Nipple Shields: Pro’s and Con’s
A nipple shield can be seen in use with the two photos seen in this blog post. A nipple shield is a thin piece of flexible silicone with a protruding tip that resembles a nipple and has a couple small holes in the end. There are some pro’s and con’s when it comes to using a nipple shield. The most important question to ask is ‘Do the positives outweigh the negatives?’
So what are the reasons that you may be considering using a nipple shield? Most moms consider using a nipple shield if they have flat or inverted nipples, sore or painful nipples, over abundant milk supply, or reasons such as anatomy differences (nipple too big, infants mouth too small). Some other reasons, that a lactation consultant can help you determine, would be things like tongue tie, receding jaw, high palate, premie baby, etc.
Things to Consider
If you are considering using a nipple shield, here are some things to think about before you start. Am I using this because of an anatomy issue? Am I using this because of an inefficient suck? Am I having nipple pain and breakdown? If your answer it yes, it would be recommended to work with a lactation consultant and ensure that the fit and use is appropriate.
Are you considering using a nipple shield because you want the baby to improve their milk intake or improve the healing of your nipples? In these cases, you could use a nipple shield to make the breastfeeding experience a little more enjoyable but you are not working to solve the root of the problem. If you have a low milk supply, a nipple shield will not help to increase the supply. If you have cracks, bleeding, or scabbing on your nipples, a nipple shield may help you to heal, but it will not help you to solve the issue that created the breakdown on your nipples.
When using a nipple shield there are different sizes and shapes to consider as well. Sizing is similar to your flange sizing for your breast pump. However, it is important to keep baby in mind as well. The nipple shield should match both mom and baby’s anatomy. Here is where hands on help from a lactation consultant can come in handy. There are also ways for your infant to be supplemented through the nipple shield if they are needing to be supplemented with breastmilk or formula.
If you are considering a nipple shield, it can be very helpful to get the baby back to the breast and/or happy at the breast, however, it is very wise to consult with a lactation consultant to get to the root of the problem as a nipple shield should be looked at as a temporary band-aid.