This is how I got my son off the nipple shield.
I saw several lactation consultants to help my baby nurse. We had lots of issues: flat nipples, large (DD) / firm breast tissue, baby’s chin was recessed, he was weak due to jaundice, I had introduced bottles of expressed milk and he really preferred the ease of bottle nipples... its no wonder we had such a hard time. All of these issues were culminating in him not gaining enough weight to please my pediatricians which created more stress on me with weekly weigh-ins and the guilt that maybe I should have been giving him formula. But the lactation consultants I saw were wonderful and supportive, and finally we got him to accept a nipple shield. At first I thought it was a miracle cure because I could finally give my baby the milk directly and didn’t have to give bottle, pump, clean equipment, (sleep?) then give bottle again continuously throughout the day and night. However continuing the kind of long-term nursing I desired (1 year at least) with the shield was becoming nearly impossible. By 3 months I was starting to think I would have to give up. Then, by chance, I met a mother who had weaned her baby off of the nipple shield at 3 ½ months. My son was 4 months at the time so I quickly made an appointment with the same lactation consultant who had helped her.
These are the exact steps I took.
1. Fit. I got the smallest nipple shield that would fit my nipple – don’t get too small because you can injure the nipple if it rubs against the sides too much. I had started off with the “Medium” size because that’s what the store had but then switched to the “Small” size per this consultants direction. It might benefit you to actually measure your nipple or buy several sizes. The concept is if the baby can get used to a smaller size in its mouth it can learn to accept the smaller size of the nipple.
2. Try, try, try (until you want to cry!) Every single nursing I would begin by trying to give him the bare nipple – just for a few moments, never letting him get too upset. Then I would put the nipple shield on and do a regular nursing. I experimented with taking it off just before he was finished and then playing around with the nipple. I think ultimately was solution was the playing.
3. Play! I turned it into a game. I would bop him on the nose with the nipple, I would squirt milk into his mouth, I would pretend the nipple was sneaking up on him again and bop him on the lips. His mouth would be open from laughing so I would quick sneak it in there, and he would think that was hilarious! Funny sound effects, goofy faces, and lots of smiles reinforced that this was supposed to be a fun, happy time. This play time was part of the routine during the times he was not being nursed to sleep.
4. Patience. 2 – 3 weeks later we had just gotten home from a play date. He was a little over hungry but not yet fussy, he was also ready for a nice long nap. I opened my shirt and gave him a gentle bop on the nose and he latched on like he had been doing it his whole life! My nearly 5 month old son was nursing; I really could not believe it. Now this was by not the end, there were still some residual issues that could not have been resolved without my lactation consultant. We switched back and forth between bare and shielded for a little over a week to make sure he was taking in enough milk. I also went back to the lactation consultant for a precise before-and-after weigh-in to verify he was getting the same milk as he had been with the shield. We needed help with our nursing position too. Previously I had been doing a poor football style hold but when he stopped using the nipple shield we switched to him laying on the boppy in more of a cross-cradle hold.
I think there were several key contributing factors to why this method worked for me and my son. I think there is this kind of golden age that starts for some babies at 3 months where they start to be able to nurse more on their own. They are aware of what they want, how to get it and they are starting to have enough motor skills to actively take part in the nursing. The biggest factor was the lactation consultant telling me to try one more time. And really that is motherhoods greatest lesson: if something is not working, try something new. Instead of being stressed out about not being able to nurse him in public, hating pumping, having to clean the shields all the time - I turned it into a game that made us both giggle. I hope this helps you and good luck!