The use of nipple shields during lactation: are they recommended? When and how to use them?

During lactation there may be certain situations or problems that make the use of nipple shields necessary , but this recommendation should always come from a lactation consultant or expert who analyzes our specific case and sees if we really need them. Because not all cases are the same, hence the importance of a personalized diagnosis.

Today we are going to talk about liners, how to use them, what we should take into account when using them and in what general situations they are usually recommended.

What are liners?

They are a nursing instrument that adapts to the shape of the nipple and areola. Formerly they were made of hard materials such as glass, ivory or silver, and although in the 80s they began to be manufactured in rubber and latex, they were still too rigid, so their use ended up interfering with breastfeeding.

Currently, they are made of silicone and are very soft and thin, so that they are easily and gently placed on the nipple and facilitate its grip by the baby. If its use is correct, the milk production should not be altered.
Professionals agree that nipple shields can be a useful element or aid to breastfeeding at a specific moment , but their use should always be recommended and guided by a lactation consultant or expert .

When to use them?

If problems arise during breastfeeding, it is best to go to the midwife or an advisor who will assess what is happening and guide us when it comes to proceeding. In this sense, there may be certain situations in which the use of nipple shields is indicated to facilitate the baby’s latch on to the breast.

According to the advisor Alba Pradó from LactApp , these are some of the situations in which its use could be recommended, although as we say, each case should be studied in a particular way by a professional :

  • When your baby has trouble learning to suckle, the nipple shield can help him latch on and avoid using other feeding methods. Likewise, they can also be useful in cases of babies with a short lingual frenulum who find it difficult to latch on the nipple.
  • If you have already started mixed breastfeeding and the baby begins to show signs of rejecting the breast , the use of nipple shields may help you to accept it better.
  • In the cases of premature babies who do not have much force to suck , the nipple shields can be a great ally since they provide a firm stimulus to the soft palate that helps to suck more effectively and for a long time.
  • In certain particular cases of flat or inverted nipples , the use of nipple shields could also make it easier for the baby to latch on.

When there are cracks with pain, some mothers also decide to use the nipple shields, but in these cases the experts recommend analyzing in parallel why the cracks have occurred and preventing them from reappearing , since in itself, the use of the nipple shield does not It will prevent cracks from emerging if the underlying problem is not corrected (for example, modifying the posture to breastfeed if it is not correct).

How are they placed?

It is not enough to place the liner on the nipple and areola , but it is necessary to evert the wings by placing the protector in such a way that it seals well and when unfolding the wings it generates a vacuum. If they are incorrectly positioned, they will move during the suction, causing discomfort and interfering with breastfeeding.

Once the nipple shield is in place, the baby’s grip will be exactly the same as if it were in skin-to-skin contact: mouth wide open, lips everted, and nose and chin touching the mother’s breast.

If the baby is latched on correctly, it is normal for the milk transfer to be good, but if it only latches on to the cap, apart from swallowing air, it will not stimulate the breast enough, so production could be affected .

What should we take into account when using them?

Choose the right size

The first thing we should know when using liners is that not all of them have the same size , so commercial brands that have different sizes and models will be the most effective, since they will offer us more possibilities to find the one that best suits suit our chest.

If the liner is small for the nipple, it will rub against the wall of the cap causing pain and injury. If, on the other hand, the liner is too large, it will irritate the areola and cause discomfort.

The material

The Lactation Committee of the AEP insists on using liners that are as thin as possible , so that interference is minimal.

Likewise, and although the material is usually durable, it is important to change them as soon as we notice any sign of deterioration.

Hygiene

The liners must be sterilized before their first use , but from that moment on it will no longer be necessary to boil them every day. Of course, it is important to maintain proper hygiene by washing them thoroughly with soap and water every time we use them, making sure that there is no remaining milk.

Can nipple shields be worn throughout breastfeeding?

The use of nipple shields can be cumbersome for many mothers, who always have to be aware of having them on hand, keep them in their purse when they leave home, put them on properly and wash them properly after each use. Therefore, experts recommend removing them as soon as possible .

From the Breastfeeding Committee of the AEP advised the mother removed the teat cups when the baby is sucking and keep a quiet time; although this technique does not always work and may require a lot of patience and several attempts.

For this reason, from LactApp they insist on the importance of being clear that the baby can do without them before removing them , and if this is not the case, reuse them again until they get used to breastfeeding without nipple shields.

In any case, if breastfeeding works and mother and baby feel comfortable with their use, there would be no problem in using them throughout breastfeeding.

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