When you start breastfeeding, you might run into a host of problems you never knew existed. For example, your skin might be more sensitive than you expected, and you might have discomfort when trying to breastfeed. Maybe your baby is having trouble latching on and feeding, and you don’t understand why. All of these issues are more common than you might think. Nipple shields are a great way to resolve a lot of these simple breastfeeding problems, but what are they? Glad you asked! Here’s some info on how nipple shields can help you breastfeed.
What are nipple shields?
Nipple shields are nipple-shaped covers usually made of soft silicone that are worn over a woman’s breasts. They’re flexible so they mold easily over the breast and have small holes at the end of the “nipple” to allow for breast milk to flow through. Think a baby’s bottle cap — but for your breast.
Why use nipple shields?
- Some mothers have small or inverted nipples, which can make it difficult for the baby to latch on to suckle. The shield acts like a pump to help the milk flow through easily to help the baby feed.
- Nipple shields makes breastfeeding also easier for small, weak babies because it allows them to latch on easier and feed more easily.
- When it’s time for your baby to wean off your breast onto a bottle, nipple shields will help the transition. Because they resemble baby bottle tops, your baby might not even notice when you start to bottle-feed.
- Sometimes breastfeeding can cause dryness and cracking around the nipples, which can obviously be very painful for mum. Nipple shields can help relieve the pain while you’re breastfeeding, so your baby can still latch on.
What should you be aware of when using nipple shields?
- Nipple shields need to be stay clean, so make sure you sterilize everyday. Washing them in warm water with mild soap should do the trick.
- If you notice that your baby isn’t gaining weight, he might not be feeding properly with the nipple shields. Keep an eye out that your baby is suckling and getting enough milk
- If you notice that your baby seems fussy when feeding, he may not want to feed with the nipple shield. Try nursing without it and see if that solves the problem.
- If you also notice that your baby isn’t feeding properly, check that the nipple shield is attached properly to allow milk flow.
- Experts don’t recommend you only nurse with nipple shields for long periods of time and suggest you wean the baby off as soon as possible.
What type of nipple shield is best?
- When choosing a nipple shield, you should consider its quality first. A silicone- based shield is recommended over one made of rubber
- Its ability to attach longer into the skin should also be noted. The size depends on how big the baby’s mouth is. Too large a shield may result in an inadequate draw of the nipple and might make your infant gag when feeding.
Why wean a baby from nipple shields?
- Long duration of use may keep the infant from transitioning into the regular breastfeeding method.
- The mother may be put at risk for plugged ducts and mastitis when insufficient milk transfer is present. Massages or breast pumps may be needed to completely empty the breasts of remaining milk.
- If the nipple shield is incorrectly placed, the infant may not get as much as he needs, resulting in an unsatisfying feeding.
Nipple shields shouldn’t take the place of normal breastfeeding altogether, but rather act as a supplement if you’re having certain issues. It’s always best for baby to feed directly from the breast, whenever possible, so talk to your doctor about how long you should use a nipple shield to breastfeed if you absolutely need it.
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