When to Consider Nipple Shields for Nursing
Nipple shields are intended for moms who are experiencing serious latch problems and should be used temporarily under the guidance of a Lactation Professional (find one in your area here).
Breastfeeding moms in the following situations may benefit from the use of a nipple shield:
Breastfeeding a 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 afterwards. This makes it easy for your baby to return to your 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 off the nipple shield.
Moms with Flat or Inverted Nipples
If you have flat or inverted nipples, your baby may struggle to latch on. The nipple shield is shaped like an extended nipple, and gives the baby a larger area to latch onto. Feeding through the shield helps draw the nipple out, to make it easier for baby to latch onto the breast.
Using a Nipple Shield with Guidance
It’s important to always use nipple shields for nursing under the care and advice of a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She will work closely with you to make sure it’s being properly placed on your nipple and used correctly. Your LC may also recommend that while using nipple shields while nursing, you pump frequently with a hospital-grade (multi-user) double electric breast pump to initiate and build your milk supply.
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 and other situations take a bit longer. Work with the lactation professional at your hospital, and your pediatrician for proper follow-up care to make sure your baby is gaining weight.