Weaning Baby Off Nipple Shield: Simple Steps To Start
Here’s the usual scenario: You have been told you have flat nipples or got a latch-on problem and now you are stuck with a rubbery material called a nipple shield.
Baby has grown attached to it and won’t feed without the shield. You have tried at least once to breastfeed a baby without it, only to console a wailing infant who doesn't want to nurse on your bare nipples.
You don’t want to use a nipple shield because it makes breastfeeding difficult but you don’t have any idea how to wean baby off.
What is the best way to wean your child off nipple shields?
What Is The Use Of A Nipple Shield?
# Latching on problems.
Latching-on difficulty is the main reason behind using a nipple shield. Perhaps your baby can’t find a good angle and suction with your irregularly-shaped nipples. A nipple shield makes the nipples conform to a shape most comfortable for your baby’s mouth.
# Flat nipples
A nipple shield provides the scaffold that elongates a mother’s flat nipples. It’s frustrating for a baby to suck what isn’t there so nipple shields can help your child to have leverage and suction.
# Baby is sick, premature or small
Nipple shields are designed to make breastfeeding easier for children who are smaller than the average or born a preemie. You’ve got to support the child to regain his health and his ideal weight before you can proceed with weaning your little one off his nipple shield.
Why Do You Have To Wean Baby Off A Nipple Shield?
Lots of moms found themselves attached (literally) to their nipple shields because this is the only way they can breastfeed their baby.
But having a nipple shield can get cumbersome.
You have to take it anywhere you go with baby. You can’t comfortably breastfeed in public out of fear that the nipple shield will fall. You have to wake up in the middle of the night just to wash it, and you’ve got to be wary, or else you’ll lose this small transparent thingy.
Here's the scary part:
It hinders skin-to-skin contact and will make you produce less and less milk through time. If the nipple shield obstructs your milk production, you are also at risk for breast pain, plugged ducts and mastitis.
Tips On How To Wean Your Baby From A Nipple Shield
Nipple shields are not supposed to be permanent. You have to wean your baby off it at one point or another. It can get difficult for a one-year-old to still be dependent on his nipple shield. I know that if you have a choice, you’d rather not use it.
So, what are the best ways to wean your baby off nipple shield?
• Talk with your lactation consultant
Latching-on problems are best discussed with a trained and certified lactation consultant. Doctors and nurses can offer advice, but they are not as trained in the art of breastfeeding as an LC.
Before your discharge from the hospital, have your lactation consultant teach you how to latch on and nurse your baby.
Schedule at least two sessions. Ask questions. Every mother is different. What worked for some women might not work for you at all.
If you are still having problems with breastfeeding once you are home, try to secure a second opinion with another lactation consultant.
Don’t worry; it’s alright to ask around. You’ll be surprised how professionals can have two entirely different ways of tackling the same problem.
• Consult with your baby’s doctor
Have your child’s pediatrician do a complete physical exam on your child. There are a lot of conditions that can easily get overlooked during newborn screening.
A condition such as tongue ties is commonplace, but they are not seen unless your doctor has a keen eye. Tongue tie is also easy to correct with a simple clipping procedure or small surgery.
If your baby is diagnosed with tongue tie, you can even ask for it to be fixed before your newborn is discharged from the hospital.
Another reason is:
Your little one has a cold or an ear infection. List down your concerns and bring it up during your visit to your child’s doctor.
• Practice achieving a good latch and position
On your first try breastfeeding without a nipple shield, have your baby open his mouth wide. Shoot your bare nipple into his mouth as soon as he makes a wide yawn.
Pull your baby close to your body. It’s alright for his chin and nose to touch your boobies.
Your baby’s neck must be positioned in neutral. He/she must not bend his/her neck just to nurse. Try to practice a secured hold so that your baby’s whole body faces you.
• Pump a few times before nursing your baby.
Pumping will create a suction that elongates your nipple. Your little one will also find it easy to get the milk flowing at his first latch.
You can also offer him your pinky finger to suck on for a minute before you breastfeed. Position it to his/her mouth with the nail side down.
Why the need for this?
This will train your baby with the right position to suck same as with your nipples.
Afterward, boost your milk letdown so that your child is immediately rewarded as soon as he is latched.
You can try using a dropper and drip some expressed breastmilk in the corner of your baby’s mouth while he is latched at your bare breast.
• Practice proper timing and skin-to-skin
Nurse when the baby is half asleep or drowsy. Babies are not as choosy and will more likely take your bare breasts when they are sleepy. It’s alright to feed the baby while he is half-asleep. Do not wait until he cries and gets cranky. Catch him early and breastfeed frequently.
What I mean is:
Offer your bare breasts first whenever he is hungry. Try to remove the nipple shield at various times during breastfeeding. Practice skin-to-skin contact to calm your baby’s nerves. You can also try giving him a warm bath before you breastfeed.
The bottom line is...
A nipple shield makes breastfeeding easy. It’s alright to use a nipple shield on some occasions, but you must wean your baby from a nipple shield soonest.
The best way to wean your baby off a nipple shield is to make it easy for him to suck milk from your bare breast. It’s alright if you can’t get it right on your first try.
Experiment with different positions and latching-on techniques. Changes a lot of take patience.