Adventures in Breastfeeding: Nipple Shields - the Bane of My Existence

So in my last AiB post, I talked about my first battle with the beastly hospital breast pump. Remember how it ripped the skin right off of my body? Well that's where this part of the story begins.

After the lactation consultant in the NICU explained to me that pumping should NOT hurt, things went much more smoothly. I turned the dial down and the water droplets disappeared one by one from the digital screen. Pumping still wasn't fun, but it also wasn't mind numbingly painful anymore. I developed a technique for holding both flanges with one arm so that I could surf the internet while pumping. This helped to keep my mind off of the fact that I was being milked, and each time the amount of colostrum that I could pump slowly increased. I had found my pumping groove! And I loved delivering food for my hungry little girl each time we visited her.

And just as I warmed to the idea of becoming a pumping queen, everything changed. During one of our (many) visits to the NICU the doctor informed us that he was happy with the improvement in Violet's breathing, and her oxygen tube was going to hit the road. It was time to try breastfeeding! I was excited but also nervous. I had heard so many stories about bad latches, tongue ties, and supply issues that I wasn't sure what to expect. The nurses assembled screens around Violet's little corner of the NICU and started to build the pillow version of Mount Everest on top of me.

As I was starting to slip into a reverie envisioning how I would tenderly cradle my baby as she rooted around on my chest and gazed up into my eyes, the lactation nurse started to demonstrate the 'football hold.'  The football hold??? Really? I'm supposed to hold my precious little baby that I worked so hard to bring into this world like a pigskin???

I was assured that this was the best way for new mommies and bobble head newborns. So with her little body pressed against my side and my hand supporting her neck and head, I was instructed to wait until she opened her mouth wide and SHOVE her head onto my boob. Not quite the gentle bonding experience that I pictured, but I must say that it was pretty effective. My little breastfeeding champion latched right on and started going to town. After the pain from the pump, this was nothing! Just a mild discomfort at first - all of that anxiety for nothing.

Now, it's important to note that this was on the side that had not been ripped apart by the evil hospital breast pump. When it was time to switch sides I looked at the nurse with fear in my eyes and asked her if this was going to hurt. And that's when she presented me with...the nipple shield. Sure, it looked harmless enough, and it definitely eased my fear of nursing sans skin, but here is what I want you to learn from this post:

Nipple shields are addictive.

Seriously. Once my baby started using a shield she was hooked. It was probably a heck of a lot less work for her, so I can't say that I blame her. Now don't get me wrong - some women can't nurse without a shield, but if you don't need one, avoid it at all costs. Within a couple of days, I couldn't get Violet to latch without one. Sure, I don't have to deal with cracked nipples, and latching her on is a heck of a lot easier, but that thing is a pain in my butt boob. It has to be cleaned and sanitized, it gets lost really easily (rather than making them clear, I think they should go with, oh, let's say HOT PINK), they aren't cheap (EIGHT DOLLARS!!??), and they making nursing in public much more difficult. Also, I've read that they can lead to supply issues, although I haven't had a problem with that so far.

Had I been more informed when the well-meaning nurse handed me the shield, I would have politely declined and dealt with the pain. Because the pain would have been temporary, but now I'm pretty much stuck with a shield until Violet is weaned. There are some people that have had success with getting their baby to latch after they've used a shield for a while, but so far I've been unsuccessful. In the end, I'm just happy that I'm able to breastfeed my baby, as a lot of women cannot. Violet is obviously a very healthy and growing (did I mention that she's a giant?!) baby girl and I know that we're very lucky.

So that's my two cents on the subject of breast shields. Stay tuned for part three of Adventures in Breastfeeding: The Early Days.

P.S. If you've found this post helpful, I'd really appreciate it if you'd vote for us on Top Baby Blogs by clicking here. It only takes a second and I'd love to reach more moms and mothers-to-be. Thanks so much - have a great weekend!


  1. Oh I understand!!!!! My baby was such a lazy eater that she wouldn't breast feed for the first 4-5 days and when she would she ONLY would with a shield. Don't worry about 3-4 months, she got it and she would finally latch without the shield.

  2. I had heard the same thing about supply issues with the shield so every once in a while I would try without. Around 4 months we were finally able to ditch it. There was some pain involved and I tried to go back but he would have none of it. Good luck!

  3. Nipple shields helped me to be able to breastfeed. Our son had major latching trouble for his first 3 or 4 days and was hardly getting anything to eat and breastfeeding was looking less and less probable. Then someone pointed us to nipple shields and he ate like a champ! We started seriously weaning at 5 weeks. He's now 4 months old and we haven't used one since... hmmm... I think since he was around 8 or 9 weeks? I can't remember but it's been awhile. For the last few weeks, we just used the shields while in public. I am also blogging through our breastfeeding journey :)

  4. just like the other commenters, by 3 or 4 months our little guy was able to ditch the shield. You really just have to keep trying and trying and eventually they'll just latch on naturally. That thing was the bain of my existence and I didn't know how long I was going to make it, but I'm happy to say we are going on 8 months of BFing, 5 months sans nipple shield.

  5. Well, I never heard of them but I tell ya'- I think I would give them a try if baby #3 ever comes. I have MAJOR issus breastfeeding and the pain was so intense I cried every time. I think I would give them a chance...

  6. Well, I never heard of them but I tell ya'- I think I would give them a try if baby #3 ever comes. I have MAJOR issus breastfeeding and the pain was so intense I cried every time. I think I would give them a chance...

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