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Ins and Outs of Nipple Shields

Time to Toss 'Em

A dreaded question -- when is it time to throw out the nipple shields? There is no one right answer to this, as each situation will vary. In cases with a premature baby, the nipple shield can help improve breastfeeding effectiveness and may be needed for several weeks until the child has had time to grow and mature physically enough to breastfeed on his or her own.
 
Figuring out when to toss out the shields depends largely on the reason the shields were used to begin with. When nipple shields are helping to increase milk intake, you may need to use them as long as they are helping and then try to wean your baby off them gradually. Basically, if you feel that using the shields is helping your little one to breastfeed more effectively, then use them as long as you feel comfortable. As your baby gets older, you can try to use the shields less and less.
 
Don't be in a hurry based on what "research" is telling you. Each mom is an expert on her own unique situation -- you know your baby best -- so use the shields wisely based on your experience with how your baby is responding to breastfeeding.
 
When you feel the time is right to start weaning your child from the shield, once your milk has let down and the baby is swallowing, try to sneak the shield out quickly and put your baby immediately back on the breast. This may take many tries, but as your little one becomes more coordinated, more associated with the bare breast, and has more practice, the shield will be needed less and less to initiate feedings.
 
What if this doesn't work? Remember, just be patient. Give yourself and your little one the time needed. There are no hard-and-fast rules that say you should wean your child from the nipple shields within a certain amount of time.
 
Breastfeeding should be a time without frustration. If you or your child is becoming frustrated, just step back and continue with what is working. Take a few days off from trying to wean and then try again.
 
If you feel that this strategy just isn't working and you feel it is definitely time to toss out the shields, take a closer look at why your child needs to use them. It may be that the shields are just covering up an underlying problem that has not yet been resolved. If you feel there are still unresolved problems, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation specialist. They may be able to help you decide whether there is still an underlying problem or if maybe it's just going to take more time in weaning.
 
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