After nursing my first three babies with virtually no problems whatsoever, my fourth baby introduced me to the cruel, painful world of nipple confusion and cracked nipples. Herchel’s post on how to overcome nipple confusion using a nipple shield reminded me of how my daughter’s nipple confusion was caused by the shield!
The good news is, nipple confusion doesn’t have to be the end of breastfeeding. You just need to know a few tricks and have patience. These tricks will help you fix nipple confusion.
How to Overcome Nipple Confusion with a Nipple Shield
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My baby experienced nipple confusion because I started using a nipple shield when she was a week old. I had cracked, bleeding nipples and was desperate for some relief.
The shield stopped the nipple pain immediately and allowed my nipples to heal. The problem was, I was too scared to start weaning off of the shield once I was all healed up.
Instead of immediately working towards nursing without a shield, I kept using the nipple shield for a whopping three months.
In my personal opinion (I’m not a lactation consultant, I’ve just nursed 9 children for various lengths of time) there is nothing inherently wrong with using a nipple shield. It’s very inconvenient though.
They are messy, they always gets lost, and you have to clean them after each feeding.
So finally after three months, I worked up the nerve to stop using the nipple shield. The only problem was, my baby experienced major nipple confusion.
How I Fixed my Baby’s Nipple Confusion
When I realized that nipple confusion was going to be an issue, I called up a La Leche League volunteer and asked her the best way to go about nursing with a bare nipple.
She advised me to get the baby first latched onto the nipple shield, and then, once the baby had nursed for 1-2 minutes, un-latch the baby and remove the shield, and then re-latch the baby onto my bare nipple.
When I began doing this, I had to re-latch the baby several times before she figured out how to latch on in a way that was comfortable for us both.
I’m not going to lie and say that it was a fast or easy solution. It took time, patience, and I had to be meticulous about the latch quality, otherwise, I’d be right back in the cracked nipples boat.
Overall, it took about a week of going through the routine of starting the nursing session with a shield, and then re-latching without one.
It was worth the effort, she went on to nurse for a full year.
If you have a baby who is addicted to the nipple shield, and you want to help her get over her nipple confusion once and for all, you can do it!
Let me just encourage you to get started. Just because you began nursing with a nipple shield does not mean that you are stuck with one forever.
And if you need additional one-on-one support, La Leche League International is an amazing resource.
Have you ever experienced nipple confusion? How did you get past it?
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Ashley Buffa lives in Virginia and blogs at Perfectly Imperfect Club, where she writes about nurturing your life, home, and self with grace.
Ashley has nine children, ages 14 down to a year old. Seven boys and two girls, which means there is way too much testosterone swirling through the house.
Ashley ends up over-compensating by wearing red lipstick just about every day and dressing like every day is a celebration.
At the Perfectly Imperfect Club, Ashley writes about helping moms establish systems and routines in their homes so that there is still time for the woman underneath who is holding everything together.