Health Notes

What Do New Moms Need to Know About Nipple Shields?

by Katina Granger on July 27, 2017

It’s totally normal for new moms to have questions when it comes to breastfeeding. While it may be one of the most natural things a woman’s body is made to do, for some moms, there is sometimes nothing “natural” about it.

For some moms, a little help is needed in the form of a nipple shield. A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple worn over the mom’s nipple during a feeding. In general, nipple shields should be considered a short-term solution and used only under the guidance of a lactation consultant.

Nipple shields have some great advantages:

  1. Assists premature babies with weak or disorganized suck patterns due to immaturity.
  2. Permits learning to feed at the breast when transitioning from bottle to breast.
  3. Allows supplementation at the breast instead of using a bottle.
  4. Helps stretch and improve the elasticity of an inverted nipple.
  5. Can temporarily reduce nipple pain experienced by the mother.

But unfortunately, they also come with some hefty disadvantages:

  1. It is very hard to wean off the shields, and sometimes is needed for the entire breastfeeding relationship due to baby’s preference.
  2. It is inconvenient to have to carry them with you if you leave the house.
  3. They can potentially decrease your milk supply – there is less stimulation to the breast, so it is best to pump or hand express after feedings, which takes more time.
  4. May pinch the areola and nipple causing abrasion, pain, skin breakdown and internal trauma to the breast which can lead to infections and mastitis.

Because of these disadvantages, nipple shields should never be used without a proper evaluation from a lactation consultant. They’re not a “quick fix” or a “band-aid therapy” for breastfeeding issues. That’s because they can cover up the problems that may come from breastfeeding without correcting them. A consultant can help identify what’s going wrong and what you can do to fix it. And if a nipple shield is needed, they can help you find the right size for you and your baby.

Need more breastfeeding help and ideas? Check out these Methodist blogs.

If you need to use a nipple shield while your milk is still coming in, you will need to use a breast pump at least 4-6 times per day to establish your milk supply. If you are given a nipple shield in the hospital, it is absolutely essential to follow up with a lactation consultant after you leave to help monitor your baby’s weight and output, and help with the weaning process.

If you have questions about nipple shields or breastfeeding in general, help is always available from the lactation consultants at Methodist Physicians Clinic by calling 402-815-1700. No matter where you deliver, you can also receive help from lactation consultants at Methodist Women’s Hospital.

Melanie Bussey is a Certified Lactation Consultant with Methodist Women’s Hospital.
Contact Melanie at MethodistPR@nmhs.org.
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