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To Shield or not to Shield

Nipple shields are one of the most common breastfeeding tools that I see in my practice. These thin, flexible, silicone devices are often used to protect a breastfeeding nipple from pain, cracks and/or blisters. But are they used or recommended too hastily in the breastfeeding journey?

Often times, nipple shields are offered to the breastfeeding parent as a quick fix to breastfeeding challenges or discomfort before looking at positioning, latch, and the baby’s oral anatomy. It can also be challenging to discontinue using a nipple shield once the baby is accustomed to it and if the initial reasons for using it are not corrected. Too often nipple shields substitute skilled lactation support.

Unfortunately, they may also lead to lowered milk supply and subsequently poor weight gain, as the breast may not be sufficiently stimulated through the shield. Nevertheless, nipple shields can also be a lifesaver to the breastfeeding journey if used when indicated.

Possible reasons to consider a nipple shield include:

Latching difficulties such as: nipple anomalies, birth trauma, delays in breastfeeding, transition from the bottle to the breast, small baby mouth/larger nipples.

Baby’s oral anatomy abnormal palate, low muscles tone, recessed jaw

Severely damaged nipples whereby the breastfeeding parent uses the shield as a last resort before discontinuing breastfeeding. Note that the reason for the damaged nipples must also be assessed.

If you are considering using a nipple shield or have started using one and feel unsure if it is working for you, I would recommend seeking some professional lactation support. There may be an easier, longer lasting solution available. A lactation consultant can also help assess milk supply and baby’s intake.

Melanie Jacobson ND IBCLC, is available on Tuesdays at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre for lactation appointments and postnatal wellness consultations as well as complimentary 15 minute meet and greet appointments.

Melanie is also excited to introduce the Beyond Birth - Virtual Breastfeeding Clinic, beginning October 7th . This breastfeeding clinic is lead by an IBCLC, where you can get your breastfeeding questions answered, learn from other’s experiences, and support other parents in their journey. This group breastfeeding clinics will be offered virtually on Thursday morning.

Check out link here.


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