Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Nipple Shields for Breastfeeding Problems
Nipple shields are devices to help with certain breastfeeding problems. A nipple shield looks like a little hat with a brim. The crown of the hat fits over the nipple, and the brim lies over the areola. Most nipple shields are made of a soft, thin, flexible plastic.
Nipple shields may be helpful for babies who have trouble sucking, such as:
Premature babies may not have strong suction and may not be able to latch on as well as full-term babies. Suction is important because it helps the baby get enough of the nipple in his or her mouth. Nipple shields can help premature babies get a better latch and get enough milk.
Nipple shields are meant for short-term use. For example, they might be used with a premature baby until the baby's expected birth date. So for a baby born at a gestational age of 35 weeks, you might use nipple shields for a few weeks. After that, the baby will probably be able to nurse without a shield.
Also, nipple shields may sometimes be used:
If you are having a hard time breastfeeding, ask a doctor, nurse, lactation consultant, or other expert to help. You can try nipple shields if other methods or changes don't work.
Nipple shields look simple, but there are some tricks to using them correctly. So be sure you get guidance from a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding expert. Your hospital, doctor, or midwife can help you find an expert in your area.
A lactation consultant can:
It's important to use a nipple shield correctly. If it isn't used the right way, your nipples could be damaged or your baby may not get enough milk.
These signs mean you are using the shield correctly:
Experts have concerns about the use of nipple shields with some full-term babies.
In general, experts think nipple shields should be used only if other possible solutions were tried and didn't work.
Other Works Consulted
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (Revision 2010). ABM Protocol #7: Model Breastfeeding Policy. Breastfeeding Medicine, 5(4): 173–175.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerFemi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofMay 30, 2016
Current as of:
May 30, 2016
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2016 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.