Nipple shields have been helpful in several breastfeeding situations, especially when the baby is having issues latching onto the mother’s bare breasts. It is not uncommon for mothers who have difficulties breastfeeding to use one. 

However, the difficulty arises when it’s time to wean your child off it. This might not be so easy for both the baby and the mother as the baby might get upset at its absence and refuse to feed. This begs the question, how to wean off nipple shield without causing discomfort?

In this article, we explore several ideas and tips on how to successfully do this without causing discomfort to the mother or child.

Tips on How to Wean off a Nipple Shield

Here are some tips to help you easily wean your child off a nipple shield: 

Tip 1: Start Early

The tip to weaning off your baby easily is to start early. Experience has shown that the longer you spend using something, the more you become addicted to it. 

If you have to use a nipple shield for your baby, make sure they don’t get addicted to it before you start weaning them off of it. As soon as you notice positive changes for whatever you need the shield for you should attempt to stop using it.

Tip 2: Get Your Latching Position Correct

Whether you are using a nipple shield or trying to wean your baby off of one, it is important to get your latching position right. Not only does this encourage constant milk flow but it also means that your baby can get a deep latch and feed comfortably while getting as much milk as they want.

When you use the nipple shield incorrectly, this can lead to a reduction in the supply of breastmilk. Low milk production can cause problems when you attempt to wean your baby off of the shield. This can also mean that your baby is not feeding properly.

how to wean off nipple shield

Tip 3: Attempt Bare Breastfeeding

One of the best and fastest methods to wean off of a nipple shield is bare breastfeeding. There are several steps to follow when using this method. They include: 

  • With the use of a breast pump or manual massages, you should get your milk flowing. Babies tend to cope better without the shield once they have access to an instant supply of milk. 
  • Position your breasts correctly to encourage milk flow. The correct position also means your baby gets a bigger latch on breast tissue.
  • Relax your body and maintain eye and body contact with your baby while breastfeeding.
  • Position the baby just as you would while using a nipple shield. Follow the same procedure and hold your baby in the same way.
  • Once you notice your baby opening his mouth for some milk, bring him softly towards your breast. You can distract the baby by singing or humming if you notice hesitation.
  • Make sure you keep your breast milk flowing.
  • Once you notice a successful trial, you can continue the same process until your baby gets used to bare breastfeeding.

Another way to try the bare breastfeeding tip would be to start with the nipple shield. This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding a very hungry baby. When you notice your baby taking a pause, you can quickly take off the nipple shield before they continue. 

If you’re lucky, your baby would continue sucking without noticing. However, with this method too, you have to make sure the flow of milk is interrupted. 

The bare breastfeeding method allows your baby to get used to latching without a shield quicker. They can smell, feel and taste the breast too. This sends a signal of intimacy to their brain that can make them want to be breastfed more. If this method does not work, you can continue with the shield and try out other methods below.

Tip 4: Encourage Skin Contact

The flesh to flesh method is another simple and convenient method to get your baby off of the nipple shield without negative consequences. Constantly hold your baby in several positions that encourage skin contact. You can either place your baby on your chest for this method or familiarize the baby with the naked breast area.

Another skin contact trick is to allow your baby to suckle on your clean finger. Trim off your nails and keep them clean. Wash your hand thoroughly before each session too. Both methods can successfully stimulate the baby’s brain into getting more comfortable with skin feeling instead of silicone.

Tip 5: Breastfeed While the Baby is Sleepy

Try breastfeeding while your baby is sleepy. Babies are less aware of the change while in this state. Hold your baby in a position comfortable enough to breastfeed when you notice they are tired.

Carefully bring their mouth to the breast and perform breast compressions to keep the milk flowing. You can also breastfeed your baby immediately after they wake up. They aren’t entirely alert at this period.

Other Tips to Try Help Improve Breastfeeding 

  • Always stimulate the breast before you attempt to feed your baby. This encourages constant milk flow. You can also try breasts compressions while breastfeeding.
  • Feed your baby frequently before they get too hungry. This can settle the baby and make them more willing to suckle on your bare nipple.
  • Get your baby comfortable with skin-to-skin contact at all times. Pay attention to periods when your baby is more receptive to breastfeeding and focus on trying during these periods.
  • Attempt several nursing positions such as feeding your baby while walking. You can also hum or talk to the baby during this period to serve as a distraction and encourage intimacy.
  • Try pumping before you breastfeed your baby. This not only guarantees a supply of milk but also elongates the nipple.
  • Drop a few drops of breastmilk on your breasts before your baby latches.
  • Try different types of nipple shields. Some encourage more skin contact than others. You can purchase a nipple shield weaning kit for this purpose or you can wait for your baby to outgrow needing a nipple shield.
  • Always shape your breast into a mouthful with your hand. Tip your nipple towards the roof of the baby’s mouth to encourage easy latching.
  • Run some ice on your nipple before breastfeeding. This helps to harden the nipples and make them feel similar to the shield.

What to do When Weaning Does Not Work

Weaning your baby off of a nipple shield can be frustrating for some babies and mothers. If this is the case with you, try to calm your baby and continue with the nipple shield for that session. 

If you notice your baby is not entirely comfortable with breastfeeding because they can sense the weaning process, try to put a stop-gap for some days or a week before you continue.

What Should You Not do When Weaning?

Don’t damage the shield

It isn’t uncommon for friends or other nursing mothers to recommend gradually chipping away the nipple shield in bits. However, this isn’t safe for the baby or the mother. This could cause injuries to the baby. The chipped pieces could fall off and pose a choking hazard too. 

Instead purchase a nipple shield in the size or shape that you want. Some shapes encourage more flesh to flesh contact and make weaning easier. You can choose between a rubber shield or a silicone shield.

Don’t force your baby to do bare breastfeeding

Try to not force bare breastfeeding on your baby. Once they get the feeling they are being forced they might not want to breastfeed. Ease your baby into it and try to make them as comfortable as they can be.

Disadvantages of Using a Nipple Shield

  • Using a nipple shield may lead to a significant decrease. This is because the nipple is not getting direct stimulation. Less milk can lead to several outcomes such as a malnourished baby among others. It is recommended to constantly weigh your baby while using a nipple shield to be sure they are getting the right supply of breastmilk.
  • Constant use of a nipple shield while breastfeeding may lead to an increased risk of mastitis or blocked milk ducts. This is because not enough milk is produced or transferred when using a nipple shield.
  • Although using a nipple shield may be helpful in different scenarios, one of the disadvantages is that some mothers find it difficult to wean off their babies. This can lead to a disruption in the breastfeeding relationship.

When Should You Not Use a Nipple Shield?

As earlier stated, a nipple shield is helpful for some mothers who experience breastfeeding issues, or mothers nursing a premature baby. Regardless, you should seek out professional advice from a lactation consultant before you begin using one.

In cases where you are dealing with cracked or sore nipples, you should avoid using a nipple shield. You should primarily work towards solving why your nipples are bruised before proceeding with breastfeeding.

Conclusion

There are several methods to help a nursing mother with weaning their baby from a nipple shield. Some babies can move on from the shield quicker than others. If your baby has access to interrupted milk supply then that can positively encourage them to adapt to the bare nipple quicker. 

In cases where the weaning process is not working as expected, try not to force it. Continue breastfeeding with the shield as the most important thing is making sure your baby has access to milk. Always remember a nipple shield is meant to be a temporary solution in your breastfeeding journey.

Don’t forget to read our collection of articles for more tips to make childcare easier.


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