How Common are Inverted Nipples

How Common are Inverted NipplesBreastfeeding with inverted nipples can add an extra layer to your role as a lactating mom. Latch, positioning and gauging your baby’s milk intake through dirty diapers and steady growth become even more important. Plus, you may have to employ techniques to draw out your nipple for successful breastfeeding.

Just how common are inverted nipples anyways? And how do you breastfeed with inverted nipples?  Here’s what you need to know:

What are Inverted Nipples?

Both flat and inverted nipples do not protrude even when you pinch the areola an inch behind the nipple. Flat nipples remain even with the areola while inverted nipples retract inwards. Inverted nipples can range from slightly inverted or moderately inverted, to severely inverted. They are caused by adhesions that bind skin to the tissue beneath the nipple.

Causes of Inverted Nipples

Most women with flat or inverted nipples are born with them but sometimes the condition develops during puberty.

How Common are Inverted Nipples?

Inverted nipples are really not that uncommon and may only present on one breast. Up to a third of women have some level of inversion but only around 10% of women have them by the time they breastfeed. That’s because the adhesions causing inversion loosen as skin stretches during pregnancy. Inverted nipples are also less common with each additional pregnancy.

Breastfeeding with Inverted Nipples

Proper latch is essential for successful breastfeeding regardless of whether your nipples are innies or outies. And proper latch means your baby is taking most of the areola in her mouth. That’s far more than just the nipples. As La Leche League points out “it’s called BREATfeeding not NIPPLEfeeding.”

Flat and slightly inverted nipples usually do not cause any problems while breastfeeding if your baby has proper latch. Moderate to severe inverted nipples can be more challenging because you may need to stimulate your nipple to draw it out before feedings.

Strategies for Breastfeeding with Inverted Nipples

If you notice you have flat or inverted nipples during pregnancy or early motherhood, you can use the Hoffman Technique to try to loosen the adhesions. Put your thumbs at the base of the nipple and push against your breast while pulling your thumbs away from each other. This should help stretch the attachments underneath. Work up to doing this five times daily.

Once your baby arrives, you will need quicker strategies to make feedings easier. Nipple stimulation, pulling back your breast tissue temporarily, or using a breast pump before feedings can help. A nipple shield may support better latch when your baby can’t get to the nipple itself. The suckling will draw out the milk through tiny holes in the nipple shield. Also, breastfeeding often will naturally help loosen the adhesions under your nipples.

Seek Help for Breastfeeding with Flat or Inverted Nipples

If you’re struggling while breastfeeding with inverted nipples, seek help from a lactation consultant. She can assist in finding techniques that will work best for your situation. Your lactation consultant will also work on practical ways to ensure your baby stays calm and well-fed as you navigate this challenge.

The most important aspect of breastfeeding with inverted nipples is ensuring your baby is getting enough breast milk. The best gage for that is monitoring wet and dirty diapers and watching for steady growth.

Sources: La Leche League, Breastfeeding Basics and Self