How to get a deep latch with a nipple shield

Baby latching with nipple shield

Whether you are using a nipple shield for pain, you were given one in the hospital and you are still using it or your baby needs one to be able to feed from your breast or chest, the most important thing about using a nipple shield is that you work with your baby to get a deep latch. In this blog, I’ll help you understand why latching with a nipple shield is tricky and what you can do to make it easier.

Having a deep latch is about more than just reducing pain. A deep latch helps your baby drain your breasts/chests most effectively. This ensures they get the most milk they can during feeding, which helps to support your supply, whether or not you use a nipple shield during feeding. If you aren’t 100% sure what a deep latch is, check out my blog post right here before you read on with this post.

Getting a deep latch on a nipple shield can be tricky for 2 reasons.

#1 - It’s harder to get a good latch because nipple shield's are just big.  

Any nipple shield that you use is going to be wider and longer than your nipple, and it's going to sick out farther from your body.

To get a deep latch, your baby has to open their mouth widely so that they can take in a lot of breast tissue before they start to suck. When your baby’s brain gets the “suck” message, it causes them to immediately close their mouth so they can swallow. 

Since the nipple shield is wider and longer than your nipple, it’s really easy for the suck cue to be triggered too soon, causing your baby to close down on the just nipple part of the nipple shield instead of getting some of your areola in their mouth too.

#2 - It doesn’t HURT, so you don’t notice it’s shallow.

If you use a nipple shield to help you reduce latch pain and the nipple shield does exactly what you hoped it would do, then you may not notice that you have a shallow latch, because it doesn’t hurt you. < br />
Instead of your baby opening wide and getting a deep latch, they end up just feeding on the nipple, and it just doesn’t hurt, so you stop focusing on the latch.


The easiest thing you can do to help your baby get their deepest latch with a nipple shield is to make sure that you have the smallest size nipple shield that fits your body. You want your nipple shield to mirror your nipple size as much as possible, but if it’s too small, it may fall off with latching.

To make sure you have the right size for your body, you can measure your nipples using a printable ruler, and use that measurement to purchase a nipple shield that is 1-2mm larger than your size. If you don’t have a ruler, you can print one off right here.

The most important thing you can do when you are using a nipple shield is to focus on your latching position. The process for latching is the same whether or not you have a nipple shield, it’s just harder because the nipple shield can get in the way, so you have to be more intentional when you are learning what to do.

This means you need to get your baby’s chin planted to cue their mouth to open, and then help them forward to latch so that the nipple only enters their mouth AFTER it’s opened to the widest point. That looks like this: 

Get the chin planted with the nipple out of the way

Wait for your baby to open their mouth as wide as they can

Use your hand to help your baby forward so they can latch


This can feel tricky with some babies, especially when your baby is fussy or frantic, so make sure you practice getting a deeper latch when both you and your baby feel calm. Don’t feel like you are doing this wrong, instead think of it as just something to new to practice.  

If you want more details on latching, make sure you grab my Gentle Latching Guide right here.

If your baby sometimes has a shallow latch and a deep latch other times,  it’s likely nothing to worry about. Your baby doesn’t have to have the perfect latch with every single feed for you to have a long and amazing feeding relationship.

However, if your baby always has a shallow latch and you’ve ruled out the size of the nipple shield as the problem and you’ve worked on latching positioning and it isn't helping, that’s a good sign that it’s time to get a good lactation consultant to help you get to the root of your latching problems.


Learn how to be painfree by bedtime. 


The Gentle Latching™ Guide will help you learn how to how to position your baby to help them use their innate reflexes to get a better latch that doesn't hurt, so you can put your latching woes behind you. 

Get the Guide