Dealing with Flat or Inverted Nipples

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One of the more common difficulties mothers who want to breastfeed face is flat or inverted nipples. Flat or inverted nipples are caused by variations in the size and shape of your nipples which make them harder for your baby to grasp while attempting to breastfeed. While most nipples protrude when stimulated, making them easy for babies to suckle flat nipples don’t respond to stimulation and inverted nipples may actually pull back when stimulated.

In most cases, expectant mothers can tell if they have flat or inverted nipples before giving birth. If you’re not sure, you can test your nipples by giving yourself a simple pinch test. Simply pinch the areola gently between your thumb and forefinger. If the nipple protrudes, you are fine. If it doesn’t, you likely have flat or inverted nipples.

Whether the problem is discovered before the baby is born or after, there are several things you can do to address flat or inverted nipples to that you can breastfeed your baby. These include:

  • Breast shells. Breast shells are shaped like plastic cups and are worn inside your bra. They work by applying pressure to the areola, which generally causes the nipples to protrude. They are particularly effective if used during the third trimester of pregnancy, but are also beneficial when used after the baby is born.
  • Hoffman technique. Two to five times per day, place the thumbs of both of your hands at the base of your nipples, then gently pull them apart until the nipple protrudes. You can do this while pregnant and after the baby is born.
  • Oral or manual stimulation. Your partner may be able to help with flat or protruding nipples by orally or manually stimulating your nipples. Most women find their partners are very willing to help prepare their nipples for nursing the baby.
  • Breast pump. After your baby is born, you can draw out your nipples with a breast pump immediately before feeding your baby. Additionally, you can pump breast milk to help supplement your breastfeeding if your baby isn’t able to get all the milk she needs directly from the breast.

If you are having trouble nursing because of flat or inverted nipples despite having tried these suggestions, don’t give up. Speak with a lactation consultant. Most women can overcome flat or inverted nipples and breastfeed their babies. In most cases, flat or inverted nipples are less of a problem as the baby grows and is able to exert more pressure while breastfeeding.

photo by: c r z

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This entry was posted in Breastfeeding.


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