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Disclaimer: The information in this post is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

Tips For When You Need to Use a Nipple Shield

Tips For When You Need to Use a Nipple Shield - Breastfeeding Place   #breastfeedingproblems I wish I knew back then what I know now about these amazing little nursing shields – this simple item saved our breastfeeding relationship! But first, a little history…

My first baby was less than a day old and still hadn’t nursed for more than a few minutes. Since she was a large baby and I was overweight, she was having her blood sugar checked every couple of hours. It had dropped so the nurses said they recommended giving her a bottle. She sucked it down.

It was a horrible moment to me to think I was failing my baby so quickly. It just seemed like she wasn’t able to get attached. The lactation consultant and nurses tried helping me position, hold my breast, open her jaw, pumping before trying to nurse, wearing these small rings on my nipples for a little before it was time to nurse and a few other techniques. Nothing seemed to help.

Finally, the lactation consultant said, “Hang on, I have one more thing I think we can try,” before she ran out of my room. She came back with a contact nipple shield. She showed me how to apply it and then I picked up my daughter.

It worked. I couldn’t believe it. My daughter was nursing for the first time after a day of trying and supplementing with formula.

What Does a Nipple Shield Do?

A nipple shield is a thin, nipple-shaped piece of silicone worn over the nipple and areola. Some women only need to use them for short periods of time, such as with premature babies, getting over cracked nipples or other short term issues.

Unfortunately, I was never able to wean her from it and she nursed with a nipple shield until she weaned herself at 23 months. Then, to my disappointment, my second baby wasn’t latching either. Once again, the contact nipple shield worked like magic. I have been using it with her for the past 6 months. I, admittedly, tried even less with my second baby to wean her from the nipple shield since I had so many problems getting her to eat at all.

Here is what I’ve learned over the past few years, in general. Not everything works for everyone when it comes to breastfeeding and parenting in general. Yes, there have been many times when I wished I didn’t have to use the nipple shield. Yes, I have been frustrated when I realized I left it at home or when I have to keep placing it for a baby that wants to keep looking around the room between sips.

However, I also don’t think nipple shields are evil. While it is ideal to not need to use them, I don’t believe I’ve had any negative side effects from using one and my babies have gained weight appropriately. The most important thing, to me, is that I’m able to nurse from the breast and both of us reap the benefits of breastfeeding.

Tips For When You Need to Use a Nipple Shield - Breastfeeding Place   #breastfeedingproblems

You’ll have to decide for yourself and with a lactation consultant if using a shield is right for you. If you do use one, here are some tips for using and caring for it.

  1. How many and where to store? I recommend having two shields, three if you want to have a replacement available. Leave one at home and keep one in the diaper bag. I keep the one in the diaper bag in something like a Shield Shell made specifically for nipple shields.
  2. What size to use? You need to use a size large enough to draw the nipple and some of the areola into the shield for baby to nurse from and promote an open jaw position, but small enough for baby to get their mouth around. A lactation consultant can help you figure out the right size for you but generally, 20mm for young babies and 24mm for older.
  3. How do I manage a baby, a shield and anything else at the same time? The instructions for applying the shield are to lightly wet it, invert it a little, place over the nipple and then put the sides down. That whole process doesn’t work with a hungry baby waiting. With one hand, put the cone of the shield between your 1st and 2nd fingers, hold it against the bottom of the areola with your 3rd and 4th fingers and with your thumb position the nipple into the right spot. It takes a little practice, but you can nurse in public just like anyone else.
  4. How do you wash your nipple shield? I rinse mine after every feeding then wash it in warm, soapy water once a day. You can also use microwave sanitizing bags without damaging the shield.

It took me a few months to not be ashamed of needing to use one so my hope is that you never are. Hopefully, I have been able to give you some encouragement, no matter how short or long a time you use one.

Have you ever used a nipple shield?

Michelle is a stay-at-home mother of two girls, a 3 year old and 6 month old. She currently lives in Dayton, Ohio with her husband and girls. She blogs about crafting, cooking, and life at Domesticating Michelle.


  1. I read this article at 5:00 am on Sunday, in the middle of a panic attack because my 10-day-old daughter still wouldn’t latch, and we were one pumped bottle of milk away from a screaming, inconsolable infant. I sent my husband out for a nipple shield as soon as the store was open and it worked immediately! She’s nursed from me for almost every meal in the past 48-hrs. Thank you for sharing your experience! (Now I have to practice your method of attaching without water…) 🙂

    • Michelle V says

      Jess, I am glad it helped. Something I have discovered since writing this is that my baby (in fact, both babies) had a lip and tongue tie and it may have had to do with their latch problems. I would still encourage you to speak with a lactation consultant and try the nipple shield weaning techniques out there (except the cutting the tip one) but you may also want to look into tongue tie to rule that out. My youngest had her revision at about 10 months old but I think she’s so set on using the shield that she looks at me like I’m crazy if I don’t use it, lol. I think I may have been able to push her a bit more but I wanted to get to the 1 year mark and didn’t want to run the risk of her deciding before then that she wasn’t going to nurse anymore. We are now at 21 months and I started working full-time just after her first birthday but she will not wean and brings me the shield and Boppy when she wants to nurse. At this point, we never nurse while we are out of the house so I don’t fret about it as much. I’ll let her keep going as long as she wants.

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