What About Nipple Shields?
What are they?
Nipple shields are a breastfeeding tool made from silicone. They are applied over the parent’s nipple during feedings. In the tip of the nipple shield, there are holes where the milk can exit. Used correctly, they can be a useful tool. There are some very strong feelings about the use of them. Thus, SimpliFed is here to lay out the information for you to make an informed decision.
What Do You Use Them For?
- Flat or inverted nipples
- Premature babies
- Oral restrictions such as tongue or lip ties
- Down syndrome or low tone babies
- Damaged or painful nipples
- When breastfeeding is painful
- Transition from bottle to breast
- Slow milk flow at breast1
What Are the Risks of Using Nipple Shields?
As stated above, the use of nipple shields is a hot topic. There are risks involved with the use of nipple shields. However, balance risks by the fact that when used in conjunction with lactation support, nipple shields can salvage a breastfeeding journey in jeopardy. Using a nipple shield can also increase the likelihood of nipple preference. They can be very difficult to wean off of for this reason.
Nipple shields also create a barrier between the baby and the breast, decreasing sucking stimulation. In turn causing ineffective milk transfer and possible reduction of breastmilk supply. Again, the shields are best used with the supervision of a lactation professional. Working with a lactation professional while using a nipple shield (should you choose to), also helps to make sure that the nipple shield does not continue to mask a bigger issue. Challenges such as latch issues are sometimes corrected without the use of a nipple shield.2 At risk of sounding like a broken record, when you are considering using a nipple shield, PLEASE reach out to a lactation professional, or text us at 888-458-1364.
- When used with supervision of LC, nipples shields can extend breastfeeding period when weaning is in jeopardy
- Can help the healing process for damaged nipples
- Could cause nipple preference
- Difficult to wean off of
- Decreased stimulation at the breast possibly leading to milk transfer issues
- Difficult to keep clean
Using a Nipple Shield
When using a nipple shield, a few things to consider when selecting one: material and size. Just like a pump flange, sizing nipple shields is important. Remember, only use silicone nipple shields.2 Once you have a shield that is the correct size, actually putting the nipple shield on can be a little tricky.
Some tips- wetting the edges of the shield may help with “adhere” or suction it to the breast.2 As well as inverting it to the point that it is almost turned inside out and applying it centered over the nipple will help with a secure fit.2 You can check out the steps here!1 It's best to clean nipple shields after every use to avoid bacterial growth.2 It is easy to misplace nipple shields because they are clear, so make sure after use you have a special place to keep them after you clean them!3
Can Using a Nipple Shield Benefit Me?
Every nursing experience is different, so there is no black and white answer for this question. However, used in the correct manner, nipple shields can be a tool to help keep a nursing journey going. Though for some people it may be more tedious and stressful to use. You and your lactation support person can devise a plan to best suit you and your baby’s needs.2
- Lactation Education Resources. (2021). Information for breastfeeding families Using a Nipple Shield. Handouts for parents. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.lactationtraining.com/resources/educational-materials/handouts-parents?task=document.viewdoc&id=1
- Lauwers, J., & Swisher, A. (2016). Counseling the nursing mother: A lactation consultant's guide (6th ed.). Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The Breastfeeding Atlas (6th ed.). LactNews Press.