A nipple shield acts like a second nipple to help infants that struggle to latch and breastfeed. It sits over the nipple and areola and has tiny holes at the end to allow milk transfer from the mother’s nipples to the infant’s mouth. It also stimulates the roof of the baby’s mouth, encouraging improved suckling.
A lactation consultant can help you select the right size nipple shield and demonstrate how to put it on. Once your baby learns to latch on the nipple without the shield, gradually remove it. This will ensure the shield is not used for an entire feeding session, which can interrupt and disrupt the breastfeeding cycle. If you continue to have problems with a poor latch, contact a lactation professional and your physician for help.
There are times when a nipple shield is appropriate, such as if there is a problem with the infant’s mouth or tongue (such as prematurity) that prevents them from sucking properly, and all other methods to improve the latch have been exhausted. The shield may also be useful for sore nipples or for preemies that are being transitioned from bottle to the breast.
A study by Eglash et al (20) collected data from health professionals about their experiences with using nipple shields. These health professionals often recommend the use of nipple shields to aid in the nursing of babies born at 35 weeks gestational age, to accommodate flat or inverted nipples, and for transitioning an infant from bottle to the breast. nipple shield