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!
Melissa Beck is a pregnant wife and stay-at-home to two little ladies on Long Island. She was on a vintage season of MTV’s Real World you probably forgot about. She later went on to host Oxygen’s Girls Behaving Badly – not be confused with Girls Gone Wild or Bad Girls Club. Her interests include Hello Kitty, Glassjaw and normalizing breastfeeding in public. Melissa can be followed on Twitter @melissabeck.
What are the two or three things you would love for every mom considering breastfeeding to know?
Despite my overly enthusiastic stance on the power of, value of, beauty of, naturalness of breastfeeding, I have also learned that if a mom just TRIES it for one day, even an hour after delivering her baby, she’s done a great thing for herself and for her baby. To not try and to dismiss it altogether is where, even if I have no right to feel this way, I feel sad and bad. If it’s not for you, that’s fine. But try it. That first colostrum is invaluable to baby’s health. And we teach our children every day “how do you know you don’t like it if you didn’t try it?” and yet grown people don’t try it. I don’t understand that! So that’s number one. Don’t beat yourself up if you only made it three months, two weeks, two days, one hour. YOU TRIED and that’s a goal in and of itself.
Secondly, it can and does hurt. Don’t go into nursing believing if the latch feels weird, it’s wrong and your nipples are wrong and your baby hates you and your body is incompetent and wrong wrong wrong. No. They can write 10,000 books on the proper latch and you know what? The proper one FOR YOU might be the weird one you invented along with your baby. It’s a learning experience for YOU and BABY. She just got here. All she knows is her mouth. To cry, to nurse, to explore. What works for her will be what works for you.
With Shalom, she was so small and my letdown was so forceful at first, I had to prop her up on a knee and have her sit at my boob like she was a table with a knife and fork. And she’d, head on, just suckle. Sitting upright. I looked crazy. I didn’t see that position in any book. But it worked for us until her body grew, my confidence grew and my milk chilled out and understood when she and I wanted it to come around. And again, with Maja and her complications and misadventures. That was just a whole lot of trial and error. But we managed because she wanted the milk and I wanted to get it into her body somehow some way.
3. Be Strong (Like We Know You Are!)
Third, you might be a shy person or a quiet person. Or a non boat rocker. But let me tell you something. Any person who actively tries to discourage you from nursing in general or in public is a troglodyte. Do not ever let someone take this experience away from you because of how he/she immaturely feels about it. Breastfeeding is natural. It’s normal. It’s what your boobs are for. And for as long as that exists, no one, not your partner, not your pediatrician, not your neighbor, not your friends who prefer to bottle-feed, not your mother-in-law — NO ONE has the right to make you feel uncomfortable about your decision to breastfeed. So don’t you ever let anyone discourage you. And if they do, hit me up on Twitter. Nothing pleases me more than shutting a ridiculous, uninformed person down. I will help you!
What are your future plans in the lactation world, if any? (Peer support roles, volunteering, pursuing IBCLC certification.)
After my experience with Maja, I got even more involved in the academia of breastfeeding. The educational side of it. I even opened up my DMs for other new moms wanting to try it out. I felt like my approach to offering advice and help was both thorough and approachable. And mostly honest. So I wanted to explore becoming an LC. AND I STILL DO. And now that I’m pregnant AGAIN I have another round of nursing to hone my skills — breastfeeding itself, researching, listening, offering help. So it’s on a horizon. I truly care about breastfeeding. I had no idea it would or could become a “passion” or that I’d be “one of those moms” given that yes we have iPads and yes we eat Happy Meals occasionally and yes we take our kids to restaurants past 8 pm, but here I am crunchy as can be in my own co-sleeping, helicopter parenting way. And my breastfeeding experiences have informed a lot of how I feel about parenting in general. Basically, love the shit out of your kids by trying your hardest at everything. And that for me, started with nursing.
Thank you! XO