How to use a nipple shield CORRECTLY to overcome breastfeeding challenges

How to use a nipple shield CORRECTLY to overcome breastfeeding challenges

Whether you’re suffering the agony of a damaged, shredded nipple or struggling with flat or inverted nipples, attaching a hungry newborn to the breast when you’re struggling is one of the first true tests of motherhood as you put your own comfort (and sanity) on the line to feed your baby, despite the pain and/or frustration.

As any expert will tell you, breastfeeding shouldn’t be hard OR painful. When everything is working properly and baby is latching well, the experience should be relatively easy and comfortable. But what about when everything ISN’T working properly? Breastfeeding is a learnt skill. It takes time for both baby and mama to get the hang of what’s going on and while that’s happening, your nipples can become extremely tender making feeding difficult. Flat or inverted nipples can also cause issues as baby struggles to attach to an unfamiliar surface.

When used correctly, a nipple shield can be a total lifesaver for new mums who want to continue feeding but are finding it tough. A nipple shield can give your nipples time to heal while you learn the ins and outs of breastfeeding or provide a firmer, larger target for bubs having trouble with latching.

It’s important to note however that a nipple shield, while useful, can’t solve issues like a poor latchtongue tie or other concerns like nipple shape or overactive letdown. It is critical to get to the root of the problem with an expert like a lactation consultant for a long term solution and a happy breastfeeding relationship.

 

What you need to know about using a nipple shield

Using a nipple shield CORRECTLY is the key to overcoming breastfeeding challenges. Incorrect use can cause a whole range of issues, from more discomfort (no thanks!) to a reduced milk supply.

1. Choose the right product 

Not all nipple shields are created equal! It’s important to choose a product that fits well and is super thin to allow for good milk flow and as much skin to skin contact as possible. The Haakaa Silicone Nipple Shield features a unique shape and ultra- thin design that moulds to your breast for easier latching and a comfortable feeding experience. 

2. Choose the right size 

Nipples come in ALL shapes and sizes. A nipple shield that is too small can be extremely uncomfortable and restrict milk flow, leading to a reduction in milk supply. 

3. Focus on attachment 

Even with a nipple shield to help, ensuring a good latch is important. A good latch means that milk flow and supply won’t be impacted by the shield and helps your baby to develop good habits for if/when you stop using the shield. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has the following advice for using a shield correctly:

Express a few drops of your breastmilk onto the inside of the nipple shield. This will help prevent chafing and improve the seal that the nipple shield makes with your breast.

  • Express a few drops of your breastmilk into the tip of the nipple shield, where the holes are. This will help encourage your baby to attach.
  • Place the nipple shield centrally over the nipple, onto the breast, to help draw some of the nipple and areola into the shield.
  • Position any ‘cut-outs’ where the baby’s chin and nose will touch the breast. Hold the nipple shield in place with your fingers on the outside edges.
  • There should be a small space between the end of your nipple and the end of the nipple shield. If your nipple touches the end of the nipple shield, then the nipple shield is too small.
  • Point the tip of the nipple shield at your baby's nose and encourage your baby to open his mouth wide. As he attaches, the nipple shield can be directed towards the roof of your baby’s mouth.
  • Once baby is attached, look for gentle jaw movement and listen for swallowing.
  • At the end of the feed, your nipple shouldn’t be sore or feel chafed. If it does, the nipple shield is the wrong size or shape.

4. Get help

Like with anything breastfeeding related, seeking out help and support is always a good idea. A breastfeeding counsellor, lactation consultant or breastfeeding trained midwife can help identify issues and give advice on using a nipple shield.

For the best products to support your breastfeeding journey, check out our breast care and support section.