Breastfeeding can seem like a daunting challenge for a new mom. You’ve done the classes and web searches. Still, nothing truly prepares you for the first time you breastfeed your new baby. As with any new experience, it can take time for both you and baby to get into your flow. A nipple shield is a fantastic tool for easing both a mom and baby into a comfortable routine.
When I had my son, I was so excited at the idea of breastfeeding. Then, the nurse first handed me to him and showed me what I had to do, and frustration set in. He was having a hard time latching, and by the next morning after a night of breastfeeding every two hours, my nipples were super sore. Thankfully, a kind nurse gave me a nipple shield, which ended up being the tool I never knew I needed.
What the Heck is a Nipple Shield?
So, what is a nipple shield exactly? A nipple shield is made out of thin, flexible silicone, and resembles the nipple of a baby bottle. The nipple shield fits over your nipple and areola, providing a protective barrier for you, and an easier latching ability for baby. There’s a small hole at the point, similar to a bottle nipple that flows the milk into the baby’s mouth.
Nipple Shields Are Great For New Moms
There are many reasons why breastfeeding mothers can benefit from using a nipple shield. For instance, many new moms experience discomfort with sore nipples in the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding. Sore, cracked nipples, and even bleeding nipples can discourage a new mom from breastfeeding. Although there are products meant to soothe before and after breastfeeding, the nipple shield provides relief and comfort during.
Using a nipple shield will help you get into the routine of breastfeeding. There is an endless list of new things to learn and get used to, and breastfeeding is among them. A nipple shield is a wonderful way to ensure the transition is smooth and enjoyable.
Also Great for Babies
Using a nipple shield also benefits newborns and infants. The breastfeeding experience is new to a baby, too! Using a shield can help a newborn latch quickly.
Whether a mom chooses to use a nipple shield to alleviate pain or discomfort or because her baby is having a difficult time latching, it’s best to always reach out to a pediatrician or lactation consultant to discuss any questions or concerns about breastfeeding and using the shield.
The Drawbacks of Using a Nipple Shield
Now, as amazing as the nipple shield sounds, there are a few reasons why a mom should consult with a pediatrician or lactation consultant before, during, and after the use of a shield. Some precautions should be taken when using the shield to make sure both mom and baby have a beneficial breastfeeding experience.
High Maintenance – Handle With Care!
The first drawback to using a nipple shield is the maintenance. Much like any bottle, care, and attention to detail is necessary when cleaning the shield. Not only can body oils from mom get onto the shield, but milk can collect in the hole. You need to thoroughly clean this to avoid the growth of bacteria which can harm the baby.
Effect on Milk Supply and Feeding
As mentioned before, it’s usually a good idea to consult with a pediatrician and/or lactation consultant before, during, and after the use of a nipple shield. Due to their design being more like a bottle than an actual nipple, there’s only one hole for milk to flow through as opposed to the multiple holes that a nipple has. Using a shield can slow down the flow of milk, and this can affect two significant things, mom’s milk supply and how much milk the baby is getting.
Research shows that breast milk production is based on supply and demand. This means it’s crucial to keep in mind that if less milk is being expressed, pumping after breastfeeding might be a good idea.
In addition to decreasing flow and supply, a nipple shield can cause the baby to get less milk during feeding sessions. This can lead to the baby losing weight, which although relatively normal during the first few days after birth, may cause a pediatrician to recommend supplementing with formula.
Difficulty Weaning Off of The Nipple Shield
One final drawback is the difficulty of weaning the baby (and sometimes yourself) off of the shield. Weaning takes patience and time, and a sense of open-mindedness when it comes to trying new breastfeeding holds and positions that are comfortable for both mother and baby.
Support is Available
These factors may cause apprehension when deciding if using a nipple shield is the right course of action, and it’s essential to keep in mind that this is a temporary solution for breastfeeding difficulties. If there are any questions or concerns that relate to breastfeeding and the overall health and growth of the baby, it’s best to direct these toward a pediatrician, who is always willing to provide answers to wary parents.
Lactation support is available in many areas, and there are many online resources to aid in finding a lactation professional.
Best Nipple Shields To Use
Below are 3 great options for you to purchase. They are all safe ultra thin and easy to clean!
Medela Contact Nipple Shield With Carrying Case
Philips Avent Nipple Protector
Purifyou Premium Nipple Shield
Please reach out to our Facebook Group if you are having any struggles with breastfeeding! We are here to help and there is a whole tribe of mamas who have been where you are.
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