Nipples and Breastfeeding
Protruding Nipple: Most women have protruding nipples – that is, the nipples point outwards. About a third of all women have a flat nipple or an inverted nipple.
Flat Nipple: As it name implies, a flat nipple is one which does not stick out. It lies flush along the natural curve of the breast.
Inverted Nipple: An inverted nipple is one where the nipple is sunken below the natural curve of the breast. It is indented inwards.
Flat and inverted nipples are problematic for breastfeeding because they are hard for Baby to find and latch onto. Luckily, both types of nipples can be coaxed outwards so that you can successfully breastfeed Baby. It is best to prepare the nipples before Baby is born. Stimulating your breasts late in pregnancy may induce contractions, so speak to your doctor before you start any of the procedures below.
- It may be possible to pull the nipple to stretch it out. To do this, press the area around the areola, wiggle it to left & right until the nipple points out. Grasp the nipple with thumb and forefinger and gently tug until the nipple sticks out more prominently (Hoffman method). Pull gently at first, and then with more determination as your breasts toughen up.
You may also roll the nipple in a gentle twisty motion or roll it up towards the ceiling and then down towards the floor (nipple-rolling method).
Handling your nipples this way may seem crude, but preparing today will be less problematic tomorrow. After baby is born, your breasts will be tugged & pulled, sucked & gummed ten times a day, 15 minutes per sitting. So, don’t be afraid to give your nipples a tug: there’s lots more coming after Baby is born!
- Wear a breast shield (breast shell). The constant pressure applied to the outer edges of the areola will cause the nipples to protrude. The outer dome of a breast shield will also protect your sensitive breasts against chafing. A breast shield can be worn before and after Baby is born.
- Use a breast pump right before you breastfeed your baby. The suction from the pump may draw out the nipple.
- The most aggressive tool on the market for correcting flat and inverted nipples is a fairly new invention called Niplettes (by Avent). These are thimble shaped covers that are attached to syringe-like pumps. The caps go over your nipple and you use the pump to apply a suction. It is worn 8 hours a day for about 3 months during early and mid pregnancy. It cannot be used in the third trimester, and it does not work after Baby is born (leaking milk will break the suction).
Be sure to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant before you prepare your nipples.
Diane had one protruding nipple and one flat nipple. She says, “I didn’t know that I was supposed to fix the flat nipple so, when the baby came, he never wanted to suck on that breast. I ended up getting mastitis on that side because he never really emptied out that breast.”