About 10%-20% of women have inverted nipples. Many women are born with inverted or flat nipples, but they can develop over time and commonly occur in women after breastfeeding. It is still possible to breastfeed if you have inverted nipples, but you may need to take some additional steps to ensure comfortable breastfeeding for you and your baby if you have inverted or flat nipples.
Some women have inverted nipples, meaning they curve inward rather than out.
You may be born with inverted nipples, which could develop over time.
Sometimes breastfeeding causes nipples to invert, but in some cases, it can cause inverted nipples to protrude again.
Breastfeeding is possible for someone who has flat or inverted nipples.
Inverted or flat nipples may make it slightly more difficult for your baby to latch, but certain steps can be taken to make breastfeeding easier for women with flat or inverted nipples.
If you are having breastfeeding challenges that aren’t getting better with the steps you’ve tried, you may need to seek help from a professional lactation consultant.
What are flat or inverted nipples?
Inverted nipples turn inward rather than protrude outward; just like how the size and shape of breasts vary from person to person, so do nipples. Many women with inverted nipples are born with them, but they can also develop later in life.
What causes nipples to become inverted?
If inverted nipples were not present at birth, they might have occurred for a variety of reasons. Some common causes for inverted nipples include:
- Scarring of the milk duct from breastfeeding.
- Bacteria enter the breast through a milk duct and cause infection.
- An abscess under the areola.
- A cancerous tumor attacking the milk duct can cause it to invert.
- A rare type of breast cancer - Paget’s disease.
Cancer and infection are likely not the cause of inverted nipples if you’ve always had inverted nipples or breastfed in the past, and they’ve slowly inverted over time. If you’ve suddenly noticed that one nipple has inverted unexpectedly, you should seek medical care immediately to determine the cause.
Can you breastfeed with flat or inverted nipples?
Even if you have flat or inverted nipples, you can still breastfeed. Babies latch not only to the nipple but also to the surrounding tissue, so having flat or inverted nipples may not even affect your baby’s ability to breastfeed.
It may take extra time for your baby to get used to breastfeeding if you have flat or inverted nipples, so working with a lactation consultant might be helpful. There are some additional tips you can try to help with breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples, which we’ll share below.
Breastfeeding with inverted nipples tips
Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure that your baby latches properly and is in a comfortable position for optimal breastfeeding. When it comes to how to prepare inverted nipples for breastfeeding, you can also try any of the following solutions:
Exert the nipple. Pull your breast tissue back so that the nipple will exert. You can apply pressure to either side of the nipple with your hands to help the nipple expert. If your nipples are only partially inverted, this method should work well to help them exert. For more inverted nipples, this may not work.
Positioning. Breastfeed in a side-lying or laid-back position,
Fully empty the breast. Engorgement can cause the nipple to invert more, so always fully empty the breast by applying pressure and massaging the breast during and after feedings.
Nipple shield for inverted nipples breastfeeding. If none of the above methods work, it may be helpful to use a nipple shield to help with breastfeeding. A nipple shield is a silicone device that covers the nipple and areola while breastfeeding. Nipple shields can help to prevent pain while breastfeeding while still getting established. A nipple shield also provides a stimulus at the roof of the baby’s mouth, which may help them suckle more effectively.
Breast pump. Using a breast pump or suction device before breastfeeding can help draw the nipple out and help it protrude more.
Whether you were born with inverted nipples or developed later in life, you should still be able to breastfeed. You may have to take some extra steps to help your baby latch properly or use tools such as a nipple shield or breast pump.
Why do I get inverted nipples after breastfeeding?
Because of the changes in a woman’s body during and after pregnancy, the nipples can become inverted. The breasts tend to grow during pregnancy, causing stretching on the nipples and surrounding tissue. After childbirth, breastfeeding itself can cause an inversion of the nipples. When babies breastfeed, it causes the nipples to stretch out. This can cause the nipples to flatten out over time. Also, breastfeeding can cause scarring of the milk duct, which causes the nipple to invert more.
In some cases, breastfeeding can be a treatment for inverted nipples. If your nipples were already inverted before breastfeeding, the repeated suction of your baby breastfeeding can loosen the adhesions and cause the nipple to protrude over time.
When to visit a lactation consultant
A lactation consultant can offer invaluable breastfeeding support by helping with positioning and latching. If you are having a hard time feeding your baby, don’t hesitate to meet with a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding is usually a little uncomfortable at first and may cause some soreness, but if you’re experiencing severe pain, you probably need to see a lactation consultant for further assistance.