Having to use a nipple shield can be frustrating and disheartening in so many ways. I felt inadequate because I couldn't feed my child naturally. For those of you unfamiliar with nipple shields, they are used by some breastfeeding mothers to help their babies latch on. Some babies can not figure out how to feed based on the shape of their mothers nipple, and the shield makes it easier for them to eat. I am not sure if this is why Oliver needed the shield, but regardless of why, I was unable to nurse without the shield for 2 months.
If you do find yourself having to use a nipple shield, here are a few tips to make it easier:
1. By 2 shields
One for home and one for the diaper bag
2. Try Medela For Breathing Issues
If your baby has trouble breathing while using the shield, try the Medela with the cutout for the nose. This way the plastic doesn't obstruct their nasal passage. This doesn't bother all babies. I suppose it just depends on the size of the babies face.
3. Find A Way To Not Lose It
I recommend buying a small round piece of Tupperware to keep your shield in. This will help you keep track of it and keep it clean. Because it is clear in color, it is easy to lose if you just leave it laying around.
4. Keep It Clean
Regularly let it soak in a pot of boiling water to disinfect it (I usually did this once he went to sleep at night).
5. Get It With A Discount
Register for a nipple shield before your baby is born. That way, if you need one, you can use your 15% off all registry items to buy it (at Target)!
After you figure out that your baby needs a nipple shield to breastfeed, you then have to start thinking about how to teach them to eat without one. Using the shield makes breastfeeding in public, calming baby when upset, and feeding at night much more difficult. Who has time to search for the shield and get it on when baby is screaming his/her eyes out! I wanted to get Oliver off of the shield as quickly as possible.
At around 7 weeks old I started trying to ween Oliver off of the shield. Here are some things that I tried.
1. Start every feeding without the shield
I would put Oliver up to eat without the shield and let him root around for a little bit. Once he started getting angry I would put on the shield. About 1 in every 10 times I would get him to latch without the shield. The more I did this, the more often he would latch properly.
2. Take the shield away half way through feeding
Especially when baby is getting really sleepy, take the shield away and latch them back on. I had a lot of success with this. Only occasionally would he catch on to my trick and need the shield back.
3. When baby wakes up at night to eat, don't use the shield.
Once I had succeeded with steps 1 and 2 a substantial number of times, I could usually get Oliver to nurse at night without the shield. I think because he was so tired, he didn't even realize that it was gone. When he was wide awake he was more stubborn!
After doing all 3 of these steps for about 2 weeks, one day Oliver nursed without the shield and never needed it again! It was such a weight off of my shoulders to know that my baby didn't hate the way I was made. Some babies may use a shield longer than others, however most can be taught to nurse without it. If you are having trouble weening, see a lactation specialist for more help.