Breastfeeding and Breast Shells: Information, Uses, and Tips

Information, Uses, And Tips

Ameda DuoShells Breast Shells
Ameda DuoShells BreastShells. Ameda

What Are Breast Shells?

Breast shells are products designed for breastfeeding women. They can be worn over your breasts if you have inverted nipples, sore nipples, or leaky breasts. They are made up of two silicone or plastic parts. The bottom part is a round ring that is placed over your areola allowing your nipple to protrude through a hole in the center. This piece puts a gentle, non-painful pressure at the base of your nipple.

A second dome-shaped piece fits over the bottom ring to protect your nipple and collect any breast milk that may leak from your breasts while you're wearing the breast shells.

When Are Breast Shells Helpful?

  • You can wear breast shells to help correct flat nipples, retracted nipples, or inverted nipples. If you use breast shells between feedings, they may help to draw out your nipples making it easier for your baby to latch on well.
     
  • Breast shells can protect sore, cracked nipples from rubbing up against your nursing bra or breastfeeding clothes. By helping to prevent further pain and irritation, your nipples may heal more quickly.
     
  • Wearing breast shells can relieve mild breast engorgement. They put a slight, constant pressure on the nipple that allows your milk to drain slowly out of your breast and collect into the outer shell.
     
  • The use of breast shells can prevent embarrassing leaks and protect your clothing from stains.
     
  • Breast shells can be worn to collect the dripping breast milk from one breast while you breastfeed or pump on the other breast. 

When You Shouldn't Use Breast Shells

It's important to talk to your doctor before using breast shells during pregnancy. Some women with flat or inverted nipples begin wearing breast shells before the birth of their baby.

However, you should not wear breast shells if you are at risk for premature labor since they can stimulate the nipples and cause uterine contractions.

The Difference Between Breast Shells and Nipple Shields

Breast shells are not the same as nipple shields. If your doctor or lactation professional recommends the use of nipple shields, you wear them while you breastfeed. Breast shells, on the other hand, should always be removed before you nurse your child. 

Breast Shells, Leaking, and an Overabundant Breast Milk Supply

Even though breast shells are used to contain leaks, it is possible that they can increase the amount of leaking that you experience. An increase in leaking is more likely to occur during the first few weeks after the birth of your baby. Breast shells can also contribute to an overabundant supply of breast milk.

Can You Give Your Baby the Breast Milk Collected in Breast Shells?

Bacteria and fungus can grow in warm, dark, moist areas. Breast milk that leaks into breast shells can become contaminated with these organisms.

Therefore, do not store or feed your baby any of the breast milk that you collect in your breast shells between feedings.

The Care And Cleaning of Breast Shells

Breast shells with ventilation holes allow air to circulate around your breasts and nipples. The circulation of air around your breast tissue is necessary to prevent the build-up of moisture inside the shells. Moisture from breast milk that remains inside the breast shells can cause irritation to your breasts. So, you need to keep your breasts and your breast shells clean and dry to prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as skin breakdown, rashes, sore nipples, thrush, and mastitis.

Breast shells are easy to clean. Wash them with warm soapy water every day, and allow them to dry thoroughly.

Where Can You Find Breast Shells?

Breast shells may be available at the hospital where you deliver your baby. You can also purchase breast shells online or from maternity shops where breastfeeding and pump accessories are sold. If you have any questions about the use of breast shells or where to get them, talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group.

Photo: Ameda DuoShells BreastShells by Ameda

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

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