Early latch-on problems are not unusual. For most mothers, breastfeeding takes a bit of practice! Most of the time, a little coaching from a skilled helper is all that is needed to get things going.
For difficult or persistent latch-on problems, many breastfeeding experts suggest the temporary use of a nipple shield.
Made of thin, soft, silicone that doesnﾒt interfere with nipple stimulation, the Medela nipple shield is worn during breastfeeding. Holes at the tip allow milk to flow to the baby.
A nipple shield may help protect breastfeeding when:
- The baby is premature, ill, or small.
- A nipple shield may make feeding easier for a small or weak baby. Because suction inside the nipple shield holds the nipple in an extended position, the baby can pause without losing the nipple. Milk pools in the tip of the shield, and provides an immediate reward when the baby resumes suckling. Research shows that the milk intake of premature infants increases when a nipple shield is used. As the baby gains weight and matures, the shield becomes unnecessary.
- The mother has flat or inverted nipples.
Some new mothers have nipple tissue that is not very stretchable. If it is difficult for the baby to draw in the mother's nipple, the baby may pull away, cry, or simply fall asleep. The Medela nipple shield provides sensation deep in the mouth that stimulates the baby to keep sucking. As the milk begins to flow, the baby discovers that breastfeeding works! Over time, the mother's nipples will become more pliable, and the shield is no longer needed to trigger the sucking reflex.
The baby has had many bottles and now refuses the breast. Because the nipple shield feels similar to a bottle nipple, it can be used to coax a reluctant baby to accept the breast. Try this trick when the baby is not very hungry and the mother's breasts are full. Drip a little expressed milk onto the top of the shield to moisten it. Drip milk into the corner of the baby's mouth to reward the baby for trying. If the milk supply is low, an SNS taped under the shield can help provide an encouraging milk flow.
Some babies need only a few sessions with a shield to return to full breastfeeding. Other will need more practice, or perhaps brief use of the shield at the beginning of each feed. Bottles can be decreased or discontinued as the baby becomes comfortable with nursing.