The first couple months of breastfeeding is far from easy.
Even in an ideal nursing situation, beginner breastfeeding mamas can experience sore, cracked, or bleeding nipples. When you throw in other conditions like tongue tie, an overactive letdown, or nursing a premature baby, breastfeeding can become very difficult indeed.
As a new mom, I used a nipple shield. It ebbed the flow of my overactive letdown, helped my tongue tied daughter latch, and relieved most of the pain from bleeding and cracked nipples.
Some days, my nipple shield was the only thing that enabled me to continue breastfeeding.
Used correctly, the right nipple shield can be just the tool you need. In this post, we’re going to go over exactly what nipple shields are, how to use them, and how to choose the best nipple shield for your unique situation.
RELATED POST: The Best Organic Nipple Cream for Sore Nipples
The Best Nipple Shields Quick Comparison
|NIPPLE SHIELD||BEST FOR|
|Medela Contact Nipple Shield||Universal Fit|
|Lansinoh Nipple Shield||Flat Nipples|
|Ameda Nipple Shields||Circular Nipple Shields|
|Purifyou Nipple Shields||Sore Nipples and Preemies|
|JLR Industry Nipple Shields and Milk Collectors||Overactive Letdown|
|Bonus: Momma Bear Nipple Shields||Budget-Friendly Moms|
The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Nipple Shield
What is a Nipple Shield
At its most basic function, a nipple shield provides a barrier between your baby and your nipple.
Modern day nipple shields are usually constructed of BPA-free silicone, while only a handful are still made from rubber. Silicone nipple shields are ultra-thin, which allows more areola stimulation.
Silicone nipple shields come in two varieties: contact (also known as cut-out) or circular.
Contact has the top piece cut out, which allows for more skin-to-skin contact. A circular nipple shield has a larger silicone circumference, allowing for better adhesion.
The tip of the nipple shield can vary as well. Conical nipples are wider, resembling a flower pot. Cherry nipples mimic the natural shape of a nipple, with a wider base and a more narrow tip. While cherry nipples may appeal to smaller babies, it can be difficult fit, depending on your nipple size.
At every tip you’ll find a few holes; This allows your baby to suckle.
Who Needs to Use a Nipple Shield
One study showed that premature babies that nursed with a nipple shield were able to take in as much as 60% more milk! A nipple shield, like a bottle, can help your baby nurse efficiently without the exhausting work.
However, when you’re using a nipple shield for a premature baby, it’s essential to select one with a small enough tip to accommodate your baby’s mouth.
An overactive letdown is relatively common in the first few weeks of motherhood.
Using a nipple shield can ebb the expulsive flow of your letdown, allowing your baby to drink in peace. While most nipple shields will do the trick, I highlighted one of the best of the best nipple shields for overactive letdowns below.
RELATED POST: Breastfeeding with an Overactive Letdown
Flat or Inverted Nipples
Even if you didn’t have flat nipples before you gave birth, an engorged breast can easily cause this condition.
If pumping isn’t helping with your flat nipples, a nipple shield will be your next course of action. A nipple shield allows your baby to easily latch while elongating your shallow nipple over time.
Tongue Tied Baby
If your baby has a tongue or lip tie, his mouth movement can be severely limited. He may be unable to latch properly or only produce shallow latches. A shallow latch can cause pain for you (since baby is usually suckling and gnawing your nipple) and exhaustion for baby. A nipple shield provides a temporary solution for both of these problems.
RELATED POST: Breastfeeding with a Tongue Tied Baby
Sore or Cracked Nipples
Most of the conditions above can lead to sore or cracked nipples. Any mom that has experienced raw nipples can attest to how tortuous it can be! The best nipple shield for sore nipples puts a much-needed barrier between you and baby’s gums without aggravating the tip of your nipple with the silicone.
Pros and Cons of Using a Nipple Shield
If you’re experiencing any of the conditions above and haven’t already spoken with an IBCLC, please do! While a nipple shield is a great solution, it’s only a band-aid for a bigger problem. While there are several benefits of using a nipple shield, it should only be used in certain situations, as a last resort.
- Controls Milk Flow
- Provides Shaped, Firm Nipple
- Easier to Suckle
- A Compromise Between Bottle Feeding and Nursing
- Pain Relief
- Baby May Need to be Weaned from Nipple Shield
- Possible Mastitis or Blocked Duct Issues
- Reduced Milk Supply
- Trial and Error
- May Reduce Baby’s Intake
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What to Look for When Buying a Nipple Shield
Nipple shields should be made from BPA-Free silicone.
BPA is a chemical that is added to several commercial plastics. Even a small dose can be harmful to adults. However, prolonged exposure has been shown to produce behavioral and neurological changes in babies. If the nipple shield you’re thinking about buying doesn’t say “BPA-Free”, it’s just not worth the risk.
All of the nipple shields we recommend are BPA-Free.
Typically, a nipple shield will range from 13mm-24mm.
Ideally, you’ll want to locate a nipple shield that takes both your nipple size and your baby’s mouth into account. An IBCLC should be able to determine what size you need, but we also provide some tips below.
Most nipple shields range from $5-$15 and include up to six shields per package.
In some cases, you get what you pay for. However, some name brand nipple shields are needlessly expensive and have terrible quality, while some off-brands are fantastic.
Nipple shields should be comfortable for you and baby, and adhere firmly to your breast. The best nipple shield will allow for maximum skin-to-skin contact, produce a steady flow for baby, and adhere efficiently.
We only recommend nipple shields with a 4-star or higher rating.
How to Use a Nipple Shield
When you don’t know how to use a nipple shield properly, it can fall off, cause more pain, or make your baby uncomfortable.
Above is one of my favorite video tutorials on how to use a nipple shield properly. If you’re not into videos, here’s a synopsis of the steps:
- Step 1: Soak your nipple shield in warm water (ideally for five minutes)
- Step 2: Dry. Apply a small amount of water or lanolin to lower lip.
- Step 3: Push the Nipple inward (so that the shield is almost inside out)
- Step 4: Position your nipple into the shield. Roll the outer shield over your areola until it pops into place.
It’s that easy!
What Size Nipple Shield to Use
It’s important to take your nipple and your baby’s mouth into account when purchasing a nipple shield.
The best way to determine your nipple size is to actually measure the width in millimeters (if you only have an imperial measuring tape, 1 cm=10mm). Your nipple will extend about 1.5 times its regular length while your baby suckles. To accommodate this, your nipple should fit in the shield with a little bit of space all around it.
The second factor is your baby’s mouth size. If your baby is premature, he may not be able to accomodate a large, 24mm nipple shield.
How to Clean a Nipple Shield
Just like a breast pump, your nipple shield should be cleaned after every use to avoid bacteria build-up.
Luckily, cleaning a nipple shield is pretty straight forward. Simply wash with a mild soap, then rinse with warm water. Turn the nipple outward when air drying.
You can also sanitize your nipple shield once a day, in either the dishwasher, a baby sanitizer or buy boiling in water (do NOT let the nipple shield touch the pan).
When to Replace a Nipple Shield
Since most nipple shields are recommended for temporary use, you’ll likely stop using it before you replace it.
Weaning from Nipple Shields
Once your baby gets used to nursing with a nipple shield, sometimes he’ll prefer it over your nipple. There’s much less work involved for him, especially if your nipple is flat or inverted. Can you blame the little guy for giving you a hard time?
The best way to wean from a nipple shield is to avoid the nipple confusion altogether.
When you breastfeed with a nipple shield, alternate between a covered and uncovered breast (if you can). This will keep him from becoming used to the sensation of the nipple shield.
Note: If your primary use of a nipple shield is sore nipples, invest in a good nipple cream and visit a lactation consultant immediately. When I experienced nipple pain, I fought against going to an IBCLC (#poornewmom). After weeks of suffering, I discovered that my baby was tongue tied and I had an overactive letdown. Don’t hesitate like I did. Most insurances do cover lactation consultations. It’s well worth the visit!
Tips to Wean Baby From a Nipple Shield
If all else fails and you need to wean baby from a nipple shield, these tips can expedite the process:
- Bait and Switch: Latch with the nipple shield first, then switch breasts once he’s had a bit to drink. He may be a little more willing to try your breast.
- Try the bait and switch or llatching bare-breasted while baby is groggy.
- Hand-express before nursing to stimulate your letdown. This will make nursing less work for him and instantly gratifying.
- For inverted or flat nipples, try pumping or rubbing your nipples with an ice cube before nursing to elongate them.
Weaning from a nipple shield can take time, so don’t sweat it if the results aren’t exactly as you’d like them to be.
The 5 Best Nipple Shields for Breastfeeding Moms: Detailed Reviews
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of the links I will make a small commission at no charge to you. I only recommend what I trust. Blunders in Babyland does not diagnose, treat, or give out any professional advice for any medical conditions.
A final note before we dive into the best nipple shields…
While we will point out the design features of each nipple shield, you should know that there’s still a chance that a nipple shield won’t feel exactly right or your baby will deny it altogether once you try it.
Some moms play it safe by purchasing a couple brands, while others use trial and error.
The important thing to remember is not to give up on the first try. This is a highly specialized choice based on the preferences of you and your baby. It’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time!
Medela Contact Nipple Shield
The Best Nipple Shield for Everyone
As you explore breastfeeding essentials, you’ll begin to notice two names appearing over and over again. Lansinoh and Medela. Most of the time, the two manufacturers are close competitors, producing goods that are similar quality and price.
In this case, I believe that Medela produces the best nipple shield for breastfeeding, but at an additional cost.
The Medela Contact Nipple Shield is uniquely designed to promote a decent amount of skin-to-skin contact without compromising adhesion. It has the most diverse selection of sizes, including 16mm, 20mm, and 24mm.
The downside is the price. Each nipple shield is sold individually and without the carrying case that comes standard with most of the other choices on this list.
- 3 Sizes: 16mm, 20mm, and 24mm
- Ultra thin, contact shape allows for great adhesion
- Great Reviews
- No Carrying Case
Lansinoh Nipple Shield
Best Nipple Shield for Flat Nipples
The Lansinoh nipple shield is a budget-friendly choice for a name brand product. For roughly the same price as the Medela nipple shield, you’ll receive a pair of shields plus a carrying case. Like the Medela brand, Lansinoh shields are BPA-free, contain a cut-out for maximum skin-to-skin, and offer multiple sizes. https://amzn.to/2W9Ydtz
While the thickness is almost identical to the Medela shield, Lansinoh’s tip is slightly more rigid. This making it a great pick for flat nipples. Over time, your flat nipples may extend through suckling. The Lansinoh nipple shield’s rigid orifice fosters a great environment for that.
In the end, this was the nipple shield I chose. I loved the included carrying case, the fit was perfect, the silicone adhered well, and my baby was able to finally latch without causing me even an pinch of pain.
- 2 Pack
- 2 Sizes: 20mm and 24mm
- Includes Carrying Case
- Slightly More Rigid Nipple
- Less Skin-to-Skin
Ameda Nipple Shields
Best Circular Shield
From breast pumps to milk storage bags, Ameda is another largely-known breastfeeding essentials brand that you can trust. The Ameda nipple shields are fully circular, allowing for maximum adhesion.
Ameda offers a couple sizes for their shields, 20mm and 24mm. You can purchase the shields as a single pack or double for a discounted price.
- 2 Sizes- 20mm or 24mm
- 1 or 2 Pack Available
- Less Skin-to-Skin
- Expensive Compared to Other Brands
Purifyou Nipple Shields
Best Nipple Shield for Sore Nipples and Preemies
Sometimes ultra-thin isn’t better, especially if you have cracked and bleeding nipples. If your primary focus is finding the best nipple shield for sore nipples, check out Purifyou. This particular shield is thicker than the Medela or Lansinoh. Like the Lansinoh, the tip is a little more rigid, adding another protective layer.
The Purifyou nipple is best defined as cherry shaped. The base is 20mm, while the very tip is 13mm. While this type of nipple can definitely a benefit for preemies, you really need to measure your nipple before purchasing. Otherwise, this petite fit could cause discomfort.
- Cherry Shaped Nipple
- 2 Sizes: 20 or 24mm
- 3 Pack
- Thicker Material
- Doesn’t adhere as well as Medela
- Thicker, Rigid Material
- Narrow Nipple Tip
JLR Industry Nipple Shields and Milk Collectors
Best Nipple Shield for Overactive Letdown
The best nipple shield for overactive letdowns comes from JLR Industry. One package includes two nipple shields and two milk collectors. When you nurse, attach the nipple shield to your active breast and the milk collector on the other. After your letdown initiates, the milk collector will capture any excess milk from the other side. Not only does this save you from breast pads and extra laundry, but it helps create a milk supply for emergencies.
Taking advantage of your oversupply is probably the last thing on your mind right now, but trust me, that oversupply isn’t going to last forever.
The JLR Industry nipple shield design is similar to Lansinoh, with a conservative cut-out for skin-to-skin contact and a slightly narrower nipple. Right now, this nipple shield only comes in one size, 16mm.
- 2 Pack
- Includes Milk Collector
- 1 Size: 16mm
- Narrow Nipple
Momma Bear Nipple Shields
Best Budget-friendly Nipple Shield
I know the title says “5 Best Nipple Shields”, but I couldn’t complete the article without mentioning this one!
The Momma Bear Nipple Shields are a budget-friendly option that doesn’t compromise quality. Each pack comes with 6 nipple shields and a cotton bag. Unlike other “off-brand” competitors, the Momma Bear shields are incredibly thin (some moms think too thin). Although the design of the shield is nearly circular, the thin material allows for more areola stimulation.
Having said that, this nipple shield is not for everyone. The only size available is 20mm. The nipple tube is also considerably more narrow than other brands on this list, making it a poor choice for flat or thick nipples.
- 6 Pack
- Thin Material
- Nearly Circular Design
- Includes a Baby Finger Toothbrush
- 1 Size – 20mm
- Narrow Nipple Shaft
- Less Skin-to-Skin Contact
The Best Nipple Shield for Breastfeeding Moms
We’ve looked at a lot of great products, but the best nipple shield award goes to the Medela Contact Nipple Shield. This shield has the most universal fit, great adhesion, plenty of skin-to-skin contact, and it’s manufactured by a company you can trust.
Having said that, if you looked through this list and you identify with a certain condition, don’t be afraid to test out some of the other brands. While Medela is certainly the safest option, another brand could be the perfect one.
(It’s always a good idea to have a spare anyway.)
Mama, breastfeeding is far from easy, especially when breastfeeding issues are factored into the mix. The fact that you’d like to continue to nurse despite adversity is amazing. I hope this post helped you decide on the right nipple shield to ease some of your troubles.
If it did, please take a look at some of our other breastfeeding and baby articles.
In the meantime, we’d love to hear about your personal experiences with nipple shields: what worked, what didn’t, any tips you’d be willing to provide. It helps our readers and gives your experiences a voice!
Please feel free to post any of your questions below as well!
I love giving new and expecting moms the tips they need to rock their pregnancy and raise their babies confidently.