A nipple protector, or nipple shield, is a thin flexible silicone cover placed over the nipple before baby attaches to it. The tip of the shield has holes that allow milk to flow through and into baby’s mouth. Nipple shields are sometimes shaped like a hat with a brim and crown.

The nipple shield is a temporary way to help babies learn to latch properly and breastfeed effectively. It can be particularly useful for infants who have flat or inverted nipples. When the nipple is pulled into the baby’s mouth and reaches the hard palate of the roof of the mouth, it stimulates the sucking reflex. This is especially important for premature or small newborns who may not have the strength or skill to latch on their own.

Babies who use nipple shields tend to intake more milk and have faster suckling rates than those that don’t, and the nipple shield helps to prevent nipple trauma and mastitis. The older plastic and rubber nipple shields tended to slow the milk flow, making breastfeeding less efficient, but the newer thin silicone nipple shields don’t affect the amount of milk a baby receives (13).

Many mothers find that using a nipple shield can ease their frustration with a difficult or shallow latch. The nipple shield helps them maintain the breastfeeding relationship and provides an incentive to continue to work on improving and establishing a deeper attachment (15). While there is a higher rate of breastfeeding problems among “NS” mothers than those who do not use a nipple shield, both groups have similar breastfeeding rates at 3 months. nipple protectors