Nipples shields are molded silicone “nipples” that fit over a natural nipple. They look a bit like a sombrero, and the rim or base of the shield extends out about an inch to adhere to the breast. There are usually 4 holes in the nipple that mom’s milk can flow through. They are very thin and made in several sizes and styles. They are designed so that baby can latch on to the shield and get milk from mom.
So why on earth would anyone want to use a plastic nipple?
Nipples shields can be helpful when a baby is unable to form a strong vacuum at the natural breast. Sometimes, if baby’s tongue is not doing what it should, a nipple shield can enable a baby to breastfeed who otherwise would need to be bottle fed.
Nipple shields are also commonly used when a baby has nursed incorrectly and caused nipple soreness. A shield can make breastfeeding more comfortable while mom and baby learn to breastfeed comfortably.
Always seek guidance from an experienced lactation consultant before considering the use of a nipple shield. Improper use can lead to inadequate milk intake and subsequent weight loss, which, in turn could lead to a decrease in your milk supply.
Whether to alleviate soreness, or to help a baby who is learning to suck properly, a nipple shield is a temporary fix. Your lactation consultant should provide you with a detailed plan for the use of the shield and when and how to discontinue its use. When your baby is ready, he will breastfeed happily and comfortably without it!