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Ins and Outs of Nipple Shields

Do I Express Milk After Using a Nipple Shield?

Although expressing milk after using a nipple shield can be a good idea, it is not absolutely necessary in all cases. Recent research has not found any statistically significant difference in weight gain at two weeks, one month, and two months between babies using a nipple shield and those nursing without one.
If you decide to express milk after nursing with a nipple shield, it is important to be aware that this can sometimes cause oversupply and frequently plugged ducts.
One of the best tips for breastfeeding (with or without nipple shields) is simply to watch your baby. If your little one is actively breastfeeding, seems satisfied afterward, has normal energy levels, and an appropriate number of stools and wet diapers, then that's a pretty good indicator that he or she is getting enough milk (see Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?).
Another good indicator that your baby is getting enough food is to watch his or her weight. To help give peace of mind, it may be safer to have regular weight checks for your child until it is clear that milk expression is not needed.
However, if your child is sleepier than usual, is fussy, and does not have around four stools per day before six weeks of age, then you may need to express milk and supplement with it.

What Problems Can Nipple Shields Cause?

As you might expect with a controversial topic such as this one, there are "cons" with using nipple shields. In some situations, nipple shields may cause negative effects, such as:
  • Reduced milk transfer
  • Decreased milk supply
  • More nipple pain or damage
  • Problems with the baby latching on correctly
  • Mental issues that may cause the mother to feel like a failure
  • An extra step in the breastfeeding process
  • Diminished ability to nurse in public, especially for beginners.
Although there are some problems that can come with using nipple shields, it's a trial-and-error process. If you are finding that the nipple shields are providing more benefits than the problems they are creating, then just trust your feelings. If your baby is happy, gaining weight, and breastfeeding is not becoming a frustrating time for either you or your little one, then the nipple shields are doing their job.
However, if you are starting to see problems mounting up and the benefits becoming smaller and smaller, it may be time to start weaning your child from the shields.
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