There are a lot of benefits to using breast shields – they allow an easy latch for babies who are struggling with latching on due to problems like tongue tie or mum having an over supply or inverted nipples etc
They can help to protect cracked sore nipples – although it’s worth noting it can still be sore to feed on the first week or so even with shields on and working on your baby learning the correct latch is the most important thing to alleviate discomfort.
They help babies to latch on to the breast if mum has flat or inverted nipples by providing an easy, artificial nipple for the baby to latch onto, but they can actually also help to bring the real nipples out to a better shape over time. It’s important to remember that it’s breastfeeding not nipple feeding so flat or inverted nipples can sometimes be totally acceptable to your baby and they can work with them! A baby should take the nipple plus a large part of the areola into their mouths when feeding properly. The areola is the pink/brown area which surrounds the nipple.
The negatives to using shields include:
- They are fiddly and a nuisance to use – fumbling in your bag or running around the kitchen looking for your shields can be quite irritating when you have a baby crying for a feed!
- They make feeding in public harder as you have to position the shield before you latch your baby – basically you need to be able to see what your doing and when you’re not using them it’s much easier to be discreet.
- They are thought to reduce milk supply as are a little less efficient at transferring milk than a direct latch.
- Your baby can become completely dependent on them and unwilling to feed from your breast without them which can be frustrating when you no longer ‘need’ them.
- They can allow your baby to swallow more wind and become ‘colicky’
How to wean your baby off using shields to feed.
This can be a little bit of a tricky process. Try all of the following approaches until you find one that works for you and your baby.
- Offer your baby the breast without the shield at the start of a feed to see if he will latch – if you suffer from flat nipples you could try using the lansinoh latch assist to help increase your babies likelihood of being able to latch without the shield : https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/lansinoh_latch_assist
- If your baby becomes upset or is too hungry to try to feed without the shield then start the feed using the shield – wait until he has got a good milk flow going and has had a few minutes of a feed – then when he is still hungry and sucking but not frantic – slip away the shield and see will he latch on without it – he may not even notice you have removed it (do it speedily!!). Feeding with the shield will have drawn flat nipples out and maybe enough for him to latch onto.
- Express some milk if your breasts are very full using a breast pump such as this directly before the feed https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/tommee_tippee_breast_feeding_kit
- Pumping before a feed for a couple of minutes will soften your breast a small bit, draw out your nipple and stimulate your milk to flow so that your baby can latch easily and rewarded quickly if he gets on. This can be very effective to encourage a baby transitioning from using shields to going without and usually you will only need to do this for a few days for the baby to get the hang of it by themselves.
The most important thing is not to give up! If it doesn’t work one day it might work the next. The priority is to make sure your baby is well fed and if shields are the best way to do that then so be it! If your baby has had a bit of a feed before trying to give up the shields he may be more likely to humour you and try!
Breast shields are available here : https://www.wonderbaba.ie/p/avent_nipple_protectors_shields
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!
See our full range of breastfeeding products at www.milltownpharmacy.ie