What Are Nipple Shields Used For And Can They Help Me?
Nipple shields can make a huge difference to a woman’s breastfeeding experience. In some cases, it can be the very reason she continues to breastfeed. It can also help her get through a particularly rough patch. Unfortunately they can also cause some issues and for this reason, it is important to only use them if they are necessary.
Nipple shields are breastfeeding accessories. They are silicone nipple covers that are placed over the nipple area to help a mother overcome certain breastfeeding challenges. The silicone is extremely thin and is usually clear. It contains pores at the tip to allow your baby to transfer milk from the breast to their mouth while latched on to the shield.
It is recommended to speak to a lactation consultant if you feel that a nipple shield would be helpful. They will have the professional expertise to determine if the nipple shield will be helpful in your particular situation. They may recommend a different aid.
In some cases, a nipple shield may help a smaller or weaker baby to latch easier. It holds the nipple in a more erect position which can help the baby latch with less effort. This may be helpful if your baby was born prematurely for example.
Some women have flat or inverted nipples. The baby may struggle to draw out these nipples to feed well. It may cause the baby to be fussy and pull away when they want to feed. They may also feel very tired from the amount of effort required to transfer milk from the breast to their mouth. In some cases, the baby may fall asleep during feeds before they have fed properly.
Some women turn to nipple shields as a result of the pain they are experiencing during breastfeeding. Initially, breastfeeding can feel uncomfortable as it is a sensation that is not familiar. However extreme pain can be a result of a latch issue. This is something that a lactation consultant will be able to advise you about. The consultant may spot a tongue tie which can be responsible for the pain. A tongue-tie can cause a number of feeding issues. It affects the baby’s ability to move their lips, tongue and mouth in certain ways that are required for breastfeeding. In some cases, a nipple shield helps the baby feed well even though the latch may be quite shallow. Your GP or PHN should be able to advise the best course of action for helping resolve the tongue-tie. In many cases, they are snipped during a medical procedure.
A nipple shield is sometimes used in cases where a woman has a very strong let-down and flow. The speed at which the milk is transferred to the baby’s mouth can cause the baby to cough or pull away from the breast during feeds. A nipple shield may temporarily help slow down the flow of milk until the baby is able to cope better with the speed.
Nipple shields might just be a life-saviour if you experiencing painful cracked nipples but they are designed to be used short-term. In a small number of cases they are used long-term but it is recommended to only use them temporarily to help with the issue and then wean the baby from them. The idea is that the baby will feed more effectively when they are directly latched on to your breast. Nipple shields can cause supply issues as well as leading to issues such as engorgement and Mastitis. For this reason, it is always recommended to speak to a professional if you go down this route.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.