Starting with breastfeeding but having a little trouble with latching or sore nipples? Check out these best nipple shields, tried and tested by our Peanut mamas!
Breastfeeding is beautiful ‒ no doubt about that.
Breastfeeding is a choice ‒ the best for baby is to be fed, that’s all.
Breastfeeding is empowering ‒ a show of strength and motherhood.
But sometimes, breastfeeding is hard.
Whether you’re working through sore nipples from breastfeeding or baby’s having some trouble getting a good latch, a nipple shield may be the solution for you.
But what are nipple shields? And how do you know what the best nipple shields are for you?
Let’s find out!
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In this article: 📝
- What is a nipple shield?
- What nipple shield is best?
- How long can you use nipple shields?
- How do I know my nipple shield size?
- How do you use a nipple shield?
- Is it worth buying nipple shields?
What is a nipple shield?
Nipple shields (also known as breast shells, breast shields, or nipple guards) are plastic, silicone, or metal ‘covers’ to go over your nipple.
These ‘breast shells’ are shaped to cover your nipple, including the areola, either during or after breastfeeding.
What does a nipple shield do?
Different nipple shields have different uses ‒ some are like ‘caps’ used to soothe sore or dry nipples, while others have a hole shaped like a baby’s bottle to help your little one latch for easier breastfeeding.
Some babies may have difficulty latching to your nipple without a nipple shield ‒ sometimes, premature babies struggle to get enough suction on a nipple, so a nipple shield can help them to latch.
Other times, some mamas may have flat or inverted nipples, which can be hard for baby to latch onto, as well ‒ a nipple shield can give them an easier target to latch onto.
And some nipple shields are more like nipple guards, completely covering your nipple, to be used after breastfeeding to soothe sore nipples.
Is nipple shield good for breastfeeding?
It depends ‒ if, while breastfeeding, nipple shields help your baby to latch on and feed more easily, then they’re a good addition to your feeding routine until baby can latch by themselves.
But nipple shields for breastfeeding aren’t intended for long-term use ‒ particularly nipple shields to help baby latch.
If you’re worried about baby not getting enough milk from breastfeeding, or if your nipples are regularly sore during or after breastfeeding, a lactation consultant may be able to help.
Do nipple shields help with pain?
Yes, some nipple shields for breastfeeding can help with sore or cracked nipples.
After all, breastfeeding can take its toll on some mamas, and if baby is struggling to latch, that can cause more pain for your nipples.
Nipple shields to help baby latch or nipple shields to soothe your nipples can help with breastfeeding pain.
Are nipple shields good for sore nipples?
Sometimes, yes ‒ if baby is having some issues with getting a good latch, using a nipple shield can help prevent nipple pain.
Other nipple shields without a hole for baby to feed can also provide some pain relief for sore nipples.
When should you use a nipple shield?
It’s best to check with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding expert on when you should use a nipple shield, but here are some times when using nipple shields may be recommended:
- Baby is unable to get a good latch ‒ this is particularly common with premature babies.
- You have flat or inverted nipples ‒ these can be tricky for baby to get a good latch on, particularly as newborns.
- Your nipples are sore or need to heal ‒ either due to breastfeeding or something else.
Why are nipple shields not recommended?
There are a few risks with using a nipple shield that are worth taking into consideration before buying nipple shields for breastfeeding.
Nipple shields aren’t generally recommended unless baby is having issues latching or feeding.
What is nipple shield disadvantages?
Using a nipple shield for breastfeeding is usually only advised by lactation consultants when necessary ‒ that is, if baby is at risk of not getting enough milk.
This is because baby may get a little less breastmilk when using a nipple shield compared to a bare breast.
However, if baby isn’t latching well, they’re even less likely to get enough breastmilk if not using a nipple shield.
The risk of developing mastitis is also increased when using a nipple shield, as your breasts may not be fully emptied during each feeding session.
Some mamas combine using nipple shields with pumping to ensure their breasts are emptied during each feeding session (pumping after baby has nursed).
Nipple shields are also a bit of a barrier between mama and baby ‒ skin-to-skin contact is encouraged as much as possible.
Does baby get more milk without shield?
Well, here’s where things get a bit tricky.
In older studies (around the 1980s), it was determined that baby can get more milk when not using a nipple shield compared to when using a nipple shield.
However, more recent studies show that babies can get more milk or the same amount of milk as before when using a nipple shield ‒ since, when using a nipple shield, usually, there’s a reason why baby isn’t getting enough breast milk.
Ultimately, if you’re debating whether a nipple shield for breastfeeding would work for you, it’s best to ask your doctor or a lactation specialist for the answer that’s right for you.
Is it OK to use nipple shields?
Yes, it’s okay to use nipple shields, although it’s best to check with a lactation consultant or your doctor to see if they’re right for you.
There are some nipple shield pros and cons to consider, but ultimately, if they work for you, as long as you’re comfortable and baby’s getting enough milk, then nipple shields are okay to use.
Does feeding with nipple shield take longer?
When breastfeeding with nipple shields, it can take a little longer per feeding session.
Baby may not fully empty your breast of milk when using a nipple shield, as well, so sometimes, it’s recommended to express or pump your breast after each feeding session, so you reduce your chances of getting clogged milk ducts or mastitis.
What nipple shield is best?
So, which nipple shields are best for you?
Well, it’s best to ask your doctor or a lactation consultant, but these are the top nipple shields for different uses, according to our mamas of Peanut.
What are the best nipple shields for breast feeding?
First off, the best nipple shield for nursing ‒ by an overwhelming majority, is the Medela Contact Nipple Shield for Breastfeeding.
The Medela nipple shield is ultra-thin and made of soft silicone, to best reduce the barrier between mama and baby, along with mimicking the feeling of skin-on-skin.
These nipple shields for nursing are BPA-free, so you know baby’s in safe hands, and some with a handy carry case, so you can take them on the go.
The Medela nipple shield sizes are among the most varied in the nipple shields market, with three sizes available to best suit your nipple ‒ 16mm, 20mm, and 24mm.
Best nipple shields for latching
If latching is tricky for your little one, then try the Lansinoh Nipple Shield for Breastfeeding ‒ like the Medela nipple shield, it’s super-thin, super-soft, and BPA-free.
Our Peanut mamas recommend the Lansinoh nipple shield for ‘aggressive eaters’, when baby’s enthusiastic feeding might be putting a bit of a strain on your nipples, or for mamas with inverted nipples, which can be hard for baby to latch onto.
Best nipple shield for newborn
If you’re a first-time mom with a preemie newborn, breastfeeding can be a little daunting.
Don’t worry, mama, you’re not alone ‒ lots of our FTMs on Peanut have been in the same situation, and they recommended the Cradle Plus Nipple Shield & Milk Collector for Breastmilk.
What makes these nipple shields stand out is that they double not only as a nipple shield to help baby latch, but they can also store a little leaked milk that might otherwise be lost during the feeding session.
After all, your breastmilk is liquid gold!
Best nipple shields for sore nipples
If baby has no problems latching or feeding, but your nipples are left cracked and sore, these nipple shields could be the solution for you.
The Amorini Silver Nipple Covers for Breastfeeding Mothers are essentially solid silver nipple guards that you can put over your nipple to soothe them ‒ simply place them on your nipples, then put on your nursing bra and carry on about your day.
If those nipple guards are a little out of your price range, try the Original Silver Nursing Cups, which are a more affordable, budget-friendly option.
How long can you use nipple shields?
Nipple shields for breastfeeding aren’t designed for long-term use, but it depends on what you’ve been recommended by your doctor or a lactation consultant.
Most nipple shields can be used anywhere from 2 days to 5 weeks, as long as they’re thoroughly cleaned between uses ‒ handwashing is best to avoid any warping in the dishwasher.
How do I know my nipple shield size?
So, what size nipple shield do I need?
First, you’ll need to measure the size of your nipple, excluding your areola (the circle of nipple-colored skin around your nipple).
Measure your nipple at the widest part, then check the nipple shield sizing available with your chosen nipple shield manufacturer.
Nipple shield sizes can vary, so it’s worth measuring your nipple before you start nipple shield shopping.
What happens if nipple shield is too big?
If your nipple shield is too big ‒ your nipple has a lot of excess space around it in the nipple shield ‒ then baby may struggle to get enough milk during each feeding.
This can mean that feeding sessions take a little longer or that pumping or expressing milk may be needed to make sure your breast is fully emptied and baby gets the nutrition they need.
What is the smallest size breast shield?
It depends on the nipple shield manufacturer, but generally speaking, the smallest nipple shields tend to be around 16mm in diameter, ideal for some smaller, flat, or inverted nipples.
How do you use a nipple shield?
Now, how to use nipple shields.
Each nipple shield manufacturer may have their own instructions and how-to guides, but, generally speaking, here’s how to use a nipple shield:
- Hand-wash to clean the nipple shield, using antibacterial dish soap, rinsing it thoroughly.
- Turn the nipple shield partway inside-out, so the area where your nipple will be is still sticking out.
- Put your nipple into the ‘dimple’ area that’s sticking out, then stretch the rest of the nipple shield over your breast.
- It should look a little like a ‘forcefield’ over your breast and nipple, feeling snug (but not too tight) around your nipple and areola.
- If it’s not sticking to your breast, putting a little water or nipple cream around the edge can help.
- Then, baby can start feeding, with their full mouth covering the ‘nipple’ of the nipple shield and their lips pucked out over your areola.
How do I keep my nipple shield on?
If your nipple shield isn’t staying stuck during baby’s feeding, using a little water of nipple cream around the edge can help.
If that doesn’t work, some medical tape applied around the nipple shield should hold it secure, as long as you’re not blocking the area where baby will be feeding.
Is it worth buying nipple shields?
It’s totally up to you ‒ many mamas who have babies that struggle with latching, for whatever reason, find nipple shields to be a lifesaver.
Some mamas with sore nipples love the silver nipple guards for their soothing.
And some mamas either don’t need or don’t get on with nipple shields.
After all, every mama, every baby, and every parenting journey is different.
You do you, mama.
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