Weaning from a nipple shield
If you've ever gotten started using a nipple shield it can be a bittersweet situation. Sure, your baby can latch now but you also have to deal with a floppy, slippery shield which seems to attract every bit of dust and pet hair in your home! It can be done though (and not my personal method of dropping it in the grocery store parking lot and having to figure it out on the fly!). This process may take some time and not every step will apply to you and your baby. Reads through these suggestions and decide which apply to you and your baby.
1. Cuddle your baby skin-to-skin often. Not only is this comforting for your baby, but it can help baby associate your chest with comfort and it helps to restart the feeding reflexes baby is born with.
2. Watch your baby, even when sleeping, for early hunger cues (rapid eye movement, wiggling) and try latching them when they’re just barely awake.
3. Nurse baby often- every 2 hours or more, at every hunger cue- hungry babies are very impatient and have trouble learning new skills. You can lay in a comfy place with your baby, skin-to-skin all day. Some parents call this a "baby moon" because like a honeymoon, you are just trying to reconnect and cuddle with your baby.
4. Do not allow baby to get too upset while trying to latch to the bare breast. If baby begins to get very fussy or cry, use the shield like usual and try again later.
5. Hand-express a few drops of milk onto your nipple before trying to latch to breast.
6. Talk to and encourage your baby. While they may not understand the words, they know your voice and a gentle tone is soothing to baby. You can also try singing to your baby as they love your voice!
7. Use your hand to shape your breast into more of a mouthful. Using your thumb, gently pull back on the skin above your areolae so that your nipple is tipping up towards the roof of your baby’s mouth. Place your actual nipple right under your baby’s nose, and make sure their chin is firmly touching your breast underneath your areola. When baby opens their mouth they will need to come up and over your nipple- some people call this the "Flipple" technique.
8. If your nipples are short, flat, or very soft you may need to help evert (bring them out) which you can do with your hands or a tool like Supple Cups or Lansinoh LatchAssist. You can also try the "sandwich" technique.
9. If baby refuses to even try to latch without the shield, try the bait and switch. Latch using the shield, as usual then a few minutes into the feeding, as their eyes begin to close, unlatch baby and remove the shield, then quickly try to latch baby without it.
This process can take some time, even short times with baby on breast without a shield is a win! Be patient with yourself and your baby throughout.