Nipple Shields, Friend or Foe

I have an upcoming blog with www.scienceandsensibility.org on Nipple Shields.  Before I post that one I would like to get some feedback from you, as a practitioner or as a mom, on your experience with shields.

In our clinic at the International Breastfeeding Centre, we are now seeing babies on nipple shields in record numbers–and mothers want them off!  I use to see 1 or 2 a week, now we see a few every single day–some days 5 or 6.  And in the past, many of the babes I would see would have been started on a shield after a week or two of age at the earliest, with the rare one having been started sooner.  Now, we are seeing them routinely given when the baby is days or even hours old.  Some mothers are handed them in the delivery room, before baby has even had a chance to know where the breast is!!

The number one reason mothers are given a shield, or it is suggested to them to get one, is for the baby who is refusing to latch.  In the short term, this sometimes works–but what are the long term ramifications?  Some mothers are given them to prevent or treat sore nipples.  I often see this makes things worse, but once in a while a mother says it helped–but then, again, long term, regardless of why she was given the shield, she ends up at our clinic with a host of other issues: baby pulling at the breast due to slow flow, drop in milk supply, baby addicted to the shield and can’t get off, etc, etc.  But there must be some mothers out there for whom the shield saved her breastfeeding and the baby did not get addicted—otherwise, why would practitioners use them so routinely?  They, the practitioners, must be convinced the shields do more good than harm, right?  I don’t know if that is correct or not, but I would love to hear from those who do use them.

So, my question to you is, do you see them helping short term and long term?  If they were helpful, for how long, for what issue, and how long until you got baby off the shield?  If they were not helpful, or only for a short bit, were there other issues that arose as a result of using the shield, and, if so, what were they?   Were you able to get baby off the shield in the end?

Thanks for the feedback.

E

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