A nipple shield is an aid that is used to support breastfeeding by covering the nipple and areola prior to nursing. They are often recommended to mothers who have flat nipples or babies that do not latch within the first two days postpartum. They can also be useful in helping a baby who has a tight frenulum to transition from bottle to breast feeding. (2)
One study compared breastfeeding with and without the use of a nipple shield. The infants who wore the nipple shield fed more milk. This may be because the nipple shield allows a deeper latch and better access to the upper nipple and teat area to stimulate the rooting reflex. (3)
During a feed it is important to watch the positioning of the baby’s head and jaw and listen for active swallowing sounds. The nipple shield should be positioned to cover the entire areola and nipple. It should not be positioned so that the tip of the shield is covering the nipple as this could cause discomfort and restrict milk flow. It is also a good idea to express while using the nipple shield and to rinse it with warm water after each use.
It is a good idea to consult with a breastfeeding counsellor or health professional before trying nipple shields. This will help identify what the breastfeeding challenges are and how to best resolve them. It may be that some simple fine-tuning of the position at the breast or a few extra tricks with the latch is all that is needed to get breastfeeding back on track. nipple shield