Which Ones Are Best


How and When to Use a Nipple ShieldWhat is a Nipple Shield?


It is a guard that is placed over the moms’s breast when she is feeding her baby. These devices have been around since the 1950’s, and have been made of many different materials, including lead, wood, or wax, with the current shields being manufacturing using rubber or silicone.

While you are get them from some local pharmacies, it is best to receive one along with proper instruction on how to use one from a lactation specialist.

When to Use a Them

Nipples sheilds for breastfeeding

A shield may be used for a variety of reasons. The most common use for one is if the mother has large nipples or for a premature baby who has a small mouth and jaw, both of which can lead to problems with the baby latching on correctly at feeding times. They can also assist with sore nipples, as the infant will attach to the silicone nipple rather than directly to the mother’s breast.

If you feel the need to use one, it is recommended that you only use it for the first few minutes of the breastfeeding session. The baby shouldn’t be exposed to it for more than 5 minutes.

Give the baby time to latch on (no more than 5 minutes should be needed), and then quickly remove it by sliding it from in between the breast and the child’s mouth. These shields are designed for short term use only, and the baby will need to be weaned from it as soon as possible to prevent long term problems with lactation and feeding.

Problems with Using Nipple Shields

Among the biggest problems with using a shield when breastfeeding is the incorrect use of the device. If not placed precisely in the correct position, the baby may not learn to latch on right.

The amount of milk the baby gets can also be restricted, which can be harmful for the mom. This is because the breast isn’t directly stimulated to signal the need for milk flow. Mastitis and plugged milk ducts can result because breasts are not emptied properly each time you breastfeed.

What Type are Best?

Medela nipple shieldsThe thinnest silicone open version that you can find will be the most effective for your needs. We prefer Medela shields because of the open area that always for maximum contact and more effective milk flow, benefiting both you and the baby.

Shields which are small in size work well because they allow for more skin to skin contact. Do not attempt to use a baby bottle nipple as a shield, as it is ineffective in both helping the child to latch on and allowing better milk transfer.

Weaning from a Nipple Shield

Weaning from them can also be difficult. This is especially true if it has been used longer than the initial five minutes for each feeding, or is used for an extended period of time. The longer the nipple shield is used, the harder it will be to wean an infant from it.

It is important to keep in mind the need to quickly wean an infant from a nipple shield when you first begin to use one. This will make the weaning process a lot quicker. Creating a situation that will make it quick and easy for a baby to learn to latch on will shorten the process and will make for a smoother transition from shield to breast.


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A nipple shield can help!  Learn how, why and when to use them.