Helping Breastfeeding Mothers Overcome Challenges with Nipple Shields

Nipple nursing shields are breastfeeding accessories that are comprised of ultra-thin, soft and clear silicone that rests over the mother’s nipple when placed against her breast. They feature holes at the tip, so milk can easily flow through to a baby’s mouth.

Our lactation consultant team encourages breastfeeding mothers who are struggling with challenges to try nipple shields. We are here to help you use this accessory to your advantage.

What are Nipple Shields?

Used appropriately, nipple shields may be useful for some mothers and babies. Contact a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider before using a nipple shield to determine if a nipple shield would be helpful and to determine the correct size nipple shield for you and your baby. Your baby’s weight gain should be checked often because there is a risk of decreased milk supply when using a nipple nursing shield.

How to Use a Nipple Shield

  • Begin by washing your hands.
  • Apply the clean shield by turning it almost inside out and then roll it back onto the breast.
  • Moisten the edges of the nipple shield with water to help the shield cling to your breast.
  • Use your hands to express a little breast milk into the nipple shield.
  • Try dripping some expressed breast milk onto the outside of the nipple shield.
  • Your baby’s breastfeeding latch should be deep onto the breast, not just onto the tip of the shield.
  • Your baby’s top and bottom lips should be flanged outward (like “fish lips”).
  • Your baby should be actively sucking. You should be able to hear and see your baby swallowing.
  • You may feel a tugging sensation but feeding should be comfortable.
  • Massage your breast during feeding to help drain the breast.
  • Your nipple should look round after the feeding.
  • At the end of the feeding, you should see breast milk in the shield when baby pulls off.

How to Clean the Nipple Nursing Shield

  • Wash the shield with hot soapy water and rinse well after each use. Follow package directions if you need to sanitize your shield by boiling.
  • Weaning your baby from the nipple shield:
    • When you and your baby are ready to stop using a shield, place baby skin to skin with you and start feeding with the nipple shield on. Remove the shield when you hear your baby swallowing at the breast. Then allow your baby to latch without the shield.
    • Try starting feedings without the nipple shield.
    • Some mothers find their baby will latch without the shield when their baby is sleepy or between feedings.
    • Never cut the nipple shield to make it smaller.

When using a nipple shield remember:

  • Have your baby’s weight checked often by your baby’s healthcare provider to be sure baby is gaining weight approximately.
  • Keep your nipple shield very clean to help reduce the risk of breast infection
  • Mom may need to use an electric breast pump to help establish and protect her milk supply.

Talk to a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your milk production or baby’s latch when using the shield.

Sources:

Wambach, Karen and Riordan, Jan “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation,” Fifth edition, Jones & Bartlett, 2016.