It’s common for babies to have attachment issues when breastfeeding. You may be recommended to use a nipple shield or heard other moms talking about them. Made from a soft, flexible silicone, a nipple shield fits over the top of your nipple as your baby feeds. They’ve had a bad reputation in the past, so it can be confusing to know whether you should use them or not you. We’ve developed this guide for you to learn everything you need to know about using nipple shields when breastfeeding.
Ultimate Guide to Using Nipple Shields
In this guide we’ll discuss:
- How nipple shields work
- Who should use nipple shields
- Types of nipple shield
- Best nipple shield reviews
- How to Use a nipple shield
- Weaning from a nipple shield
- Benefits of nipple shields
- Disadvantages of nipple shields
There is a lot of information to take in, so pin or bookmark this article for later refrence. Let’s get started.
How Nipple Shields Work
Nipple shields work in a few different ways, including:
Forming the nipple
Nipple shields are placed over the nipple, which is pulled down the shield teat as baby sucks. This is particularly useful for issues when the nipple cannot be physically pulled forward by your baby.
Positioning it correct
The length of a nipple shield helps to position in baby’s mouth. The ideal area is at the soft part of the roof of baby’s mouth. This stimulates baby to suckle better. Premature babies often benefit from using nipple shields.
The silicone gives your baby a firmer surface to grip onto than soft breast tissue. This gives your baby’s tongue more stimulation to suck.
Create a barrier
There are many breastfeeding issues, which can cause sore nipples. Shields will not resolve the problem causing your sore nipples. Even if they can be used for short-term to feed until you find a solution for your problem, and you can face breastfeeding without them.
The barrier between nipple and teat can help to control your milk flow into baby’s mouth. This is ideal when your baby cannot cope with fast milk flow or have issues coordinating suck and swallow.
Who should use nipple shields?
If other strategies don’t work to resolve breastfeeding issues, nipple shields can be helpful for the following feeding issues:
- Babies struggling the latch on
- Babies with a weak suck
- Baby Tongue Issues such as tongue thrust or retracted tongue
- Baby with Neurological problems
- Flat or inverted nipples
- Nipple-teat confusion
- Over-active Let Down
- Teething Baby
Types of Nipple Shield
There are two basic types of nipple shields you can buy. Let’s look into the differences between them so you know which one is right for you.
This type of shield had a thin circular base with a thicker protruding middle. They remind me of a tiny little clear sombrero hat. This type of shield is better for women with larger nipples and breasts as the base gets a full grip of the breast. They are also preferred by women with flat or inverted nipples as it gives an area of suction as baby feeds.
The contact nipple is similar to a circular shield with a dipped cut out area. The missing part of the nipple is intended for baby’s nose to touch the breast as they feed. This gives you and baby skin-to skin during a feed, and prevents the shield curling back over your baby’s nose.
Best Nipple Shield Reviews
You’ll find lots of nipple shields available to buy. Finding the right one can be a bit of information overload. You may have to opt for a system of trial and error to find the perfect one for you and baby. To get you started, we’ve selected our top 3 favourite nipple shields, check them out.
Medela Contact Shield
The Medela contact shields are by far the most popular nipple shields to buy. The silicone is very thin and allows for excellent attachment to the breast. The cut out gives plenty of space for baby to get a good area of skin to skin hen feeding. The base is quite large compared with other brands, so they are more suited to women with larger breast for better fit. You only get one shield per pack, you’ll need to buy two if you want to have a spare, or feed multiples. We found that the base of the contact shield tend to flip over which can be annoying to fix. The Medela circular nipple shields are better at stopping this happening, if this is a deal breaker for you.
Lansinoh Contact Shield
The Lansinoh contact shields are a great alternative to the Medela shields. You get two in a pack for the same price as one Medela shield. Plus they come in a handy storage box, making them really portable. These are particularly good for a fast let down, as the holds are slightly smaller than the Medela shields. Although this may be more frustrating for a baby who has a weak suck. The material is very thin and easy to apply to the nipple. The shield bases are smaller in size that the Medela shields and better for small to medium breasts.
Purifyou Nipple Shield
The Purifyou Nipple shields are a great money saving alternative. The pack comes with 3 shields and a little cotton bag to store them. We highly recommend these shields if you have a small breast. They are a lot narrower than the Medlea or Lansinoh shields. This also makes them a lot easier to use for premature babies who have suck or attachment issues. These shields are very soft, easy to apply and thin enough to allow good breast stimulation during a feed.
How to Use a Nipple Shield
Before using a nipple shield we recommend having a consultation with a lactation specialist. They can show you strategies to try before opting to use a nipple shield.
To get the best use of a nipple shield you need to know how to use them properly.
Correct Fit for Baby
Before you use the nipple shield, it must be the right size for your baby’s mouth. A shield that is too long will cause baby to gag when feeding. One that is too short will not position the nipple right for a good suckling. The best way to measure this is to let your baby suck on a clean finger. Position it into baby’s mouth and run it along the roof. Stop once you reach the part where it changes from hard to soft. Mark the length on your finger and measure it. This is the ideal length of the nipple shield for your baby.
Correct Fit for Breast
The nipple shield should also be the correct size for your nipple. The problem usually occurs when you need a small teat for baby but larger or your nipples size. Measure your nipple across the diameter to find your correct size. A regular size of shield is 24mm; however, some brands such as Medela make various sizes.
Some moms simply put the nipple shield directly over the nipple and hold the edges in pace as baby feeds. For a more secure fit try folding over the base, positioning the teat part over the nipple, then smoothing down the edges over your breast. Another tip is to turn the teat hallway inside out and place over the nipple. As the teat flip back to its shape your nipple is pulled upwards into the teat by suction.
To keep the base in place, you can use warm water, breast milk or nipple cream. This helps the base edges stick to your breast skin and stops the sides rolling over as baby feeds.
Checking for good attachment is essential to get the best use of a nipple shield. The baby should have a large open mouth and take the shield teat right to the back of their mouth. If you see any of the teat part of the shield your baby isn’t on properly. A well-attached baby should make swallowing noises (not clicking sounds), and your breast should begin to soften as they feed. We recommend having a lactation expert observe you feeding baby with the shield on.
It’s recommended you regularly monitor your baby’s weight and diaper output for signs they are feeding well with the shield. You may want to express any excess milk from your breasts after feeding with a nipple shield. This means you can keep your supply high, as it can take a slight drop when you switch to shields. You’ll also have a supply of breast milk to supplement this with if they are not breastfeeding properly with the shield and losing weight.
Just like any breastfeeding product you need to keep nipple shields clean and sterile for baby. The shield is going into their mouth make it an easy way in for any lurking bacteria. A good rinse in soapy water will remove the milk, then sterilize the shield for any babies under 6 months old. Sterilizing a shield is the only way to completely kill any traces of fungal yeast causing breastfeeding thrush.
Length of use
Your baby should use the shield as long as it is helping them to feed effectively. This may be only for a few days, weeks or sometimes months. It will vary depending on whether the initial problem has resolved or not.
A premature baby should be encouraged to use a nipple shield as long as needed. Ideally, they should begin to feed well at the breast without one when they get to their corrected age at 40 weeks. This is a good time to think about weaning baby from the shield.
Weaning from a Nipple Shield
The success of weaning your baby from the nipple shield will depend on whether the initial problem has resolved. Your issue may resolve simply by baby get older, stronger and more experienced at feeding. Here are our tips to wean your baby from a nipple shield.
- If you feel baby is ready start a feed with baby on the shield. Stop a few minutes after your milk ‘lets down’, then try baby on the breast without the shield.
- You can also try switch nursing. This is when you feed baby at one breast with the shield, then swap them to the other breast without the shield.
- Try nipple stimulation or cold therapy (ice or cold compress) to extract the nipple just before baby tries to feed.
- Try baby in different positions to see if they feed better without using the shield. This is ideal once you feel more confident with breastfeeding and holding your baby.
- Make sure your baby is relaxed and not aggravated and hungry for a feed. This will cause you both to stress and likely fail.
- If baby does not take the breast at all, it is unlikely the initial feeding issues have resolved.
- Try offering baby breast without the shield every few days.
- Do not follow old fashioned advice of cutting off the end of the shield teat. This can cause a sharp edge and lead to damage in baby’s mouth.
- Be patient. If your baby is feeding well and your milk supply is good, there is no need to rush to stop using a nipple shield.
Benefits of Nipple Shields
These are some amazing benefits that nipple shields can offer you and baby:
When you’ve tried everything to resolve your feeding issues, they can save to giving up. Regardless of any advice, it’s better to have a baby who feds well with a shield than not at all. That can save you a lot of guilt down the road, about giving up of breastfeeding.
Baby still suckles
There are so many benefits of suckling for a baby. First off, it helps to comfort baby. It also helps to develop their jaws and facial muscles. Feeding baby by a bottle uses a different suckling technique to breastfeeding. This makes it easier to wean baby from a shield than to switch them between breast and bottle.
Skin to skin
Your baby still gets all the bonding benefits of breastfeeding. The release of oxytocin has huge befits for you and baby. Contact nipple shields with cut out areas try to help offer you and baby a bit more skin to skin when feeding.
Avoid alternative feeding methods
If you decide to give baby expressed milk you need to consider how you’ll feed it to baby. You can cup feed of use a supplemental nurser; however, these may not be suitable for baby. Bottles are an alternative feeding method, but may lead to more issues when you try to get baby back onto the breast.
Premature babies often struggle to breastfeed as they have immature suck reflex. As they grow a nipple shield is highly beneficial to help them on the path to breastfeeding without assistance. Studies have shown that premature babies who use nipple shields tend to take in more milk than those who don’t.
Disadvantages of Nipple Shields
It’s important for you to know about the drawbacks of using nipple shields.
Reduced milk supply
Nipple shields are still associated with a reduced milk supply. Thin, flexible, modern nipple shields are a far cry from the old thick rubber ones which really affect your supply. The issue remains that there is a barrier to your baby suckling on your skin. This is an important factor in milk production. Many moms still make a good milk supply, but do be aware that it can cause a drop. That’s not ideal if you already have issues with low milk supply.
Some babies take a real shine to the nipple shield and refuse to wean. That means you might have to use it for the whole duration of breastfeeding. If your baby is gaining weight, developing and has good diaper output, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
Remember that nipple shields are only a temporary situation to some problems. Issues such as sore nipples will not be resolved unless you find the root of the problem. This means that one you stop using the shield the same issues may happen again.
Nipple shields are not suitable for every mom and baby. If your baby requires a small teat size, but you have a large nipple, it can be almost impossible to find the tight fit. In this case, a nipple shield is unsuitable for you.
Have you used a nipple shield? Let us know what your thoughts are below.