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Weaning Off a Nipple Shield
By Jane Squires, RN, IBCLC
Q. I have been breastfeeding my daughter for about four weeks. While in the hospital, I consulted a lactation consultant who told me that my nipples were extremely flat. She gave me the nipple shells to try and bring my nipples out. This did not work too well, so she gave me a nipple shield to nurse with. This works fine, and my daughter gets enough milk. My question is, will I ever be able to get her off of the shield and onto my breast? If not, is it ok to continue to use the shield for the remainder of my time breastfeeding?
A. Yes, it is possible to wean her off the nipple shield. There are many different creative ways that people have used to wean their baby off the nipple shield. What has worked for me and my clients is that you start the baby off with the nipple shield for a feeding. When you feel your milk letting down and she starts to sputter, take her off, remove the shield, and before she knows you've made the switch, put her back on. This may not work right away, but it's worth a try. Some people have cut part of the shield away, so that each time the baby latches on the shield (the nipple part) becomes smaller and smaller. However some have reported that the cutting of the tip of the shield has been sharp enough so the baby has not wanted to nurse with it. I don't recommend this method because it can cause sharp edges that can be dangerous for both mom and baby.
The other thing that works nicely is to wait until the baby is sleeping, or very tired, and then let her nurse. Frequently they will open their mouths and suck even when they are tired or sleeping.
I have also known parents who've been using the shield, and lose it, and guess what, when the baby got hungry he knew what to do. So hang in there, and keep trying.
It is also ok to use the shield as long as you want. It just makes it more complicated to breastfeed. I would try wearing the shells between feedings, to keep the nipple stimulated, and this may help your daughter have a better base to grasp. Also rolling your nipples prior to feeding will help them become erect, and then you can try to pop the baby on. There are just so many permutations possible.
I wish you continued good luck.
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