The Benefits of a Nipple Shield

The Benefits of a Nipple Shield

A nipple shield is a breastfeeding aid that is worn over the mother’s nipple and areola during feeding. It can be used to help babies with latching problems such as tongue tie or flat nipples, as well as to assist in the transition from bottle to breast.

Health professionals often recommend nipple shield use for infants who have difficulty breastfeeding on their own (4). It’s important to work closely with a lactation consultant when using this device.
Helps with Flat or Inverted Nipples

While breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally to mom or baby, using a nipple shield to encourage an adequate latch can help get the process started. A nipple shield is also a great tool for premature babies born before 37 weeks, as many of the necessary reflexes have not yet developed, and can aid in stimulating a deep latch and creating sustained suction.

When a mother has flat or inverted nipples, nipple shields can be helpful because they add a firm touch to the roof of baby’s mouth during latching that helps remind baby of the need to suck. This is especially important for premature babies who may not have fully developed the rooting reflex or coordinated suck, swallow and breath pattern that are needed for successful breastfeeding.
Minimizes Nipple Pain

A nipple shield minimizes nipple pain and pressure caused by a weak or undeveloped nipple. It also helps to encourage a deeper latch and improve milk transfer.

Before using a nipple shield, be sure to consult with your doctor or lactation consultant for advice. They’ll want to ensure that you’ve tried other methods to improve your breastfeeding first.

To use a nipple shield, stretch it out flat over your breast and areola, then put your nipple into the nipple area of the shield. You can help it stick better by adding some nipple cream or water around the edges. You can also express a bit of milk into the tip of the shield before feeding to encourage your baby to start sucking. Wash the shield thoroughly in hot soapy water or in a dishwasher on a warm cycle after each use.
Encourages a Deeper Latch

A well-fitted nipple shield can help encourage a deeper latch. This is often necessary with premature babies who don’t have the suction that full-term babies do.

Feeling a firm nipple against the roof of their mouth can trigger even sleepy babies to latch on properly. It can also help focus a shallow latch and correct positioning problems.

However, nipple shields cannot fix the underlying issues that lead to breastfeeding pain and should be introduced with the guidance of a skilled lactation consultant. The most important thing that a nipple shield can do is provide a way for the mother to continue feeding her baby while working on fixing the issues that are leading to discomfort and latching problems. A skilled lactation consultant can help the mother and baby find a position and latch that is both comfortable for all parties involved.
Helps with Tongue Tie

When a baby is tongue-tied and breastfeeding is not possible, nipple shields can be helpful. They can provide some gentle pressure that can be mimicked by a bottle, teat or pacifier.

However, it is important to remember that a nipple shield is only a temporary solution. It should be used only if improving positioning and attachment is not enough to resolve the issue. It is also important to have a midwife or lactation professional observe your feeding with the shield in place.

Ideally, it is best to work with an IBCLC to determine the cause of your breastfeeding concerns. This can include issues such as a poor latch, tongue tie and nipple shape. A great IBCLC will be able to provide resources and practitioners that can help you overcome these issues for a successful breastfeeding relationship in the long term.
Helps with Overactive Let-Down

Occasionally, a baby can have an overactive let-down. This can lead to poor latching and nipple pain for both mom and baby. Using a nipple shield helps reduce the overreactive let-down, which allows mother and baby to latch more easily and breastfeed properly.

Nipple shields are also useful in helping premature babies develop a stronger suction, which is necessary for them to latch on the breast and get enough milk. They can help these babies overcome the challenge of tongue or lip ties and have a more comfortable breastfeeding experience until they can be evaluated by their doctor for treatment.

To ensure that a nipple shield is effective, it should be sized to fit the mother’s nipples correctly. A lactation specialist can help find the right size and shape for each mother.

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