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Ask an Expert: Weaning From a Nipple Shield

By Anne Smith, IBCLC

Fan Question:

“Has anyone had any experience switching from a nipple shield to feeding without one?”

Answer: I don’t know how old your baby is, or how long your have been nursing him with the shield, but those are factors that must be taken into consideration when weaning him off. Although there are no hard and fast rules, many premature or SGA (small for gestational age) babies don’t nurse effectively until they reach their full-term corrected age, or until they weigh around 6 pounds.

Years ago, nipple shields were made of thick latex (the rubbery amber stuff), and this could cause a reduction in the amount of milk that babies received.  Newer shields are made out of thin, flexible silicone, and don’t cause the same problems.

It may be that your baby needs the extra help with milk transfer that the shield provides at this time, and may just not be quite ready to “graduate” quite yet.

Here are some techniques you can use to encourage him to take the breast :

  •  Provide lots of skin-to-skin contact. Tuck him in a sling “kangaroo style”. Try nursing in the bathtub.
  • Offer him the breast without the shield when he is drowsy. Babies are often less resistant to trying something new if they are partially asleep.
  • Start the feeding with the shield, then slip it off and offer your nipple after the milk has let-down, the initial breast fullness is lessened, and he has some milk in his tummy to take the edge off his appetite and settle him down.
  •  Put a tiny piece of damp cloth in the tip of the shield to stop the flow of milk. Some babies will take the nipple that is dripping with milk once they realize that sucking on the shield isn’t going to do anything for them.
  • Don’t trim pieces off the shield with scissors in an attempt to reduce dependence on the shield. This can result in sharp edges that can irritate your nipple and the baby’s mouth.
  •  Last but not least, be patient. Many babies who have become accustomed to nursing with a shield may take weeks to make the transition to nursing without it. A small percentage of babies never learn to nurse without the shield, but this is rare. In these cases, the mother can still maintain a satisfying breastfeeding relationship with her baby by feeding and nurturing him at the breast.

I hope that your baby will soon make the transition from nursing with the shield to nursing without, but regardless of when (or if) that happens, you can feel good about the fact that in spite of the challenges you encountered in the beginning, you are continuing to provide him with the many nutritional, immunological, and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.

Anne Smith, IBCLCAnne has been helping moms reach their breastfeeding goals for over 35 years, as a La Leche League and an IBCLC in private practice since 1990. Breastfeeding six children gives her a unique combination of first hand experience as well as professional expertise. In 1999, she started her website,www.breastfeedingbasics.com, with lots of information on breastfeeding and parenting, and a wonderful group of bloggers, including Abby from The Badass Breastfeeder, Rachelle from Unlatched, and Marie from Anarchy in the Sandbox.

Join the more than six millions of moms who come to Breastfeeding Basics each year for information and support, and visit Anne on Facebook.

Comments

  1. Asma sheikh says

    I started using breast shield right from day 1 as I had flat nipples and my baby has become habitual to it.Now she gets frustrated if I try to feed her with bare breast.
    I tried to trick her by immediately pulling off the shield and feeding directly…it worked for few days..but all of a sudden she stacrted refusing to feed directly.
    Since then whenever I try she cries a lot..and has fever after that.
    Now she is 9 weeks old.
    Please can somebody help…it’s really frustrating as she is not feeding well as I am getting blocked ducts problem.

  2. I’m wondering if there’s a nipple shield for weaning. I’d like my toddler to get the comfort of the suckle but no more milk that way. I’ve tried everything and can’t seem to wean this babe. I’ve even drank sage tea infusions for days on end trying to dry the milk. The child has extensive dental decay mitigated by dental surgery and I don’t want her nursing any longer as it’s damaging her teeth. I thought maybe there was a shield out there to help N weaning and drying the milk…? She still wants to suckle a lot!

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