What Are Nipple Shields — And Do You Need Them When Nursing?

Most women will level with you if you inquire about the realities of breastfeeding. It’s an enormous burden for some women just to be able to produce at all, while others overproduce so much milk they have no idea what to do with it all (we recommend donation, because there are always other expectant mothers out there who will have those rather embarrassing or annoying personal issues). And then there’s the pain associated with nursing. But hey, guess what: there are some quick fixes for that latter problem.

The Nipple Shield is offered by Medela for nursing moms. There are a number of situations that might cause a mom discomfort while breastfeeding, but they can be used by any mom with tender nipples.

Women with nipple inversion or flat nipples might consider using the product to create a seam between your skin and the baby’s mouth. This will give the baby something to actually latch onto — it can be traumatizing for a new mother to see her baby trying and failing to suckle milk. 

Another reason women might consider the Nipple Shield occurs when a baby is born prematurely. The shield helps “position” the nipple to make it easier for any baby to latch onto, but this is an especially common problem for premature newborns. The baby can attach or detach more easily. Medela asserts research that has proved the nipple shield leads to more milk consumption in premature newborns. 

Nipple Shields are not for use without a “Board-Certified Lactation Consultant,” who can help you navigate any unforeseen nursing quandaries you might experience. This consultant will ensure the product is used safely and properly to increase the odds of success. 

You can use a Nipple Shield to complement your home pumping efforts if supply is running low. The consultant can help you prepare for this possibility as well.