When it came to breastfeeding, I didn’t give my nipples much thought. Until my breastfeeding coach told me they were flat while we were trying to get my eldest set up for breastfeeding. Under a haze of drugs from the c-section, if it hadn’t been for Vivian, I don’t know what I’d have done.
Fortunately, she knew what to do, and it was an easy fix. Once my eldest began eating like the little piggy she was back then, I never again had trouble with my nipples, not even when my youngest was born.
The thing to remember is that you are breastfeeding and that while nipples are there to serve a purpose, having flat or even inverted nipples won’t stop that from happening. It just takes a little understanding to know how to handle it.
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Can You Breastfeed with Flat or Inverted Nipples?
I’m glad you asked because yes, you can! If you’re currently pregnant and looking at your nipples, you might be wondering if they’re normal, flat, or inverted. Here’s an easy way to tell.
Simply provide gentle compression to that dark area surrounding your nipple (the areola). Your nipple should become erect, but if not, it’s flat. If it appears more concave, then it’s inverted. If you notice either of these things, please don’t worry! It might make things a wee bit more difficult for your baby to latch on, but if you keep reading, you’ll find out how to overcome that obstacle.
According to La Leche League, there are different types of flat and inverted nipples that you may be contending with. If you have a dimpled nipple where only part of it protrudes, you can pull it out, but it won’t stay that way.
Sometimes you might have one breast with a flat or inverted nipple. Nipple inversion also varies in degree. If your baby can get a normal suction going on the nipple, there will be no trouble bringing it out.
For more extreme cases, you can wear a breast shell to help draw it out. It’s advisable that you start doing this now, so your nipples are ready to go once the baby is born. But even if you’ve just had your baby and are now discovering your nipples are inverted, by finding a good position and getting a good latch, you can conquer it.
What You Can Do If You Have Flat or Inverted Nipples When Breastfeeding?
If your nipple isn’t coming out for breastfeeding, you might be curious as to how you’re going to breastfeed. There’s no need to panic though. Some women may go into pregnancy with completely flat nipples, and then due to postpartum hormones, those nipples may pop out just before birth. Whatever the case, how to make your nipples hard for breastfeeding is likely on your mind, and I’ve got the solutions you need for being successful.
Wear breast shells
I mentioned these briefly above. You tuck them in your bra, and they serve to draw out your nipples. It features a hole that your nipple goes through. The pressure it causes around your nipple causes it to protrude. It’s ideal for wearing these before giving birth, though you can use them 30 minutes before every feeding to draw your nipples out (except at night!). Don’t forget to clean them thoroughly each time, and wipe down your breasts and nipples before nursing to keep things clean.
Incidentally, this is what my breastfeeding coach gave me to try out. After a week of using breast shells, I no longer needed them.
Use your breast pump
Part of the reason I didn’t need breast shells anymore was because of my breast pump. I was trying to get rid of excess milk (I had soooooo much of it!) and relieve my engorged breasts. My nipples seemed like they were continually protruding from that moment on.
Try stimulation techniques
Sometimes all you need is to roll your nipples between your fingers and apply a cold cloth to it for stimulation. Don’t do it for too long though. You don’t want it to inhibit the letdown of your milk.
Pull it back
This is an effective method when you’re on the go, and you realize you’ve got nothing else but science in your corner. Put four fingers of one hand underneath your breast behind the areola and then put that thumb on top. Now pull! It usually works to get the nipple to come on out.
Don’t Forget Good Latch and Positioning!
I’ve written about how to get the right latch and how getting into a comfortable position can help with breastfeeding. Sometimes, it’s just that you’re not comfortable. Other times in those early days, you might not know if you’re doing it right or not.
That’s why I advise getting proper support. I always talk about La Leche League as you know, and the reason is that is how I found my breastfeeding coach when I was miles away in China. She helped me get comfortable with breastfeeding and helped me figure out what I was doing.
It helps, plus if you have a more severe degree of inversion, a breastfeeding coach or lactation consultant can help you correct the problem. If you plan to have more than one child, learning how now really helps when you have your next one. And once you get the latch right for any of your kids, there will be no stopping you, even if your nipples don’t seem to want to cooperate!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs. She loves eating too much sushi, exercise, and jamming out on her Fender.