Fortunately for me, when my first son was born and we were having exactly these kinds of problems with breastfeeding, my dear mother heard about nipple shields from a friend and mailed me one from across the country. What a lifesaver! With the breast shield in place during feeding, he was able to easily latch-on and stay there for a full meal. The pain associated with cracked, blistering nipples was immediately eased and the sores were healed within a week and I was able to stop pumping between feedings and supplementing bottles. Occasionally I tried feeding without the nipple shield, but found it wasn't worth the struggle so always went back to it.
I relied on nipple shields again with DS (dear sons) 2 and 3, but for some reason when my daughter was born I rebelliously thought we could do without. Oh boy, was I wrong! I should have known better! In the hospital before going home I met with a lactation consultant (first one ever, which is amazing considering this is baby #4). I told her that DD (dear daughter) was doing well latching and feeding, but it was very painful. She tried to help me get her repositioned and a better latch, but there was still a clicking sound while sucking, even when everything appeared to be correctly placed (boob, baby, head, tongue). I decided to grin and bear it because after all, breast is best. After nearly a month of suffering I finally broke-down. I jumped on Amazon.com, ordered 2 and had them shipped overnight for the fastest relief possible.
Below are the two I ordered most recently. I preferred the Ameda one because although the plastic was a little thicker, it stayed in place better, and I didn't really see the value in the odd shape that the one from Medela had, it usually just got in the way.
Finally, I lost both nipple shields at about 3 months. I think they went in the trash by mistake. Good news is that we have been doing just fine without them ever since so I didn't feel the need to re-order.
Have you tried these? Is it okay to cheat at breastfeeding?