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Nipple shields are devices to help with certain breast-feeding problems. A nipple shield looks like a little hat with a brim. The crown of the hat fits over the nipple, and the brim lies over the areola. Most nipple shields are made of a soft, thin, flexible plastic.
Nipple shields may be helpful for babies who have trouble sucking, such as:
Premature babies may not have strong suction and may not be able to latch on as well as full-term babies. Suction is important because it helps the baby get enough of the nipple in his or her mouth. Nipple shields can help premature babies get a better latch and get enough milk.
Nipple shields are meant for short-term use. For example, they might be used with a premature baby until the baby's expected birth date. So for a baby born at a gestational age of 35 weeks, you might use nipple shields for a few weeks. After that, the baby will probably be able to nurse without a shield.
Nipple shields look simple, but there are some tricks to using them correctly. So be sure you get guidance from a lactation consultant or other breast-feeding expert. Your hospital, doctor, or midwife can help you find an expert in your area.
A lactation consultant can:
It's important to use a nipple shield correctly. If it isn't used the right way, your nipples could be damaged or your baby may not get enough milk.
These signs mean you are using the shield correctly:
Experts say nipple shields should not be used:
In these cases, it's better to deal with what's causing the problem than to use nipple shields. A doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, or other expert can help resolve these issues.
Experts have concerns about the use of nipple shields in full-term babies.
In general, experts think nipple shields should be used only if other possible solutions were tried and didn't work.
Other Works Consulted
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (Revision 2010). ABM Protocol #7: Model Breastfeeding Policy. Breastfeeding Medicine, 5(4): 173–175.
July 3, 2013
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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