What is a Nipple Shield? History, Pros, Cons, and Benefits Of Using One

What is a Nipple Shield?

A nipple shield is an accessory made from silicone, which is usually very thin and soft that moms wear on their breast attached to the nipple for breastfeeding. 

Nipple shields help moms overcome common breastfeeding challenges

Instead of the baby to suckle the breast, the baby sucks the nipple shield via a hole at the tip. Hence allowing milk to flow through to the baby’s mouth.

what is a nipple shield
Source: Kellymom

History of Nipple Shields: How They Have Evolved Over The Years

Nipple shields have been in existence for long. According to the Museum of Health Care, Nipple shields have been manufactured since at least the 16th century, which is more than 500 years ago, to be precise.

During that period, nipple shields were made from materials gotten from nature such as iron, wax, wood, and others. 

Today, with the advance in science and technology, nipple shields are made mostly from material such as rubber, latex, and silicone.

Editor’s Note: Are you packing your hospital bag? Check out our comprehensive guide about the Hospital Bag Checklist For Mom, Dad, and Baby.

Pros (Advantages) of Using a Nipple Shield

Nipple shields are essential for moms and their babies.

Below are some pros (advantages) of using them:

  • It prevents pains and other nipple issues like cracks and cuts that may arise because of suckling.
  • It gives the boldness and confidence of breastfeeding to moms who are nervous to breastfeed their babies.
  • Use of nipple shield helps moms whose nipples are inward and curved to become straightened after some usage.

Cons (Disadvantages) of Using a Nipple Shield

Just like a coin, there are two sides to using a nipple shield, hence the disadvantages that come with using it. 

Though we recommend that you seek guidance from lactation experts.

Here are some cons (disadvantages) of using a nipple shield:

  • Emptying your breast milk is a healthy exercise, Using a nipple shield will probably not enable your baby to empty the breast milk, hence making you susceptible to engorgement, soreness, and other breast complications.
  • Constant use may lead your baby to have difficulty when adapting to breastfeeding without it.
  • It could lead to a decrease in your milk production because of the absence of stimulation—and it delays in getting the milk to the baby.

Should You Use a Nipple Shield? Here are the Most Common Reasons To Do So

It’s not compulsory for all moms to use a nipple shield to breastfeed their babies. However, there are some common reasons most moms opt for them.

According to researchers, here are some reasons for using a nipple shield:

Premature or Underweight Babies:

Babies who are born prematurely or underweight won’t be able to latch. When learning to latch, preemies benefit from nipple shields greatly.

This is because, the breast could be too big for them; so without a nipple shield, they would be denied the essential nutrients that come with a breast milk.

Sore Nipples

If you stand the high chance of developing a sore breast or other breast discomforts with breastfeeding, then you should use a nipple shield.

Also, if you have flat or inverted nipples, it is only natural you use nipple shields for breastfeeding.

Latch On Difficulties

Some babies have a natural refusal to breastfeed. For such babies, it takes time and effort to make them get used to breastfeeding. So, using a nipple shield in that case is also necessary.

How To Put On A Nipple Shield: A Step-by-Step Guide

It’s always better to consult a lactation expert on the best way to use a Nipple shield for breastfeeding.

That said, if you’re a new mom, chances are that you’ve never used a nipple shield and don’t know how to do so.

Well, the good news is that it is easy to use, and here’s a step-by-step procedure that will help you use it correctly, even if it’s your first time. 

Step 1:

Don’t attempt to use a nipple shield within the first eight days of your delivery. It’s best that you wait till your milk comes before you try using one. 

Step 2:

After waiting for some days, and you have your nipple shield ready. Deep dive the nipple shield in warm water for some minutes for softness and flexibility. The number of minutes depends on the recommendation from the brand or even your lactation consultant.

Step 3:

Facilitate your baby latching by squeezing some breast milk into the shield. But, before that, ensure that you put some breast milk into the inner part of the nipple shield too.

Step 4: 

Now that the shield has been wet with breast milk, then you need to make the shield inverter by stretching it.

Step 5:

Ensure that the mouth of the nipple shield is placed properly for the baby’s mouth to enhance suction and latching. Try as much as possible to ensure the shield is not placed on the baby’s nose, chin, or eye.

Step 6:

Note that proper placing will allow for a gap between your nipple tip and the shield ends. Anything different from this will mean either the nipple shield is small or too big for you.

Step 7:

Seek more counseling from your lactation expert in case of nipple sore, chaff, or pains for advice.

Here is a YouTube video that shows you exactly how to put on a nipple shield

How To Put On a Nipple Shield

Where To Buy a Nipple Shield

If you want to get a nipple shield for breastfeeding, your best bet is to reach out to a breastfeeding educator or lactation consultant.

Also, the hospital where you gave birth to your baby, should be able to provide you with one, if there’s a need for it.

Finally, you can get a nipple shields from stores near you, or online stores such as Amazon.

Editor’s Note: We wrote a detailed review about the Best Nipple Shield for Breastfeeding. Make sure you check it out.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About a Nipple Shield

What is the purpose of a Nipple Shield?

The purpose of a nipple shield is to help babies who find it difficult to breastfeed to do so easily. This is usually useful for preemies and tongue-tie babies.

How long can you use a Nipple Shield?

You should use a nipple shield for a short period of time. Although, this might not be the case always, especially if you have premature babies.

After sometimes, your baby will outgrow a nipple shield, and start breastfeeding without it.

Are Nipple Shields bad for babies?

If not used correctly, a nipple shield might have a negative impact on your baby. This is why it’s highly recommended that you consult a lactation expert, to know exactly how to use one for your baby.