Nursing can be extremely challenging at the best of times. There are issues that come up that you didn't anticipate when you were pregnant and daydreaming about how you'd feed your little one close to your heart each day. Who knew that latching and uncooperative nipples could be such a pain? Thankfully, for some obstacles, there is a simple solution: a nipple shield. The trouble then becomes which nipple shield to buy. You'll need to know how to find the right size nipple shield, first of all, as well as if you'll be needing more than one set.
Nipple shields are used for myriad breastfeeding challenges, according to the University of Michigan (UM). They can be used in helping premature babies who don't yet have the best sucking power; they can aid in pulling forward and shaping inverted or flat nipples; and for many of us, they can serve as a protection for nipples that feel like they've been rubbing up against a cheese grater and then doused in hot sauce. These convenient silicone tools can be a real lifesaver, but in order to achieve the optimum benefit, you must buy the correct shield for your need. Different sizes and shapes of nipple shields are used for different purposes, said UM, and it has nothing to do with the size of your breast.
Medela Nipple Shield
Medical grade silicone nipple shield pair.
When I was nursing my oldest, we had a lot of problems in the beginning. We simply could not get his jaw to latch on correctly in the beginning. Nursing became excruciating for a period of time. My nipples were raw, cracked, and bleeding more often than not, and he wanted no part of the vampire life. At that point, my lactation consultant suggested that I try using a nipple shield. It would give my pained nipples a much needed break from the ever-present assault of my son's bad latch, and it might help him learn to eat more efficiently. She helped me find the right shields, and I am forever grateful to her because it worked.
Maybe a bit too well, because after he learned to nurse, he really loved it, and I ended up breastfeeding him for the better part of two years. I'm happy to report, by the end of that period of time, my nipples could have been made out of Superman's steely flesh for all the pounding they could endure. Although I suspect that's true for many women who nurse as long as I did.
I contacted Rachael Sablotsky Kish, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and the Chief Operating Officer & Co-Founder of Imalac, the med-tech company which created Nurture, a hands free breast expression system that mimics hand-expression, about how nursing moms can find the nipple shield that's right for them.
"My best advice is to visit your local Certified Lactation Counselor before using a nipple shield, so they can assist in finding the best fit for your breast and more importantly, your needs," she tells Romper. Nursing with a nipple shield should be a temporary solution, according to KellyMom, and the size used will correlate to the problem. A professional can best determine which is the correct shield to use.
The University of Michigan noted that smaller shields, like the 16 millimeter shields, are usually used for premature babies. The 20 millimeter shields are for average-sized newborns, and the 24 millimeter shields are usually for older babies or particularly large nipples.
"All nursing women are different and may face a variety of challenges when trying to find the most appropriate nipple shield," says Sablotsky Kish. "It’s all about finding your ideal solution to pumping more efficiently and comfortably." And it will be easiest for everyone if you contact your lactation consultant to ensure proper fit.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.