A nipple shield helps with certain breastfeeding problems. It looks like a little hat with a brim. The top of the hat fits over the nipple, and the brim lies over the areola.
Most nipple shields are made of soft, thin plastic or silicone that can bend and stretch. Nipple shields come in different sizes. The size you need depends on the size of your nipple and your baby’s mouth.
A nipple shield should be fitted by a healthcare provider (such as a lactation consultant) who knows how to fit nipple shields.
A nipple shield can help with some breastfeeding problems, such as your baby has trouble latching or staying latched onto your breast.
A healthcare provider can help you decide if a nipple shield is right for you and your baby.
How long you use a nipple shield depends on why you are using it. You may use it for a short time or for a longer time, such as with a premature baby. As long as your baby is gaining weight using the nipple shield, it’s OK to keep using it.
Talk to your healthcare provider to decide what’s right for you.
There are a few things to try before using a nipple shield for breastfeeding problems:
If you've tried other ways to fix breastfeeding problems and they didn't work, a nipple shield might be a good option for you. Ask to see a lactation consultant for help.
Nipple shields look simple, but there are important things to know when using them. A lactation consultant will help you use it correctly. A lactation consultant can:
It's important to use a nipple shield correctly. If it isn't used the right way, your nipples may become damaged or your baby may not get enough milk.
These signs mean you’re using the shield correctly:
A nipple shield can help with some breastfeeding problems, but it does not help with every problem and needs to be used carefully.
For example, you might consider a nipple shield if you have damaged nipples. But it's best to speak to a lactation consultant first so they can help you and your baby get a good latch. You may need to take a short break from breastfeeding and then use a breast pump so your nipples have time to heal.
Breastfeeding experts recommend using a nipple shield only with the help of a healthcare provider who knows how to use them, such as a lactation consultant.
You and your baby should see the healthcare provider regularly for as long as you’re using the nipple shield. This is important because using a nipple shield incorrectly may lower your milk supply.
Breastfeeding correctly causes your body to make hormones that keep up your milk supply. A nipple shield should be put on properly so that your baby can latch deeply and drink well from your breast.
If the latch is not correct, not enough milk will be removed from your breast. Your baby may not get enough milk, and your body will not get the signal to make enough milk.
While using a nipple shield, have your baby weighed regularly to make sure they’re gaining a healthy amount of weight.
Some babies may use a nipple shield for the whole time they’re breastfeeding. Other babies wean off the nipple shield to bare breastfeeding. Speak to your healthcare provider for ways to wean your baby off a nipple shield.
To clean and care for a nipple shield, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Current as of: November 7, 2022
Author: Women's and Children's Health, Alberta Health Services
This material is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health professional. This material is intended for general information only and is provided on an "as is", "where is" basis. Although reasonable efforts were made to confirm the accuracy of the information, Alberta Health Services does not make any representation or warranty, express, implied or statutory, as to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, applicability or fitness for a particular purpose of such information. Alberta Health Services expressly disclaims all liability for the use of these materials, and for any claims, actions, demands or suits arising from such use.