What are nipple shields?
People often leave out the harsh truths about breastfeeding when discussing the topic. There is so much out there about the bonding experience, but realities like clogged milk ducts, chafed nipples and latching problems are often left out of the conversation.
A nipple shield is a thin piece of silicone that is used to cover the nipple while breastfeeding and is typically used as a barrier to shield your nipples from pain during breastfeeding. There are also other reasons like a flat nipple, difficulty with latching or sensitive nipples that require the use of nipple shields.
Benefits of Nipple Shields
While it is not a necessity to wear a nipple shield during breastfeeding, the devices come with certain advantages of their own. And because the texture is as close to a real nipple as possible, using them has its list of conveniences:
- Babies with complications - A premature baby or one with a tongue-tie can experience difficulty latching. A nipple shield can work as breastfeeding training equipment and help your baby to learn how to latch on properly. You can discontinue the use of nipple shields once they learn how to latch.
- Damaged nipples - Breastfeeding can leave the nipples cracked, bleeding and even sore. But, if you’re not ready to start bottle feeding, you can use nipple shields to take some of the pressure off of your nipples.
Flat nipples - Flat nipples make it difficult for the baby to draw milk and a nipple shield can help in those situations.
Drawbacks of Nipple Shields
Along with the advantages, nipple shields also come with a few drawbacks that you may want to consider:
- Refusing to go back - Babies can get so used to the texture of nipple shields, that when you stop using them, they may not want to go back to the real thing. Even though it can be heartbreaking, do not take it personally and give your baby a little time to adjust to your real nipples.
- Difficulty in drawing milk - Some babies face difficulties in drawing out milk through a nipple shield, leaving them hungry. You may have to resort to bottle feeding at times in those cases.
- A decline in milk supply - If your baby is not able to suck out enough milk, your milk supply will start declining, leading you to get them used to a bottle before you’re ready.
Difficulty breastfeeding in public - A nipple shield needs to be put on before you start breastfeeding and this can make it trickier to work around in public places.
Is there a perfect type and size?
Like boobs and nipples come in different sizes, so do nipple shields and it is not easy to find one that suits both you and your baby. As your baby grows, they will need different sizes to efficiently suck out milk.
You should consult a lactation counsellor or pediatrician to find the right fit for you that will ensure the best flow of milk while reducing pain and friction.
How do you use Nipple Shield?
Using a nipple shield is fairly simple if you follow these basic steps:
- Run the shield under warm water so that it becomes sufficiently wet.
- Place the item on your breast while making sure that your nipple and areola fit inside the raised portion.
- Hold the shield in place and bring your baby’s mouth towards your breast while helping them to latch on.
These are usually designed as temporary solutions and so, once your baby gets used to latching on or your nipples heal, try and discontinue their use.
It’s important to clean the nipple shields after each use with hot water and soap.
- It gets difficult to gauge the amount of milk your baby is getting when you have a nipple shield on. So, look out for any signs of fussiness, which can indicate that they are not getting enough milk.
- Weigh your baby at intervals to ensure that they are not losing weight due to a low milk supply.
- Watch out for a decrease in poop or pee in your baby, which can indicate that they are not getting sufficient milk. You may have to alternate between breastfeeding and bottle feeding in that case.
How do you wean a baby off of it?
Sometimes, a baby may get so attached to the nipple shield that they will have difficulty transitioning to bare breasts. In that case, you may want to alternate between feeding with a nipple shield on and then trying to use your bare breasts.
Subsequently, so as not to form a habit, you may want to use the nipple shield inconsistently where you use it for some days and then go a few without. Also, as a method of weaning off when your baby is too attached to it, you can start by using the nipple shield and then quickly remove it while feeding as a way of tricking them into getting used to raw nipples.