Prev Next

The Shield

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m a HUGE fan and plan to write you a separate gushing email soon about how your blog and various advice columns got me through my pregnancy. But for now, I have a question, and I’m sorry, it’s really long! It may not be something you can answer, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Two weeks ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and for the most part, it’s gone very well. The most important thing is happening — the baby is totally thriving. She’s a voracious eater and was up above her birth weight at her one-week doctor’s checkup, without me having to supplement at all; my supply has been right on target. I am also lucky that both my mother and my mother-in-law breastfed and believe it in strongly, and my husband is a fan as well, so I have a lot of support and encouragement.

My problem is regarding nipple shields. The first time I fed her in the recovery room, she couldn’t get latched on, but I chalked up a lot of that to my position at the time, as I was flat on my back being stitched up after a difficult vaginal birth (forceps, anyone? yes, please, and I’ll have a fourth-degree tear on the side). Then in the postpartum room we tried again. At this point I had been up for about 26 hours and the very pushy nurse popped a nipple shield on me without really explaining why or what it was supposed to do, then put the baby on to feed. I went with it and things went okay in the hospital, although somewhat painful. I asked the lactation consultant who stopped by just before we checked out (and didn’t really seem interested in answering our questions) about it, and she said something like “keep using it until you don’t need to anymore” before leaving.

The next day at the first pediatrician visit, I talked to the lactation consultant there, who informed me that part of the extreme pain I felt when she latched on was probably due to the nipple shield I had being two sizes too small. She brought me a proper fitting one and told me I had inverted nipples, and again said something about working my way off the shield, but didn’t really answer my questions about how and when to do that. Breastfeeding got less painful with the larger shield, but I still felt like something wasn’t right, so I took matters into my own hands and scheduled a home visit with a THIRD lactation consultant from the Breastfeeding Center here in DC. She came over and was lovely, and got the baby to latch on without the shield, which we did successfully a few times. But it still hurt like hell right when she latched on, and that time and the times since that I’ve tried to feed her without the shield (which I have been able to do, and felt very proud of both of us), she’s done a number on my nipples and made subsequent feedings more painful.

The nipple shield was not something covered in the breastfeeding class I took or any of the info that I read, so I felt totally blindsided by it and now like I’m completely dependent on it. The current status is that I’m still using it every feeding, and despite a few seconds of initial pain when she latches that I still have, 1-2 minutes later there’s no pain at all, and the vast majority of the time I spend feeding her is downright pleasant. But while all three lactation consultants have advised me to get off the shield when I can, start by popping it off mid-feeding and get her latched on, etc., none of them will give me a straight answer of what will go wrong if I don’t.

That’s my question for you. Do you know if there are problems with just always using the nipple shield? What could the negative impact be on the baby? On me? Is there a time by which I don’t get off of it, it will cause issues with feeding later or something? This damn piece of silicone has me SO stressed out, and I just don’t feel ready to give it up yet. I may eventually, but for now, (1) my nipples are still raw, (2) my baby has a tiny mouth — she was pretty little and there’s only so much areola she can take in to get a good latch, (3) my baby is also not a patient soul and screams when she’s not fed rightthissecond, and latching without the shield usually takes multiple tries, and (4) I’m still hurting in other places from the delivery and just trying to avoid any extra pain when I can. I feel so guilty when I finish each feeding without even trying to do it without the shield, but I can’t bring myself to let her tear me open again. What would be the downside of waiting until she has a bigger mouth and my nipples are more healed before trying again? Or just using it until I go back to work and she’s drinking pumped milk from a bottle most of the time?

Thanks so much in advance for any advice you have.


First, let me make one thing super clear: I am not a lactation consultant nor anything close to a breastfeeding expert. I also have zero personal experience with nipple shields or inverted nipples. In summary, I am the most woefully under-qualified person you could possibly take your question to.

Got it? Okay! Now let me ramble on for many more paragraphs.

The Problem With Nipple Shields

From MY understanding, there are two “real” potential problems with long-term nipple shield use, hence all the pressure on you to wean your baby (and yourself) from it: First, they can cause supply problems, as your baby is unable to really suck deeply from your breast. Thus, she doesn’t empty your boob, you produce less milk, you are at a higher risk for clogged ducts and mastitis, oh, joy.

The second problem can crop up when you introduce bottles. Your baby is already accustomed to the taste and feel of a silicone shield, and may more rapidly develop a preference for bottles, as they have the same feel in her mouth but don’t require so much work on her part. As the mother of a kid with oral motor issues, I can attest that yes, this does happen, even without the shield. It’s not insurmountable (I highly recommend using preemie-flow nipples instead of level ones), but combined with supply issues, it’s also not something I’d wave away as not worth worrying about.

Of course, the supply issues/baby not getting all your milk are POTENTIAL problems. It certainly doesn’t sound like you have any, with a chubby thriving baby. If you’re concerned, you can always try pumping for five or 10 minutes after feedings — this way you’re guaranteed to make sure your boobs are empty (less risk of clogged ducts) AND sort-of trick your body into thinking you need to make more milk than you actually do. (And it’s all a balancing act, as you don’t want to veer into oversupply territory either. WTH, boobs.) If your daughter continues to gain weight and thrive, pee and poop after feedings, etc., you are likely making enough and she is likely getting enough, even with the shield.

The other problems I’ve seen listed as “cons” for nipple shields basically amount to: You should wean from nipple shields because it can be incredibly difficult to wean from nipple shields. Um. Okay then.

Dealing With Inverted Nipples

So. Onto the inverted nipple thing. If you aren’t on a hospital-grade breast pump, get one. Watch your boobs in the shield and see if it’s able to draw out the nipple. Even if it can’t at first, from what I’ve read, it can with time, since flat and inverted nipples are often caused by adhesions that need to be broken. (OW. GOD. I AM SORRY.) If you see that the pump can pretty easily draw your nipples out, then it could be time to try going shield-less with your daughter again.

As for the pain: if you are able to get her to latch correctly, the pain WILL decrease and stop once your nipples heal — though there is some overlap. However, if her latch is as bad as you make it sound, you will get trapped in a endless cycle of her mouth inflicting more damage to your nipples as soon as you heal. Waiting until she’s a bit bigger and able to latch correctly (i.e. bypassing the nipple and getting her mouth around the areola instead) before ditching the shield is probably not going to be the end of the world, particularly if you’re using a breast pump to offset any potential supply problems in the meantime. I would probably say it’s still a good idea to occasionally whip the shield off mid-feeding (once your milk is really flowing and she’s really into it), but definitely find some balance so you can stop stressing about this so much. Balance, and a prescription for some All-Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO). It’s the greatest stuff in the world. (OF ALL TIME!)

(Oh, and has anyone checked her out for a tongue-tie? Little flappy skin thing under her tongue? Have you seen her tongue stick out past her bottom lip? Or does it stay in her mouth and look like the top of a heart? Because MAN, that nonsense HURTS, and makes a good latch all but impossible.)

But…you know, I KNOW of women who never managed to get their babies weaned from the shield. It sometimes is a necessary evil for preemies and inverted nipples (though it sounds like your nurse really jumped the gun by giving you one, but hey, I don’t think you’re allowed to be a breastfeeding mother without having a story about some TERRIFICALLY BAD ADVICE you got from someone). You’re feeding the baby. That’s rule number one. Rule number two is to maintain your milk supply. That’s where the shield MIGHT work against you, but it might not, and there might be other solutions to that problem if you encounter it on the shield. (Pumping, herbs, teas, Domperidone, etc.)

I’m guessing there are some readers out there who can chime in with some first-hand experiences with nipple shields and how to wean from one and what can happen if you don’t. So I shall pass the microphone to them. Good luck.

Photo source: Milky Way Lactation

Published October 15, 2009. Last updated January 14, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • anne

    October 15, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Ok, I WISH someone would have given me a shield in the hospital as I hadn’t heard of them either. I ended up having to switch right away to pumping and bottle feeding to get my kid to eat. Then, when I did hear about it, I got her to switch back pretty easily and happily. What I was told at the time was, “when she’s ready, she’ll stop using it.” I didn’t really believe it, but around 3 months, she didn’t want to use it anymore, we popped it off and she went another 9 months without. I also didn’t ever have a supply problem with it.
    Now, I know everyone and every kid is different, but we wouldn’t have made it without this thing I don’t think. The exclusive pumping deal was rather tiresome! And sure, it was kind of a pain to have one more thing, but it made a good difference.
    I believe there was a bit of “getting used to” pain after we stopped using it, but not as much as the initial nursing was.
    Good luck!

  • Clare

    October 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    My cousin used a nipple shield with her first, until he self-weaned at 15 months. It worked for them, but she was determined to avoid using one for her 2nd because of the hassle involved. So, using one until the baby weans doesn’t doom you to a short breastfeeding relationship if you don’t want one.
    But, I think a lot of the pain you’re experiencing is the pain most new breastfeeding moms encounter. Check the tongue tie, the latch, lather yourself up with ointment, grit your teeth, curl your toes, and wait it out. The LC I saw with my first baby suggested using olive oil to help the his mouth slide into a better latch –coat your nipple to make it to slippery for her to hold on to, and try the football hold to get your boob all the way in to her mouth.

  • Kate

    October 15, 2009 at 11:49 am

    An amen to the tongue-tie thing. My daughter was very MILDLY tongue-tied and I didn’t think much of it. I was experiencing extreme discomfort during the first few minutes each time I nursed (so much so that I would tear up in anticipation during feeding times!), but did not associate it with the tongue-tie because the pediatrician at the hospital seemed very unconcerned. Anyway, long story short, I finally found a pediatrician who agreed that we might as well cut the frenulum while my daughter was too young to care, and presto! NO MORE PAIN. And now my daughter will be able to lick her ice cream cone and, in the words of my doctor, french kiss! (She’ll thank us for that later!)

  • Natalie

    October 15, 2009 at 11:49 am

    I didn’t ever use a breast shield, but I did have brutalized nipples for the first… WEEKS. We were told that she had a great latch and she was certainly getting enough milk & generally doing well, but… OMG toe-curling pain for the first couple weeks while my nipples toughened up. If it makes you feel better, the pain became much less severe after a couple weeks & breastfeeding actually became pleasant after about six weeks. We’re now 14 weeks in & breastfeeding is now a breeze. Good luck!

  • Olivia

    October 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I don’t have advice, but I just want to say WTH is it with nurses/lactation consultants shoving a sheild at a new mother as soon as she has trouble with latching? Are they not educated enough or just too impatient to sit down with a mother and try different techniques first?

  • beanery

    October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I came here to post basically the same exact comment as Anne. I didn’t discover the shield until my son was about 3 months old, but I was so grateful when I did because I would never have been able to breastfeed him without it. And I only had to use it for a few weeks and he was able to breastfeed and bottle feed from there on out.

  • Sheila

    October 15, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I apparently have flat nipples (who knew?) and my daughter had a very hard time learning to latch on. So after about a week, a lactation nurse gave me a nipple shield to try. That thing was our salvation. Nursing immediately became a less frustrating experience. I tended toward oversupply problems if anything so I didn’t have any shield-related issues.
    After awhile it did get to be a pain, since I always had to make sure I had a shield around (we bought a few extra). For a few weeks I tried getting her to latch on without it, either at first or after we’d been going for awhile. But finally I got sick of that frustration and just used the shield. When she was around 3 months old we started trying again, and she slowly got a little better, but we still mostly used the shield. Then just before she was four months old, it was like a switch was flipped and she didn’t need it at all. We’re still nursing at almost 10 months and I know we’d never have made it without the nipple shield.
    I asked the lactation nurse why people get so fussed about them and she said it can be dangerous to use just because of the pain you feel in the first few days, but if you need it to help the baby latch, it’s great. So if it’s working for you, I would say try not to stress. Eventually she may not need it anymore… or maybe she’ll always need it. Either way it’s not a huge deal. Good luck!

  • Christy

    October 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, the tongue tie! Check for it! The way you describe the paint just at the initial latch totally reminds me of my tongue-tied daughter. She had to sort of chew her way on the breast. Yes, that’s as bad as it sounds.
    As far as the nipple shield – I used one with my son. We had a ton of problems and we fought the good fight but I was never able to feed him without supplements. Now, years later, I think that a lot of his latch problems were due to a high pallette.
    So, check the baby! There might be a problem there that no one is looking for because they assumed the issue was your nipples.

  • Nora

    October 15, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I am typing this one handed as the other is holding my 3-week-old on the boob, with a nipple shield. I had flat nipples and had an identical hospital lactation consultant experience getting introduced to the silicon shield. First pediatric appt essentially being told to stop. Gee thanks.
    Now I have gotten him to latch and actually nurse for a stretch 3 whole times. From what I can tell, the trick was to plug him in when he was a little sleepy and not squawking in hunger yet. I got the nipple lathered up with milk and kinda tricked him onto it. He has latched on a few more times than that but it seems like he catches on that the shield is not there and detaches after a minute until I put it on.
    So I feel like we are on the way to weaning but it continues to be a process. We co-sleep and I’ve woken up with little hickies on my chest and arms so there’s not a problem with his latch in general. I am a little grateful for the protection since I’ve got a marathon eater who is attached to my boobs the majority of time he is awake. He is growing, has 10-15 diapers a day. I’ve decided he’ll be off the thing at some point but there are many other things I have to worry about, I’m not letting this one be high on the list.

  • Christine

    October 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I thought I had at least one inverted or flat nipple, and when I was having a lot of pain with breastfeeding in the first week or so, an LC suggested I try a nipple shield. I wasn’t impressed – it didn’t seem to do much, so I just gritted my teeth and kept on keeping on. I think any baby’s suck (unless they have an issue like a tongue-tie) is strong enough to pull out an inverted nipple, and I’m honestly not sure what the shield is supposed to do. Most people have pain with nursing to start with (and “start” is relative – I had piercing pain at latch-on/let-down for seven weeks), but so long as the baby’s latch is good and your nipples aren’t cracked or bleeding, it’s worth the perseverance. Good luck!

  • Katherine

    October 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    I used a nipple shield and your baby will self wean. Here is what worked for me – let the baby nurse with the shield, take the edge off their hunger, then take it off and let them try without it for a bit at the end. They are nursing all time at the beginning anyway. Nursing with the shield will help with the inverted nipples as well and make latching a bit easier once you remove it. At around 2 months, my son would get cranky if I tried to nurse with the nipple shield and started nursing directly without problem. At nine months (Sunday) we’re still going strong.
    As background, my first child never latched on to my flat/inverted nipples and I pumped (for a year).
    And yes, I got all the pressure about using the nipple shield and supply etc, but I didn’t care – I finally had a kid who was nursing. I was prepared to use it for as long as he wanted. A friend said she used it exclusively for six months.

  • h

    October 15, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    When my daughter was born from emergency C-Section, her first meal was a bottle. Thusly, she wouldn’t latch to all-natural me. Whipped out the shield and LO WE HAD A LATCH.
    It did help me because I had a biiiig oversupply. I literally could pump for 45 minutes after she would nurse and fill a 6 oz bottle. IT SUCKED. If I didn’t use the shield, I would squirt milk into her eye or nose. (Fun times!)
    One thing the LC never told me, a tired first timer, was that I had to boil those things. I would get done, rinse them in hot water, and call it a day. Three weeks and two raging cases of thrush later, OH YEAH STERILIZE!
    Honestly, as long as she’s being fed, that’s what’s important. Try whipping it off mid-feeding and see if that does anything??

  • Anonymous

    October 15, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I had a difficult delivery that ended in a c/s with my first child. We had difficulty latching, the pain was *excruciating*, and a lactation consultant sent us home with a nipple shield. After 3 weeks of using the nipple shield, my mother showed up on my doorstep, unnannounced, with a friend who just happened to be a lactation consultant, and told me “you’re breastfeeding all wrong, and I brought my friend to fix it.” (direct quote! Not paraphrasing!)
    I think that the nipple shield did contribute to my supply problems, and I also got mastitis, twice, in the first few weeks. I went cold turkey on the shield, and while my son was NOT HAPPY AT ALL about it, after about two (very long, screamy) days he was done with it. The excruciating pain returned, but was gone in a week. (Same thing happened with my second son—horribly painful for the first 7-10 days, like clenching teeth and crying while bfing painful—but after that first week it was fine.)
    I used a lot of Lansinoh. Like gobs of it. Since it was winter, I took a long sleeve shirt, cut two holes in the front, slathered the Lansinoh on (it stains, and my nipples were killing me) and just walked around my house looking like a fembot. I wiped some but not all of it off when we breastfed, and it helped with the pain.
    Bfing my first son was not a great experience and I think the nipple shield was a big part of it….I had supply issues for months, and at 5 months when he wasn’t gaining weight I started supplementing, finally gave up at 8 months. (It was way easier with babies 2 and 3).

  • Karen

    October 15, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    very important – find one, as in a single (not whoever is available) Lactation Consultant to work with you on the shield. Otherwise you will get inconsistent advice (same as you’ll get here).
    From what I gather, sucking issues are actually quite complex, affecting speech, eating, French kissing? and really should be given professional attention.
    I have an 8 week old and was advised by a LC to use a shield to help latch on my side with a flat nipple. I used said shield until week 7 when I just got so pissed about having to keep track of it, clean it, etc. that I dropped it cold turkey. This in turn ticked of the LC and I’m meeting with her again to develop a better way of weaning.
    She was also mildly tongue tied and I spoke with a dr who had the same approach as PP – just cut it now while she won’t care.
    My milk supply is more than ever, in fact, I’m experiencing a new pattern of engorgement for reasons that are too complicated to explain but have to do with her sucking.
    Bottom line – the pain is normal for early weeks of breastfeeding, if Amy’s excellent suggestion to see if the pump pulls your nipple out works, then I think it would be possible for you to wean off in a few weeks when the babe’s mouth is a bit bigger.
    But really, you should be working with a LC who is familiar with you, your baby, and your milk supply. This is a tough topic to get help from the net world.

  • professormama

    October 15, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve never used a nipple shield, nor do I have inverted nipples, but having breast fed 2 children (the first for 2 years, and still feeding the second) I can tell you pain when the baby latches on and for the first minute or so afterwards is NORMAL in the first weeks.
    Especially with a first baby, you nipples are doing something new, and most women have some kind of pain ranging from discomfort to tear-jerking misery. But it will pass, so relax as much as you can, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself, your baby, and your milk supply.
    Your nipples will adjust over time- give yourself at least 2-3 months, your body will get the hang of this mama thing.
    Try surgical grade lanolin for nipples that are getting beat up, it was a life saver for my mom and many of my friends.

  • Leanne

    October 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Have breastfed my almost 10 month-old now exclusively (boob and EBM) and am still using the nipple shields. He was born a month early and weighed 5 lbs. His teeny mouth had a poor latch and during the 3 days in hospital I had several LCs trying to get things to work. On my discharge day, as his weight dropped to almost the dreaded -10% birth weight and me stubbornly and persistently refusing the formula they readily offered, a LC finally, reluctantly had me use a nipple shield and atta boy! He was sucking his little heart out and hasn’t stopped since. THE NIPPLE SHIELD SAVED MY BREASTFEEDING.
    I was also told I had to wean, that he would self-wean, about nipple confusion, poor supply, clogged ducts, mastitis, and I admit I have been very very lucky. I had started pumping in the hospital so that I could syringe-feed him colostrum until he latched and my milk came in. Although I nursed, I continued to pump at home in order to have a spare bottle or two in case I needed it and in prep for spare supply when going back to work. My supply was never an issue, his weight went from 10th percentile at birth to 50th quickly and has remained there. He doubled, then tripled his BW very quickly and is now 20 pounds. He loves the boob, but thankfully, he never even blinked at a bottle, takes it warm or cold or anywhere in between. From me, dad, the nanny, my mom…
    I tried to wean him off the shields at 2 months, but he would have none of it. Just looked up at me confused. However, for the past few weeks, he has started pulling them off and going bare. It definitely ‘hurts’ or ‘tugs’ more but not unbearably so. I guess he is self-weaning from the shields.
    I admit I am self-conscious and defensive about them, that I have to explain their use to other moms or BF militants. Yes, I have been hassled by women (moms, mind you, judgemental moms!!) in public who feel the need to comment that I am doing it all wrong. The shields do make things at tad more logistically difficult in that you have to always have them around (keep spares in the diaper bag, your purse, the car, etc…), and it’s a more conspicuous process in public having to make sure they are in place, etc… but it’s a small trade-off for being able to BF.
    Had a few clogged ducts when I went back to work and had to pump more, but nursing him cleared them right up. Knock wood, never had mastitis. I have been hypervigilant about cleaning the shields with each use and sterilizing frequently (I just use the Medela microwave bags). My plan is to continue until he is one year old, maybe another month or two to get through the winter cold/flu season.
    Sounds like you are already doing a great job–I would support saying just do whatever works for you and your baby. Good luck!! I hope everything works out for you.

  • Kate

    October 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    I don’t have any advice about the shield but I wanted to chime in about the tongue tie and the sore nipples. My son was born with severe tongue tie (which I knew about from reading about Ezra btw so thanks Amy 🙂 and he did a number on my nipples before we got his frenulum clipped. Thank goodness I knew what I was seeing (from reading Amy), had a nurse at the hospital who also noticed, and had a lactation consultant who was willing to argue with the pediatrician about him needing the surgery (not my pediatrician thank goodness, the one from the practice who sees babies at the hospital where I delivered and didn’t even notice the tongue tie in the first place). The oral surgeon said it was the worst case of tongue tie he had ever seen. So, it’s worth looking into that if you haven’t already. In the meantime I highly recommend the Ameda ComfortGel Pads.
    The lactation consultant at the hospital told me to get them and boy was she right. My nipples felt better immediately and within a few days were all healed up. They’re kind of expensive but they last a long time. My son is 5 months old now and I pulled them out again the other day because I was a little sore from him pulling off without letting go.

  • Sheila

    October 15, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I used a shield for a number of weeks with my son, now 3 month old. After an emergency c-section he spent 5 days in the NICU where I couldn’t hold him at first, then still couldn’t breastfeed him for a few days so he started out on a bottle before ever trying to nurse. Then when he wouldn’t latch on to me the nurses & lc suggested using a shield to transition him to me.
    It worked, but then I had to work to get him off of it. Mostly because I had supply problems but also because I hated HAVING to have the shield; it seemed like I always had to track down where it was, and hold it in place a lot of the time, and I didn’t want to forever have to deal with it.
    I got him away from using it by just continually offering the breast without the shield, then putting the shield on before he’d get too frustrated. It was very gradual, but it did eventually happen (I think it was around 7 or 8 weeks but don’t remember exactly).
    I did have a few weeks of pretty intense nipple pain when he’d first latch on, but my nipples have since toughened up and now we’re having no real issues. I’m very glad I worked to get him off the shield because nursing is much simpler when I don’t have to hassle with one.

  • kim

    October 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Nipple shields were my best friend for the first four mos. of my dd’s life. My nipples aren’t inverted, but they are relatively small, and they were the only way we could nurse at first. It was a hassle to keep track of them and keep them clean, but my nipples never chapped or cracked or had any of the painful problems I heard other moms talk about. I don’t even remember it hurting that much.
    I very slowly began trying to nurse without it at the beginning of our sessions, for a few minutes at a time, just for the peace of mind of knowing that I could nurse without it if I needed to. Then one weekend she just stopped needing it. But my friend never did wean her son off of them. We both nursed for well past a year.I don’t know if she’s using them with her second or not, but I should find out, in case I need to stock up again.

  • Anonymous

    October 15, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    I had a difficult delivery that ended in a c/s with my first child. We had difficulty latching, the pain was *excruciating*, and a lactation consultant sent us home with a nipple shield. After 3 weeks of using the nipple shield, my mother showed up on my doorstep, unnannounced, with a friend who just happened to be a lactation consultant, and told me “you’re breastfeeding all wrong, and I brought my friend to fix it.” (direct quote! Not paraphrasing!)
    I think that the nipple shield did contribute to my supply problems, and I also got mastitis, twice, in the first few weeks. I went cold turkey on the shield, and while my son was NOT HAPPY AT ALL about it, after about two (very long, screamy) days he was done with it. The excruciating pain returned, but was gone in a week. (Same thing happened with my second son—horribly painful for the first 7-10 days, like clenching teeth and crying while bfing painful—but after that first week it was fine.)
    I used a lot of Lansinoh. Like gobs of it. Since it was winter, I took a long sleeve shirt, cut two holes in the front, slathered the Lansinoh on (it stains, and my nipples were killing me) and just walked around my house looking like a fembot. I wiped some but not all of it off when we breastfed, and it helped with the pain.
    Bfing my first son was not a great experience and I think the nipple shield was a big part of it….I had supply issues for months, and at 5 months when he wasn’t gaining weight I started supplementing, finally gave up at 8 months. (It was way easier with babies 2 and 3).

  • miriam

    October 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    If you are finding that she is not emptying your breast or that you have plugged ducts frequently, then I’d worry more about the shield interfering with the breastfeeding. But it seems like she’s eating find and all… She’s only 2 weeks old, you’ll have plenty of time to worry later. I think that not being cringy about putting your baby on your breast can only help you feed her enough to keep your supply appropriate. I remember many times not wanting to put my daughter on my boob to “see” if there was enough milk for a feed during the first couple of weeks because my nipples were unspeakably sore. (I second the lasinoh). Also, using a pump gives you a nice idea of what kind of discomfort is from just the breastfeeding and what is from poor latch (put the pump on and turn it too high for a few secs…) It’s a very important perspective when we keep being told that “if it hurts you’re doing it WRONNNNNG!”

  • kim

    October 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Double commenting herre because I don’t get the anti-shield energy. I had zero problems – no clogged ducts, no mastitis, no supply issues, no cracked nipples, no nipple confusion, nada. My shields were washed in hot soapy water or the dishwasher. Plus all of those problems happen without the shield, so it seems to be a mileage-may-vary thing.
    I am, however, knocking like crazy on my dining table right now, hoping I haven’t jinxed my next go-round.

  • Della

    October 15, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Just a quick chime in:
    I don’t have inverted nipples, so I’m not qualified to comment on that issue per se, but I do know that if I put it on right, the shield would suck my nipple so that the nipple “popped out” inside the shield. Letting the baby suck on it for a while would make the nipple stick out in a more defined way, so that then I could remove the shield and the nipple would stay out, allowing it to stick into the baby’s mouth better/farther. That was useful when the baby was really small and I just wasn’t having good letdown/nipple pop-out action yet.
    With my son (first child) I had ridiculous oversupply/engorgement issues for a while. When my milk FIRST came in, I was so engorged that my boobs had ballooned hard around the nipple, enveloping it so it didn’t stick out. So the shield was a substitute nipple until my son drank enough to soften the breast. Then I could pop him off for a second, take off the shield, and put him back on the actual nipple, now that it could be differentiated from the rest of the breast.
    Third of all, with the oversupply, the shield stood in the way of my killer boob spray, keeping my fire hose from choking the baby. Once the babies were a little older (maybe a month with my son, and less than that with my daughter now), they got used to having major amounts of milk sprayed in their mouths, didn’t sputter so much, and so I didn’t need the plastic in the way.
    So when you’re asking “when do I stop needing it”, if you’re using a shield for any of these reasons, a little experimentation without it should make clear whether you’re ready to stop.

  • Anonymous

    October 15, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Original question-asker here. Thank you so much, Amy and all commenters, for your thoughts and advice. I feel a lot better knowing I’m not the only one who’s faced this and that other women have used shields long-term and/or gotten off them successfully. I’ll try not to stress about it so much…easier said than done for a FTM…

  • Deanna

    October 15, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    OMG! This is so deja vu! I have a 10 week old, and have dealt with almost the same issues. I don’t really know the deal with my nipple, I think they were kind of flat, but I have worked through that problem, and now wonder if they will ever go back down to normal size. I was lucky and the lactation consultants at my hospital were absolutely wonderful. My son was a little trickster, and would latch on perfectly for anyone watching, but once we were alone, was a little stinker. After I was discharged, I went in to see the lactation consultants about twice a week. My nipples were so sore and torn up, so bad that I was told to pump only for about five days, so that my nipples could heal. That worked pretty well, and I was able to get him to latch on about half the time pretty easily, and the other half, I used a shield. He got bigger and was able to latch on all the time. But man, getting him used to it was such a struggle. I feel for you, good luck.

  • HereWeGoAJen

    October 15, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    I am a shield success story. We tried for three days in the hospital to get my baby to latch on and I could only breastfeed with a lactation consultant standing over me. Right before I went home, the woman gave me a shield to try and all of a sudden, I could do it!
    I had oversupply, and didn’t even know that shields could cause undersupply until we weren’t using one anymore. For the oversupply, I started nursing her on one side only per feeding and that worked really well and we still do it. (Ten months old now.) I think this helped with getting her to totally empty the breast and I never had clogged ducts or mastitis. (Well, until much later, but that is irrelevant.)
    My daughter hasn’t taken a single bottle since she was three days old and acts like you are trying to poison her if you try, so we certainly had the opposite of that problem. (In other words, I am no help here except to say that preferring the silicone nipple doesn’t always happen.)
    Weaning from the shield. I was lazy. I never did it. She did it herself. When she was about five months old, she just started pulling the shield off with her mouth, spitting it out, and latching herself on. We haven’t used one since. It was easy.
    Anyway, the reason I never bothered with ditching the shield is that it never caused us any problems. I just ignored the “you shoulds”. The only reason I didn’t like it was because it was messy. (I tucked a burp cloth into the bottom of my nursing bra to catch the leaks. My daughter became obsessed with burp cloths.) I guess my point is that you shouldn’t worry about it unless it causes you problems. Of course, I didn’t do any research about any of this and I am certainly no expert, but we were lucky and didn’t have any of the problems that can happen.

  • CS

    October 16, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Hi! Inverted Nipples over here. Add to that fair, sensitive skin, poor nursing positioning advice in the first few days, and I had cracked, bleeding nipples that persisted for the first six weeks of nursing.
    I ran screaming when offered a shield, because of all the negatives I’d read about it (amalah covers what I read) so I can’t offer direct advice about the outcome when you do use it. What I can offer is advice about nursing successfully with inverted nipples. I found that it took a good long while for my skin to adjust, but eventually it did. I submit that info both in the interest of honesty and in the interest of encouraging you to stick it out, because IT WILL GET BETTER! Crucial to my success was changing up my daughter’s positioning when nursing–every feeding was a new position. Baby your skin between feedings, pump to draw out the nipple, as Amy mentioned, and I do believe you will not need the shield, in time. It is worth sticking it out, even if you have to find your own path. I breast-fed not only my daughter, but my other two children as well, for 18 months each. It was well worth the initial struggle. I will be thinking of you!

  • solitarysunrise

    October 16, 2009 at 3:01 am

    I had an unexpected c-section for the birth of my first son, and I was put under general anesthesia. I was super groggy for 2 days, and so was the baby. Then I ended up in the hospital for 8 days due to infection so bad I felt like dying. Needless to say, I definetly had problems getting my sleepy babe and myself in sync when it came to latching on. Finally like on day 6 of the hospital stay, a nurse took pity on me and suggested I try a nipple sheild. Previously, I had to pump and bottle feed my son, so I gave the sheild a try. Anything to get me out of the misery of feeling like a breast feeding failure. It worked and we went on to nurse until he was 17 months old. I hated using the thing too, it was such a hassle when attempting to use it outside of my home, but it was also such a lifesaver. I was very grateful to have it, I don’t think we would have been successful without it. By the way, he stopped needing it at around 2 months of age, so hang in there- it is so worth it.

  • Jennifer

    October 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I used a nipple shield with my first son the whole time he nursed (for 2.5 yrs). No problems whatsoever, except keeping track of it and keeping it clean. Having to find it at 2 in the morning in the dark was never fun. With my 3-month old, we used a shield for two months because of my flat nipples and then other issues. I was afraid I was in for another two years of trying to find a nearly invisible piece of silicone, but he was losing weight at his 2-month checkup, so I saw an LC who helped me latch him on without it. I saw her on Thursday, and we were totally done with it by the end of the weekend. It was a little stressful getting him to give it up, but I was also stressed about my supply, why was he losing weight, and all that. But now he’s great and I don’t have to keep track of it. So I think I did have a problem with low supply this time, but it was quickly corrected and all is well. Nursing without it is easier because I don’t have to worry about losing it or hear my mil fuss about how bad it is.

  • Sharon

    October 16, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Just chiming in to confirm that yes, a baby’s sucking CAN “fix” an inverted nipple. Although, OW. It was bloody and painful, and I have the scars to prove it, but by the 4th week all was well and continued to be so until we weaned at 18 months. Reading all of these comments I’m surprised that I was never offered a nipple shield, but glad in hindsight that I didn’t have yet another reason to be insecure about caring for my newborn while operating on 2.5 hours sleep. Just keeping the kid fed and clean was enough to worry about, y’know?

  • crabbyappleseed

    October 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

    I’m not sure I have anything new to say, but just wanted to chime in as another mom who really struggled with the breastfeeding relationship at first and also ended up with a nipple shield (and now has a great breastfeeding relationship and doesn’t regret a thing).
    I didn’t have inverted or flat nipples, or a traumatic delivery, or anything other than a very clumsy daughter (…who comes by it honestly). The breastfeeding support at the hospital where I delivered was atrocious, so I took my bruised and shredded chest home the day after she was born, went to the pediatrician, and got referred to an AMAZING lactation consultant. I can’t say enough about IBCLCs- they can make or break your breastfeeding experience, in my opinion. She showed me how to help my daughter latch properly, and everything was, well, okay after that. My daughter had a tendency to hate nursing on the left, and would sometimes refuse that side entirely. Aaaand then, one night, at 2am, the wheels just fell off and she refused to nurse completely. She was on strike for probably two full weeks while I tried to coax her back on, and it was the nipple shield that did it for us. I haaaated it (referring to the shield as Vic Mackey definitely helped, though), but it was that or wean entirely, so that was my choice. We used the shield on both sides for probably a week, then only on the left for probably another month. I’d use it to get her to latch, and then slide it off mid-feed. Sometimes she’d get mad and want it back, sometimes she didnt’ notice at all. Eventually, we didn’t need it at all. I can’t tell you when that happened or what we did, but that means it was relatively uneventful, or I’d have another four pages to type and tell you all about it;)
    Now my daughter is ten months old and nurses just fine on both sides- I do have to admit that she is still clumsy and still (still!) sometimes doesn’t latch right on the first try, but we do just fine overall. As much as I hated that damn shield, it really, really worked for us, and I’m glad we had it.

  • BaltimoreGal

    October 16, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I think you all deserve some kind of reward, that is all I am saying. GAH.

  • Ruth

    October 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    My son would not breast feed from my right side AT ALL from birth. There was nothing wrong with the nipple; he just liked the other one better. For six weeks, I had to pump on that side and feed him with a syringe for every feeding. It SUCKED. Then I got a nipple shield, and he nursed just fine on that side. But he liked the shield and sometimes insisted that I use it on the other side, too, even though he’d nursed over there, oh, three hundred times without complaint.
    I decided not to worry about it. Giving myself permission not to care whether or not I used the shield was one of the best decisions I made in the early postpartum weeks. I just kept the shield in my bra, washed it with soap now and then, and offered him the boob first without shield and then, if he complained, with. He sometimes wanted it and sometimes didn’t. At around four months, he gradually stopped using it. It was NO BIG DEAL.
    So if all evidence seems to suggest that you don’t *need* to worry about the shield, I say, have faith that you won’t need it forever, and just let your baby use it until she doesn’t seem to need it anymore. The stress isn’t worth it.

  • Della

    October 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Hey, check this site out! A little way down the page talks about Nipple Vasospasm … “Nipple Vasospasm or Raynaud’s phenomenon can cause very painful nipples in moms who are breastfeeding. It is characterized by a blanching of the nipples after breastfeeding and increased pain when the nipples become cold.”

  • L

    October 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I was told by the LC NOT to use a nipple shield as it would create problems for the baby getting used to nursing directly from the breast. My mom got me some b/c someone told her I needed them. I think I used one a couple times but it hurt MORE and didn’t really do anything. I got rid of them and eventually after alittle while we both got the hang of it and things were fine.

  • Hillary

    October 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I went through something similar with my nipple shield experience. I was given it when my son was 2 days old, after not much trying by the LC to get him latched. I was told that because of the IV fluids during my labor that I had edema in my boobs making my nipples flat and hard to get a hold of. I initially refused it having read never to accept one but was also told that it was only temporary and not to worry about having to use it. Having to use the shield SO stressed me out to the point that I would qualify my breastfeeding ‘ya, we’re breastfeeding, but I’m using a nipple shield.’ Like it wasn’t “real” breastfeeding with the shield. I tortured myself thinking that my son was more gassy because of it, that my bonding must be affected, that we would never be rid of this STUPID plastic.
    I had read what I could online about how to wean off the shield, has a good article that helped me. I also had a phone consult with an LC that really helped me by normalizing the use of the shield and reassured me that if he wasn’t latching without it he may still need the shield. She also assured me that there was no extra air getting trapped that would contribute to making him gassy. Her advice was to get him started, and then once you get your let down reflex on the 4th swallow or so quickly pull the shield away and put him back to the boob to get him to latch on.
    So that was when he was a week old and we tried and tried to nurse without it. I would try to get him to latch initially without it, I would try to get him to latch after removing the shield at the beginning of nursing, in the middle of nursing or at the end. It never seemed to work. We tried cold turkey with 2 separate days of 2 hour crying sessions (when I felt like a horrible mother) before we went back to the shield.
    Finally, at 10 weeks I had had enough. I scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant to get this settled for once and for all. I was sure it was because of something I wasn’t doing, that I was ignorant to the magic breastfeeding word or position that would get him to latch.
    The day before the appointment I tried, like I always had, to get him to latch initially without it, not really expecting anything. But then, out of nowhere, he latches and nurses the whole time with NO SHIELD! WHAT? I was SO surprised and relieved. Then, he nursed the rest of the day, on both sides, without it. I cancelled the appointment and that was a week and a half ago and we haven’t had to even look a the shield since.
    The bad news is that it was like I was starting all over with the soreness and raw nipples. It only lasted 4-5 days and by using Lanisinoh I’m doing fine again.
    So my advice is to stick with it because this week has been so amazing and it almost feels as though we never needed it. When your baby is ready, you won’t need the shield anymore. And although I HATED the shield, in the end it got me to the point where we are now and I am actually greatful for the stupid plastic. Hang in there!

  • Mrs. Warde

    May 29, 2013 at 2:14 am

    I used a shield for 10 months with my first before having to stop breastfeeding because of a medication. I never tried to wean (too painful) and….I never had any problems with supply or clogged ducts.

  • Erin

    October 9, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Just saw this post, thought I’d offer my experience: my preemie was too weak to latch on her own, so we used a shield. Then when she was stronger, she just preferred it. Somewhere around five and a half months, she gave it up. We still used it when she was sleepy or grumpy for a week or so, and then we were done. I had tried weaning her from it several times by taking it away mid-feed, which only made her angry.

  • Chalkdust

    January 10, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    Contrary to all the advice I found, my son really didn’t want me to pop the nipple shield off mid-feeding. When I was trying to teach him to latch without the shield, the thing that worked was to shove my nipple in his mouth and hand-express so he’d figure out that this was a source of milk. But even that had to come *right* at the start of a nursing session…if he paused in his nursing, he had to have the shield to get back on. (He did figure it out eventually and we stopped using the nipple shield at all by the time he was 4 months old.)