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Ask an Expert: Do I Need a Nipple Shield?

Fan Question: I’m expecting my first baby and have gotten so much conflicting advice. Do I need to buy a nipple shield or other products to prevent or treat nipple pain?
NANCY MOHRBACHER, IBCLC: Congratulations! That conflicting advice can be a real bear! In answer to your question, treating nipple pain with products is not the best first step. Nipple pain is usually a symptom of a shallow latch, which you can adjust to eliminate the pain. A shallow latch can also reduce milk flow to your baby. Feel in your own mouth for where the roof of your mouth turns from hard to soft. It’s near that area, nicknamed the “comfort zone,” that your nipple needs to reach in your baby’s mouth to avoid or relieve pain. During the years I worked as an LC in private practice, I found that just a small tweak in how the baby latched was usually enough to go from painful to comfortable breastfeeding. Scroll down on the Multimedia page of my website to see an animated video of one strategy for getting a deeper latch. If you can’t relieve the pain on your own, rather than turning to products, see a board-certified lactation consultant, who can also check you and your baby for other treatable causes of nipple pain.
unnamedNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA is a board-certified lactation consultant in the Chicago area who has been helping breastfeeding families since 1982. Her books for professionals are used worldwide. Her books for parents include Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which she co-authored with Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, and her tiny problem-solving guide, Breastfeeding Solutions In 2013, Nancy released her Breastfeeding Solutions smartphone app (available for Android and iPhones) to give mothers a quick, go-everywhere source of breastfeeding help. Nancy speaks at events around the world.