Do Nipple Shields Cause Gas? How To Minimize Air Intake

| Reviewed By Amanda Lundberg, BSN, RN

If nipple shields are not placed correctly on the breast, they may cause excessive gas due to air pockets being trapped and latching not being sufficient.

Your nipple shield should be the right size for your nipple and snugly fit against your breast without any trapped air pockets before you attempt to feed your baby.

Babies develop gas when they swallow too much air during feedings. According to Medela, gas in a breastfed baby can also be caused by:

  • Immature digestive system 
  • Feeding too quickly or overfeeding
  • Mother’s diet
  • Prolonged crying
  • Not being burped adequately

Nipple Shields and Baby Gas

When used correctly, nipple shields do not commonly cause gas in nursing babies.

However, ill-fitting nipple shields can cause your baby to swallow too much air while nursing, leading to increased gas. 

How To Reduce Baby Gas When Using Nipple Shields

  • The nipple shield can have an air pocket between the breast and the shield, so ensure your nipple shield fits snugly and is the right size before feeding your baby.
  • Nipple shields with too many or too large holes can cause your baby to take in excess gas. Try one with smaller or fewer holes.
  • Ensure that your baby has a good latch on the nipple shield.
  • Take breaks during feeds to burp your baby. Gently pat or rub your baby’s back to help release any trapped air.
  • Try a different type of nipple shield if the one you have now isn’t working. Contact nipple shields provide a more natural experience for the baby and might help.
  • Experiment with different feeding positions to find one that is comfortable for both you and your baby. A more upright position may help reduce the intake of air.
  • Allow your baby to feed at a comfortable and relaxed pace. If your baby is gulping or swallowing quickly, it may lead to more air intake and gas.
  • Some babies may have tongue or lip ties that can affect their ability to latch properly and may contribute to gas. Consult with a pediatrician or lactation consultant to assess for any ties.
  • Consider evaluating your diet. Certain foods in the mother’s diet can sometimes contribute to gas in the baby. Common culprits include dairy, caffeine, and certain gas-producing vegetables.

When To Call the Doctor

Persistent gas can be a sign of underlying issues, such as feeding difficulties, digestive problems, or other health concerns.

Here are some situations in which it’s a good idea to contact a healthcare professional:

  • Excessive gas that seems to be causing discomfort or distress
  • Baby is struggling with feeding, has a poor latch, or is not gaining weight as expected.
  • Increased fussiness, crying, or signs of discomfort during or after feeds.
  • Concerns about your baby’s weight gain or overall growth

Nipple Shields for Nursing – What To Know

If a lactation consultant suggests you use a nipple shield, here are some things you should know.

Nipple Shields’ Purpose

The purpose of a nipple shield is to help babies who may struggle with breastfeeding.

The silicone nipple cover stimulates the roof of the baby’s mouth and encourages proper suckling.

In most cases, a nipple shield is only for short-term use, and you should only use it if your lactation consultant recommends it.

How Nipple Shields Affect Your Baby

The impact of nipple shields can vary from one baby to another.

While nipple shields can be a helpful tool in certain situations, their use should be monitored and guided by a lactation consultant or a pediatrician. 

Regular assessments of the baby’s weight gain, feeding behavior, and overall well-being are crucial when using nipple shields.

  • Aid in Latching: Nipple shields can help babies who have difficulty latching onto the breast, particularly if the mother has flat or inverted nipples.
  • Transition from Bottle to Breast: In some cases, nipple shields can be helpful for babies who are used to bottle feeding and have difficulty transitioning to breastfeeding.
  • Reduced Milk Transfer: There is a possibility that the use of nipple shields may lead to a reduction in milk transfer from the breast to the baby. This could affect the baby’s overall nutrition and growth.
  • Latch Issues: Struggle to maintain a deep latch with the shield. This can affect their ability to effectively extract milk from the breast.
  • Dependency: Prolonged use of nipple shields may lead to dependency, making it challenging for the baby to breastfeed without the shield. 
  • Frustration or Confusion: Babies may become frustrated or confused with the nipple shield, especially if they are accustomed to a particular breastfeeding technique. 
  • Supply Concerns: Some mothers may experience a decrease in milk supply with prolonged use of nipple shields. Ensuring that the baby effectively stimulates the breast is important for maintaining milk production.

Nipple Shield Pros and Cons

A nipple shield provides the following benefits for you and your baby:

  • It allows you to breastfeed your baby while your nipples are healing.
  • It gives you time to improve breastfeeding while you wait for your baby’s tongue-tie treatment.
  • It allows your baby to get proper suction if you have a flat or inverted nipple.

On the other hand, a nipple shield comes with the following drawbacks:

  • It can decrease milk supply and cause your baby to drink less milk.
  • It limits skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby.
  • You can develop mastitis or clogged ducts from your breasts not being emptied properly.
  • It can be challenging to wean a baby from a nipple shield.

When incorrectly used, nipple shields can limit weight gain in babies and prevent them from getting enough milk.

Types of Nipple Shields

Nipple shields come in various shapes, sizes, and materials to address different breastfeeding challenges:

  • Regular Nipple Shields: These are typically made of thin, soft silicone or latex material. They have a rounded or contoured shape to mimic the natural shape of the breast.
  • Contact Nipple Shields: These have a design that allows more skin-to-skin contact. They often have a cut-out or open section at the top to maximize skin contact and promote a more natural breastfeeding experience.
  • Orthodontic Nipple Shields: These have a shape that is designed to promote proper oral development in the baby. They may have a flatter, more symmetrical shape to encourage the baby to latch onto the breast correctly.
  • Specialty Nipple Shields: Some nipple shields are designed for specific issues, such as those for flat or inverted nipples. These may have additional features to help address these challenges.
  • Different Sizes: Nipple shields come in various sizes to accommodate different nipple shapes and sizes. It’s important to choose a size that fits well to ensure proper suction and milk transfer.

When To Use Nipple Shield

A nipple shield can be helpful in the following situations:

  • Your baby was born prematurely
  • Baby is struggling with learning how to breastfeed
  • You have inverted, small, or flat nipples
  • Your baby has a lip- or tongue-tie
  • Sore nipples
  • Your breasts are very soft

Using a Nipple Shield With a Newborn

You typically use a nipple shield with a newborn who is having difficulty latching to the breast.

Find a nipple shield that’s the right size for your baby’s mouth and fits your breast properly.

Work closely with a lactation consultant to be sure your baby is latching correctly and growing at a normal pace.

Do Nipple Shields Affect Milk Supply?

Yes, nipple shields can decrease milk supply over time.

Milk production is encouraged through nipple stimulation, which secretes prolactin and oxytocin.

When your baby feeds with a nipple shield, they touch the silicone shield, not your actual nipple.

While using a nipple shield, you may want to pump to maintain your supply

Nipple Shield for Sore Nipples

Nipple shields can be effective if you have sore nipples from breastfeeding. Usually, sore nipples are the result of latching problems with your baby.

Besides using nipple shields, you can also:

  • Try different breastfeeding positions to find the one most comfortable for you and your baby.
  • Wait for your baby’s mouth to open wide before inserting your nipple.
  • Use a pillow to bring your baby right up to the breast.
  • Sit in an upright position with pillows behind you.

How Should a Nipple Shield Fit?

The nipple shield should be snug around your areola, and the nipple should be deep into the nipple area instead of having space.

It shouldn’t feel like your nipple is scraping against the sides.

How To Get Nipple Shield To Stay On

Most importantly, be sure to choose the right size and the proper fit. Follow these tips for getting the nipple shield on your breast correctly:

  1. Turn your nipple shield inside out before putting it on your nipple.
  2. Flip the base of the nipple halfway inside out with your thumbs, creating a dimple.
  3. Put your nipple into the dimple and stretch the base over your breast.
  4. You can get a better fit by using water or nipple cream around the shield’s edge.

How To Care for Nipple Shields

  1. Before using for the first time and after each use, use a soft brush to wash the nipple shield with warm water and mild soap.
  2. Rinse the nipple shield thoroughly to remove any soap or milk residue. Residue can affect the taste and smell, potentially leading to breastfeeding issues.
  3. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on the nipple shields as these can degrade the material and potentially harm your baby.
  4. It’s generally safe to boil silicone nipple shields for about 5 minutes to sterilize them. However, be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  5. Allow the nipple shields to air dry. Placing them on a clean, dry surface is preferable. Avoid using towels or cloths that may introduce lint or debris.
  6. After drying, store the nipple shields in a clean and covered container. Ensure the container is well-ventilated to prevent moisture buildup.
  7. Regularly inspect the nipple shields for any signs of wear and tear, such as cracks or thinning. If you notice any damage, replace the shields promptly.
  8. Nipple shields have a lifespan, and their effectiveness may decrease over time. Replace them as recommended by the manufacturer or if you notice any signs of wear.

How Long To Use Nipple Shields

Only use nipple shields for as long as your lactation consultant recommends.

For those moms with flat or inverted nipples, you may need the nipple shield longer.

The longer you use a nipple shield, the more challenging it can be to wean your baby off of it.

Your lactation consultant can guide you on how long to use your nipple shield and when to wean off it.

Permanently Using Nipple Shield

Nipple shields are usually only for temporary use, but some babies don’t want to wean off the nipple shield.

In that case, it’s usually better to use the nipple shield permanently instead of switching to bottles or formula.

If you need to use the nipple shield more often, you’ll need to monitor your baby’s weight gain and check that they’re getting enough milk.

How To Wean Your Baby From Nipple Shields

Weaning from a nipple shield may take time, and it’s essential to be patient.

If your baby is resistant initially, don’t force the issue. Gradual progress is key.

  1. Before starting the weaning process, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that it’s the right time and that there are no underlying issues affecting breastfeeding.
  2. Ensure that your baby’s latch has improved and they are feeding well. If there were initial issues with latch or breastfeeding, it’s essential to address and resolve them before attempting to wean from the nipple shield.
  3. Begin by breastfeeding without the nipple shield for short durations during each feeding session. This allows your baby to get used to the natural breast sensation.
  4. Gradually alternate between feeds with the nipple shield and feeds without it. This can help your baby transition more smoothly.
  5. Practice skin-to-skin contact during feeds without the nipple shield. This can help your baby feel more comfortable and connected to you during breastfeeding.
  6. Try different breastfeeding positions to find what works best for both you and your baby without the nipple shield.

Best Nipple Shield

When looking for a nipple shield for you and your baby, choose the proper size based on what your lactation consultant recommends.

Check out these products!

Medela Contact Nipple Shield

If you have short, flat, or inverted nipples, the Medela Nipple Shield might be the right choice.

Its design promotes skin-to-skin contact and helps mothers who may be experiencing soreness, overactive letdown, and latching difficulties.

Lansinoh Nipple Shield for Breastfeeding

The Lansinoh Nipple Shield is especially suitable for mothers breastfeeding babies with tongue-ties.

The Lansinoh Nipple Shield has a lower profile to accommodate babies with a shallow latch.

Philips AVENT Nipple Shields With Storage Case

The Philips AVENT Nipple Shield has a unique design that encourages skin-to-skin contact and is easy to hold.

Breastfeeding mothers with sensitive nipples appreciate this product because of its comfortable material.