You’re probably curious right now about the effectiveness of nipple shields for breastfeeding. A lot of claims have been posted online and you just want to make sure if these statements are true.
Luckily for you, we prepared some essential information that can help you decide if you really need nipple shields and if it can help your baby latch on. We’re going to give you the variations available in stores, the correct method of using one, and the pros and cons.
Now, before we get to the main point, let’s start with the basics first.
Types of Nipple Shields
Nipple shields come in different sizes and shapes. For you to get the most out of them, it’s important that you know exactly what you need and what can keep your baby comfortable.
Here’s a quick look at your options:
Experts recommend 16-millimeter nipple shields for premature and extremely small infants. Meanwhile, naturally small newborns will be okay with 20mm shields. Bigger babies, on the other hand, can only get enough milk supply with the 24mm size.
Aside from considering standard measurements, you may also try different sizes to know which one is exactly right for you and your baby.
The first thing you need to observe is how the shield covers your nipple. Your nipple must not touch the crown or the raised section of the shield. It needs some space to stretch while feeding a baby.
Next, observe your baby’s mouth. It should cover the shield’s crown and your nipple inside the silicone without triggering your baby’s gag reflex.
Failure in choosing the right size can cause reduced milk supply and damaged nipples. Milk won’t flow properly while harsh rubbing will make your nipples sore.
Choosing the right shape for your nipple shield may also take trial and error. To start, you may want to try shields with a round dome.
You might also prefer nipple shields with a semi-circle form. These shields have a cutaway portion on the silicone to let the baby’s nose touch and smell his mother’s breast. This promotes skin-to-skin contact and triggers the baby’s instincts.
Just a heads-up about cutaway nipple shields: they have the tendency to fall a lot especially if you’re a first-time user. You need more patience in using this type.
For additional knowledge, there’s another way to make skin-to-skin contact possible. It is actually the most suggested activity to awaken the baby’s breastfeeding instincts.
The mother can bond with her baby by placing him between her breasts without wearing anything on her upper body. She should also take off her baby’s clothes but leave the diaper on. To keep the baby warm, she must wrap herself in a warm blanket.
How to Use Nipple Shields
Now that you know your options, the next thing you have to learn is how to use a nipple shield properly. Remember, failure to use your nipple shield the right way can make it hard for your baby to get his milk.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, follow the steps below:
- Soak the shield in hot water for a few seconds for added flexibility. Wait for it to cool down afterward.
- Put the warm shield on your nipple. Make sure its brim is upturned or partially inside out. If you’re using a semi-circle shield, make sure the cutaway part will align with your baby’s nose.
- Press your fingers on the shield’s edges to smooth out wrinkles and bumps. This will also secure the shield on your breast.
- Moisten the edges with a small amount of water or breast milk if the shield won’t stick.
- Press the shield’s tip to release initial drops of milk. This instant reward will encourage your baby to latch immediately.
- Ensure that your baby’s mouth covers a big portion of the shield. If your baby only focuses on the tip, that’s when he might use the shield as a pacifier.
- Pump your breast after the feeding process to release extra milk. This ensures that your breasts are drained well, preparing them for more supply. We recommend manual breast pumps since you’ll just release a small amount of milk every time you finish breastfeeding.
Can Nipple Shields Help Baby Latch On?
Since you’re curious if nipple shields can really help your baby latch on, we want to emphasize something – that’s actually their main purpose!
Nipple shields are designed to help infants who struggle to have a connection with their mother’s breast. They are meant for the following cases:
- Inverted, short or flat nipples: Biology dictates that firm nipples trigger the natural instinct of babies to latch. With overly soft nipples, the baby finds it hard to understand that it’s time for feeding.
- Dependence on bottles: Baby bottle nipples obviously have a different texture than a real nipple. Unfortunately, bottle-dependent babies eventually get used to that and refuse to latch on flesh. This is a common case for premature babies.
- Mother’s discomfort: If a mother has sore or damaged nipples, she experiences intense pain during breastfeeding which can affect her handling. Thankfully, nipple shields can relieve pain because of their protective form and texture.
Now, let’s be realistic as well. All useful products have a downside.
Here are the most common disadvantages of using nipple shields you need to know.
- Malnutrition: Some mothers consider duration as the basis for a successful breastfeeding session. However, if the baby is using the nipple shield as a pacifier all along, this leads to complications. For one, the baby might get malnourished if it happens all the time.
- Weaning Struggles: A more common disadvantage about nipple shields is difficulty in weaning the baby from them. Babies can be really stubborn if there are changes. If they’re suddenly exposed to real nipples, they don’t usually latch.
Nipple shields can really help babies latch on. However, before buying one, you should choose the right size and shape for your nipples and your baby. You must also observe proper use to ensure that you’re providing enough milk for your child.