Due to Chichi’s extended stay in the hospital, she was introduced to bottle feeding before breastfeeding. This was because I wasn’t in the hospital 24/7 to feed her, and also I simply didn’t have milk for her the first 4-5 days after I gave birth. I probably produced a total of 1 drop of colostrum in the first 4 days (pitiful, I know!), which was obviously not sufficient to feed her. Once my milk came in around day 5, I was able to pump loads of milk to bring to her in the hospital, that they fed via bottle.
I did, however, attempt to breastfeed her every chance I had while I was in the hospital. She was never able to get any milk from me, despite numerous attempts. She could latch on (or I thought), and she would suck but she wasn’t getting any milk.
About 3 days before Chichi got discharged, the lactation consultation came to see me. After a minute of observing me trying to feed Chichi, she announced that Chichi wasn’t latching on properly and therefore wasn’t sucking properly. Chichi was apparently not putting her tongue in the right place, and the lactation consultant believed this was probably partly due to the fact that she was first introduced to the bottle. A baby uses different muscles, and places her tongue differently if she were using bottle versus breastfeeding.
Then, she handed me a Medela nipple shield for me to try. Once I got it on, Chichi miraculously latched immediately and began feeding. I could actually SEE that she was drinking and milk was coming out the sides of her mouth. When she was full, she unlatched and fell asleep in my arms looking all milk drunk. I was ecstatic. This was a very different experience than having her suck fruitlessly and getting frustrated.
According to the lactation consultant, because the nipple shield is much longer, it can more effectively make contact with the roof of the baby’s mouth to stimulate suckling. Hopefully, over time, she can get accustomed to breastfeeding and I may then be able to gradually decrease the use of the nipple shield.
Sine then, I’ve been able to successfully breastfeed Chichi at every feed. As an added bonus, she can still easily be bottle fed whenever I am not around.
Although it worked so well for Chichi, I really didn’t like having to get up and wash it after every feed (especially those middle of the night feeds). I also didn’t like how the the milk would spill everywhere if she happened to knock it loose (which seemed to be happening more frequently). It’s less convenient when we go out as well, because I have to fiddle with the nipple shield first then get her latched on.
So about a month after I brought Chichi home, I decided to try to wean her off the nipple shield. It would take her a little longer to latch on, and I also suspected perhaps she wasn’t latching on properly because it would hurt after a while. So we stopped, and went back to the nipple shield.
Two months after I brought Chichi home, I felt as if I was starting to have a decrease in my milk supply. I found out that nipple shields can potentially decrease the mother’s milk supply because there can be less milk transfer when a nipple shield is used. So I tried to wean Chichi off the nipple shield again. The second time around was much more successful, probably because she was older and can suck more effectively (with no pain!). Initially, I would get her to latch on with the nipple shield, then after a few minutes, I would remove the nipple shield and latch her on again. I only needed to do this for a few days before I could stop using the nipple shield altogether and she would latch on successfully. I’ve never had to go back to the nipple shield since.
I would rate my experience with the nipple shield as hugely positive, because I know that had I not been introduced to the nipple shield, Chichi may even still be bottle fed today. I wouldn’t trade the experience of being able to breastfeed my baby for anything else in the world.
The nipple shield I used was the Medela brand. I purchased two different kinds, the one with the cut out (contact nipple shield) and the regular one with no cut out. The contact nipple shield increases skin to skin contact between you and the baby. I personally have not found any difference in terms of how the baby feeds with each different shield, except that the contact nipple shield seems to fall off more easily. They are made of silicone and safe for sterilizing. I also felt that they were well made, with perfectly smooth edges, comfortable to put on, and easy to maintain. In the two months that I used them (8-9 times per day), I haven’t noticed any wear or tear.
The biggest disadvantage to using nipple shield is that it may decrease your milk supply if there’s inefficient milk transfer, and that it may be difficult for your baby to wean from.
You will also want to make sure that you’re baby is getting sufficient milk (by counting the number of dirty diapers, and doing regular weigh ins), and that you’re breast is getting sufficiently emptied (feeling soft). You may want to use a breast pump afterwards to ensure complete emptying of the breast to avoid the problem of decreasing milk supply.
In general, I feel that it’s far better to feed a baby from the breast with a nipple shield if the only other alternative is to bottle feed.
If you are considering using a nipple shield for latch problems, I would highly recommend seeing a lactation consultant first. I have found them to be extremely approachable, and they can see right away what the issue might be. You can find a lactation consultant near you through the International Lactation Consultant Association webpage.