Lifestyle & Health : Will she be able to breastfeed?

February 14, 2017

Suzan has always hated her nipples because they are flat and even tend to be inverted (turned inside).

She is now pregnant and is worried that she won't be able to breastfeed her baby. She asks Check Up what can be done about her nipples.

Most women's nipples protrude from the surface of the breast, but some women have flat or even inverted nipples. Both or only one nipple may be involved.

It has been determined that about 10 per cent of women will have this problem. If a nipple has always been inverted then this is not a major problem but if a nipple is newly inverted, this could be a sign of breast cancer and should be checked on immediately.

When inverted nipples are present, breastfeeding will require some patience but usually, as the baby's strong sucking mouth movements become even stronger, the inverted or flat nipple will get drawn into the baby's mouth.

This process can be helped by rubbing the flat or inverted nipple with an ice cube, which stimulates the nipple to become erect.

Wearing breast shields under bras can help as the breast shields press on the breast tissue around the nipples and this tends to push the nipples out.

Do not wear them for too long each day as the breasts could become sore, and do not wear them for longer than six weeks total.

If these methods don't work, then a small, but costly, surgical procedure can be performed.

However, as some milk ducts are inevitably cut, there is no guarantee that breastfeeding will be possible after the surgery.

Perhaps, as this is cosmetic, it could wait until childbearing is completed.

The good news is that pregnancy itself tends to push the nipples out as the pregnancy advances due to elastic skin changes, and only a small per cent of nipples remain inverted at the time of a baby's birth.

After the baby is born, the use of a breast pump can also draw out inverted nipples.

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