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Breastfeeding Your Baby Using a Nipple Shield

What is a nipple shield?

A nipple shield helps with certain breastfeeding problems. A nipple shield looks like a little hat with a brim. The top of the hat fits over the nipple, and the brim lies over the areola. Most nipple shields are made of soft, thin plastic that bends. They come in different sizes. The size of the nipple shield you may need depends on the size of your nipple and your baby’s mouth. A nipple shield should be fitted by a healthcare provider (such as a lactation consultant) who knows how to fit nipple shields.

Why might I use a nipple shield?

A nipple shield may be helpful with some breastfeeding problems, such as your baby has trouble latching on or staying latched on to your breast. A healthcare provider can help you decide if a nipple shield is right for you and your baby.

How long would I use a nipple shield?

A nipple shield is usually meant to be used for a short time. It might be used longer in some cases, such as with a premature baby. After that, your baby will probably be able to breastfeed without a nipple shield. But as long as your baby is gaining weight using the nipple shield, it’s OK to keep using it. Some mothers want to wean off a nipple shield and other don’t. Talk to your healthcare provider to decide what’s right for you.

What should I do if I think I need a nipple shield?

There are a few things to try first before you try a nipple shield for breastfeeding problems. Tug or roll your nipple, or use a breast pump for a few minutes to help extend your nipple right before latching your baby. You may also try shaping your breast like a sandwich so your baby can latch on and stay on. If you’ve tried other ways to fix breastfeeding problems and they didn't work, a nipple shield might be a good option for you. Ask your healthcare provider for advice.

Nipple shields look simple, but there are important things to know when using them. A lactation consultant or other breastfeeding specialist will help you use it correctly.

A lactation consultant can:

  • Fit you with a nipple shield that's the right size.
  • Help you make sure that your baby is latching deeply and drinking well from your breast.
  • Advise you on how long to use a nipple shield.
  • Offer tips on how to wean your baby from the shield when the time comes.

How do I know if I’m using a nipple shield correctly?

It's important to use a nipple shield correctly. If it isn't used the right way, your nipples may become damaged or your baby may not get enough milk.

These signs mean you’re using the shield correctly:

  • Your baby is attached deeply onto the breast.
  • It doesn't hurt or pinch when your baby sucks.
  • The shield isn't puckered or dented when your baby is latched.
  • You hear and see your baby swallowing.
  • Your baby is sucking and swallowing in a regular pattern.
  • You may feel your milk let down.
  • You see milk in the shield when your baby comes off the breast.
  • Your baby has the expected number of wet and dirty diapers.
  • Your baby doesn’t seem hungry after breastfeeding.
  • Your baby is gaining weight.

When should a nipple shield not be used?

A nipple shield may be helpful for some breastfeeding problems. However, they need to be used with caution.

A nipple shield should not be used to prevent sore or cracked nipples. In these cases, it's better to deal with what's causing the problem than to use a nipple shield. A healthcare provider can help.

Why is it important to get help when using a nipple shield?

Breastfeeding experts recommend using a nipple shield only with the help of a healthcare provider who knows how to use them. You and your baby should see the healthcare provider regularly for as long as you’re using the nipple shield. This is important because:

  • Using a nipple shield incorrectly may reduce milk supply. Breastfeeding correctly causes your body to make hormones that keep up your milk supply. A nipple shield should be put on properly so that your baby can latch deeply and drink well from your breast.
  • If the latch is not correct, not enough milk will be removed from your breast. Your baby may not get enough milk and your body will not get the signal to make enough milk.

Some mothers need to use a breast pump right after using a nipple shield to help keep up their milk supply. While using a nipple shield, have your baby weighed regularly to make sure they’re gaining a healthy amount of weight.

Do I need to wean my baby off the nipple shield?

Some babies may use a nipple shield for the whole time they’re breastfeeding. Other babies wean off the nipple shield to bare breastfeeding. Speak to your healthcare provider for ways to wean your baby off a nipple shield.

How do I clean a nipple shield?

To clean and care for a nipple shield, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Current as of: October 4, 2019

Author: Women’s and Children’s Health, Alberta Health Services