My activity in the jewelry studio has been scarce for the past 10 or so months since I became pregnant early last year. Due to a high risk pregnancy, it was important to avoid any sort of chemicals and odors that might be potentially dangerous. And now with a newborn, I haven’t been able to get back into the studio yet, but my research continues.
In one of my mother’s group meetings, someone mentioned using sterling silver nipple caps to heal and protect sore nipples due to breastfeeding. New to the subject, I had never heard of such a thing and was curious to learn about these sterling silver objects (interest peaked by the silver content). I thought, how extravagant to be made in sterling silver. I would have thought plastic or stainless steel would suffice, but it’s the pure silver itself that provides the healing quality. Silver is a natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial metal that also contains anti-inflammatory agents. In the case of the nipple shields, it heals and prevents cuts, wounds, cracks, soreness, and infections.
I found that nipple caps/shields/protectors have probably been in use since the late 1700s, more commonly found in Europe than in the US. According to Phisick Medical Antiques, nipple shields were made from a variety of materials in the 18th and 19th centuries from wood, ivory, and silver, but also from lead (!), as exemplified by these antique Metallic Shields by Dr. Wansbrough and deemed safe. Some were even perforated to allow nursing while wearing, although I would imagine that to be quite difficult for both the mother and child.
Modern nipple shields can be purchased online by several companies. One even offers a clever recycling program where you can trade your used shields in for a pendant made from the melted recovered 925 silver. I haven’t had the need to try them, but they certainly are interesting anatomical forms and potential jewelry inspiration.