If you have been successfully breastfeeding your baby with the help of a nipple shield, it can feel scary to think about trying to nurse without it.
While that's completely understandable, keep in mind that nipple shields are designed to be a short-term solution, and with some effort – and the help of your lactation professional – you will be able to return to at-the-breast feeding.
Here are some tips for weaning baby from a nipple shield:
- Immediately before breastfeeding baby, hand express or pump just until let-down and then latch baby on. For moms with flat or inverted nipples, pumping will elongate the nipple and the let-down will initiate baby’s sucking. This can reduce baby’s frustration that comes from wanting to feed and not getting milk immediately.
- Ensure your little one opens their mouth widely to encourage them to take as much breast tissue into their mouth as possible for a wide, deep latch. If you are experiencing pain when your baby latches on, or if it feels as though they're just latched on around your nipple, gently unlatch and re-latch.
- If your baby resists latching without the nipple shield, you can start the feeding session with the shield in place. Once your little one is comfortable and feeding well, unlatch, remove the shield, and re-latch. Continue to do this reducing the amount of time you feed with the shield in place at each session.
- Breastfeed frequently and as often as baby wants – this is called “on demand” feeding. Watching for your baby’s hunger cues (as opposed to watching the clock) will allow you to know when they are ready to nurse and prevents them from getting over-hungry and frustrated. Crying is a late sign of hunger and it is difficult to latch a crying, frustrated baby.
- Watch for cues such as sucking on fingers, rooting, or making smacking noises with his mouth. Even if your baby has just nursed, it's okay to nurse the baby again.
- Try different nursing positions to find one that makes you and your baby most comfortable.
Most importantly: Try not to stress!
This won’t be an immediate change, and it’s natural for you and your baby to need an adjustment period. Keep trying as often as you can to offer your bare breast (without the shield) but don’t be upset if your little one rejects it initially. It will take time – and your experience will be different than another mom and baby’s experience. Be patient as you transition from the shield and don’t be afraid to reach out for additional help along the way – that’s what lactation professionals are for!
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