Breastfeeding with Flat or Inverted Nipples
Some types of nipples, like concave, flat or inverted nipples might make
it more difficult for a baby to latch. For a baby to nurse
successfully, he/she must be able to grasp the nipple and stretch it forward
and upward, against the roof of the mouth. The most important thing to
remember is that your baby should get as much of your breast into the mouth
Flat or inverted nipples are mostly caused by adhesions, which never
opened up naturally during puberty. During
nursing, there will be some pain as the nipples are pulled out, but it is temporary, and the nipples usually stretch out over time.
Most times, mothers will have one inverted nipple. In this case,
you will be able to feed your baby on the “good side” while you pump the
other side. You can always just keep the pumped milk for times when your baby
needs a bottle.
If your baby is strong, healthy, full-term and vigorous, he/she may be able to draw out the nipple with ease.
Some good news is that the more you breastfeed, the larger your nipple
will become and the more it will stand out. Breastfeeding will, therefore, become easier with each baby.
How do you Know if you have Flat or Inverted Nipples?
Gently compress your areola about an inch behind your nipple. If your nipple does not bulge out, then it is a flat nipple. If your nipple concaves, it is considered to be inverted. Flat and/or inverted nipples will never become erect when stimulated or when cold. If you just have small nipples, you should not have a problem getting your baby to latch on.
Inverted Nipples / Flat Nipples
- Nipple formers: Also called breast shells, milk cups or breast cups. These shells are used to help the nipple protrude, they can be worn a few months before the baby is born and also every time before a breastfeeding session.
- The Niplette: This is a device that sucks out the nipple, it stretches the ducts and then makes breastfeeding possible. This device can be used during pregnancy to get your nipples ready to breastfeed.
- The Hoffman Technique: Pressing down and pulling away from the nipple with your thumbs a few times. Do this up and down and sideways. The Hoffman process will help your nipple move outwards and can be done about five times a day.
- Using a breast pump: A breast pump can be used every time, just before breastfeeding. A pump will pull the nipple out.
- Use the breast sandwich method to get more breast tissue into your baby's mouth. Grasp your breast well back on the areola, with your fingers below and thumb on top. Push in with your thumb and fingers and at the same time push back toward your chest wall. This will elongate your areola, which will help your baby latch on easier.
- A nipple shield: nipple shields are fake nipples, which are not recommended as it may ultimately decrease your milk supply, but can sometimes help mothers breastfeed when all else fails.
- The Lansinoh Latch Assist: Can be used to pull the nipple out just before a breastfeeding session. Explained in the video below...
Things You Can Do that Might Help
- Nipple stimulation: You can roll your nipple in your hands or place something cold on it for a few minutes to get it to stand out.
- With an inverted or flat nipple, you will need to nurse as soon as possible after birth, and every 2-3 hours after that. This is to avoid engorgement; breast engorgement can push flat nipples out, making them even harder to grip.
- Make sure that your baby is latching on correctly.
- Try calming your baby before breastfeeding. Use calming techniques.
- As a last resort, the mother might feel that she would alternatively prefer to pump exclusively.