Do you need a breastfeeding aid?

Breastfeeding expert Clare Byam-Cook takes us through breastfeeding aids and how to use them

When breastfeeding goes well you don’t need any equipment at all. But many mothers struggle and suffer from problems such as sore nipples, difficulty in latching, engorged breasts or low milk supply. For these mothers, breastfeeding equipment can make all the difference, and it’s therefore important to know what is available and how to use them.

The breast pump

This can be invaluable if you are having problems and is also really useful if you want to express your milk. Breast pumps vary in price, with the more expensive ones tending to be quieter and more efficient than the cheaper brands. If in doubt, I would recommend buying an electric pump. You can use your pump for any of the following:

• To express milk if your baby can’t latch on.

• To give your breasts respite if you are suffering from sore nipples.

• To allow someone else to give a feed.

• To get your baby used to taking some
feeds from a bottle.

• To stimulate your breasts if you have a low milk supply or your baby is not emptying the breast efficiently.

Nipple shields

Many believe that shields are only designed to provide protection if the mother has sore nipples, but in fact they can be used for lots of other issues:

• As a temporary latching aid if the breasts become engorged when the milk comes in.

• To help the baby latch when the mother has very large breasts with flat nipples.

• To slow and regulate the flow of milk if the mother has too fast a let-down reflex.

• To help a baby feed more effectively if he does not have a good sucking action.

I would also stress that it is worth trying to find a good breastfeeding specialist in your area who might be able to show you how to resolve your problem, so you don’t need to rely on equipment long-term.

Using nipple shields

Although nipple shields can be brilliant, it is important that you use them correctly to make sure your baby is getting plenty of milk. I offer a full explanation of how to use shields in my book,  What to Expect When You’re Breastfeeding… And What if You Can’t? but here are some guidelines to get you going:

• You must not use a shield before your milk comes in as a baby cannot extract colostrum through a shield.

• Use a shield that fits the size of your baby’s mouth rather than your nipple. Most babies need a small size.

• You can use shields for months on end providing the baby is emptying your breast efficiently.

• You must stop using shields if feeds become too long and your baby is not getting enough milk through them.

Want more? Clare Byam-Cook gives advice on latching techniques