Nipple Shields are such a necessity….
Breastfeeding is a journey that comes with so many different challenges and rewards. As a IBCLC lactation consultant in Baltimore, MD, I can first hand say I have witnessed the controversy over the use of nipple shields, and this seems to be a highly debated topic amongst professionals. Nipple shields are not needed by every breastfeeding parent but I want to discuss the reasons they might be needed and their benefits. At Feed Well we want our clients to be fully knowledgeable in making the right decision for them and their feeding journey.
First off, what is a nipple shield? A nipple shield is a thin, silicone artificial nipple that can be placed over a mothers real nipple to help a baby that may be having difficulties with breastfeeding or latching. There are a few different types of nipple shields: a cherry style which is good for issues with suck disorganized patterns, lip or tongue ties, low muscle tone or body tension, and bottle preference. A conical can be good for inverted or flattened nipples, and those mothers who have a larger nipple size < 24mm. Also, a Sloped shield which can aid in minimal oral dysfunction and a small nipple size < 22mm. As you start to become overwhelmed by all the different brands and choices, I would recommend a visit with a Lactation Consultant for many reasons. One being having a proper fitting and the other is they can explain how to use them effectively.
Reasons a parent might need one…
People who have flat or inverted nipples may find comfort and success with getting their baby to maintain a proper latch and have a sufficient feeding session. If the baby can not suckle the flattened nipple and draw it out, you may notice the baby pulling off, twisting, turning and becoming frustrated, or simply falling asleep during a feed. When applying a nipple shield this gives the baby a better nipple to reach the top palate and start encouraging the baby to keep sucking. A shield can also assist a premature baby or ill baby who is having difficulty maintaining suction at the breast due to possibly being born premature or small for their gestational age, or maybe they have medical complications. Or a parent who has an overabundant milk supply and powerful let down reflex, a baby can choke, sputter or pull off the breast when feeding. A shield can help the baby have time to swallow and prevent coughing or choking, slowing the milk flow. Many babies born with a tongue or lip tie can sometimes benefit from a nipple shield because it allows the baby to have a wider latch and helps the tongue to work more efficiently at emptying the breasts. Maybe the parent just needs a few days to help heal their swollen, painful, cracked and bleeding nipples. This can provide ease and comfort during the feeding so that they can work to establish her supply without having to stop latching the baby.
A few of the cons…
Many people have stated that a nipple shield can be a barrier between a mom and a baby during a feeding session and that she wont feel proper nipple stimulation, or that the baby will get used to using it and only want to feed when it's on. It can also cause insufficient transfer at the breast/chest, can increase the risk of clogged ducts and frankly, can just be annoying to apply and keep on.
It's important to work with a lactation consultant if you are using a nipple shield so we can help evaluate the need for a shield and address the underlying issues, develop a plan to wean from the shield and ensure adequate transfer.
The nipple shield is a very useful tool for breastfeeding parents and should be considered a bridge, or a tool, to help parents get from where they are to where they want to be.
If you have any questions or concerns, we would be more than happy to help you on your breastfeeding journey! You can schedule an appt here.