What is it?
Have you ever had someone recommend you use a nipple shield? It’s exactly what it sounds like: a thin, flexible silicone shield that fits over your nipple and some of your areola. Nipple shields are one tool in a lactation consultant’s toolbox for a baby with latching issues, among other things!
Mary Unangst wrote a great post discussing the use of nipple shields. Why would you use them?
Nipple shields are helpful for the baby with a tongue or lip tie (until revision) as they allow the baby to grasp the breast and actively remove milk. They are also helpful for the late preterm infant. These early babies have difficulty coordinating their suck, swallow, breathe reflexes and the shield can allow for an easier latch and therefore removal of milk. In conjunction with adjusting holds and maturation of the breastfeeding relationship while following your lactation support’s guidance, the shield can bridge the gap between challenging feed scenarios and a normalized breastfeeding process.
An IBCLC might also recommend the use of a nipple shield when an improper latch has painfully damaged the nipple(s). When I hear a mom say “I just can’t imagine putting her on the breast one more time, it hurts so bad”, then (following a comprehensive assessment) I may very well pull out a shield. Nipple shields can allow just enough relief for mom to go on breastfeeding as she simultaneously works on correcting her baby’s latch.
It’s also important to note that you should definitely consult a lactation consultant if you are using a nipple shield.
Making sure that you are followed is key:
An IBCLC (local or virtual) can also follow up frequently to monitor your baby’s weight gain while using the shield. Most importantly, an IBCLC will work with you to resolve the underlying issue so you can eventually (and hopefully quickly) go on to breastfeeding without it!
Have you ever used a nipple shield? What was your experience? Tell us in the comment section below! And thank you Mary for sharing your great words of wisdom!