My Love-Hate Relationship With the Nipple Shield

nipple shield breastfeeding
Nipple Shield from

If you have never heard of a nipple shield, consider yourself lucky. This torture device was introduced to me about five seconds after I had my first baby, and it has taken me about 3 years to be mentally able to write about my experience.

It all started the minute I realized I had small nipples.

I had never even considered this before until I actually watched some of the “How To” breastfeeding videos and saw what kinda nipples other women were working with. I could not believe how large they were! They all looked like torpedos or fingers! A kid could latch to those things from across the room for all I could tell. I remember laughing through tears watching those videos, realizing I was at a disadvantage but not ready to give up.

Breastfeeding was not an easy experience for me in the beginning, and I quickly learned a big part of that was because my baby had only little nubbins to try to latch on to.

Luckily my prayers were answered when I found an amazing lactation consultant (LC) who introduced me to the nipple shield. She promised that this thin, flimsy piece of plastic would be my gateway to breastfeeding heaven.

And it was, sort of. It gave my son something to latch onto, which was great for him. However, for me, it made my nipples bleed and crack, repeatedly, every time I used it. Turns out nipples don’t like being sucked and squeezed on through a big plastic straw. I even developed mastitis a week or so after I started using them. I don’t know if this is directly related to the nipple shield, but in my mind, it was all connected.

I remember developing visceral reactions to that shield. It even made me nauseated sometimes because I knew putting it on would make my nipples hurt. But I persisted because I wanted so badly to breastfeed my child. It’s crazy the things we put ourselves through sometimes, but in the moment it felt like I had no choice.

Thank goodness after about 6 weeks, my LC said it was probably ok to stop using it. My son was bigger now, a much more efficient eater, and she said now the nipple shield was slowing his flow.

I was so ecstatic until I realized that my poor nipples now had to re-experience the trauma of bleeding and cracking yet again because the shield was gone and they had to toughen up in a different way. I could not believe I had to relieve that experience again, but I did.

My son and I survived, and he is now healthy and happy and eats like a horse.

But I cannot tell you how grateful I was that my second child did NOT need to use the nipple shield. It was a combination of her being a better eater and my nipples (just like everything else in my body!) had been stretched out. Not to torpedo-size, but maybe more like a pencil eraser or small pinky.

I hope this post doesn’t scare you away from the nipple shield. Without it, I would not have been able to breastfeed. But like most good things in life, it took a lot of sacrifices, and I also found it was something that no one else ever talked about.

So to all those moms out there with little nubbins who have been tortured by the nipple shield, you forever have my empathy. NO one else can understand the sacrifices we moms make for our children, and this is but one of many things we put our bodies through for the bettering of our little ones.



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  1. I had to use a nipple shield but didn’t experience any pain or bleeding or cracked nipples. None of that happened to me, for which I am grateful. It happened to some of my friends who didn’t have to use a shield so I felt that the shield “shielded” me from that experience.


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