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I believe, most of you have heard this statement:
Do you know what?
This comment is often made when you see a nursing mom struggling to nurse due to her flat / inverted nipples.
These moms often wonder, “Can I breastfeed with inverted nipples?”
The short answer is … Yes, we know that it is possible to breastfeed a baby with inverted nipples.
But wait, do you know how much struggles happened behind?
Are you prepared to take up some extra efforts to make it happen?
Today, I’d like to share a real story from a mom who managed to successfully breastfeed her baby despite having inverted nipples.
If you have an inverted nipple, too, I do hope this story can inspire you and get you well-prepared.
If you are a mom with normal nipples, I hope you will better appreciate efforts done by these moms.
At the end of this post, we will conclude with some lessons learned from the story, together with some useful tips to deal with inverted nipples.
When expecting her first baby, Dieni wasn’t aware that her nipples could pose some extra problems to her breastfeeding journey.
She receives a short comment from the nurse in the hospital that she has flat nipple, but upon asking her friend, she only got a short reply, “babies feed in areola, not nipple” (translating to: just try harder, your nipple won’t give you extra problem).
But one thing remains. Her nipples were very very sore whenever she tried latching the baby.
The fact that she was all alone with her husband when the baby was born make things become more complicated.
Juggling between nursing a newborn, trying to pump, and doing household chores (no matter how simplified it is) is hard.
When she finally consulted with a lactation consultant, it’s already pretty late.
The baby was already 1 months old, her nipples were sore from nursing and pumping (she used a manual pump, by the way), and that affected her milk supply so much that supplementation was unavoidable.
But at least, she managed to identify the problem.
She has pseudo-inverted nipples.
And therefore, her baby was having a lot of difficulty to latch on due to her anatomy.
With baby no 2, she’s more prepared.
She has a double electric pump ready to use in case her baby unable to latch.
Right after birth, she met with the hospital’s lactation consultant, who gave her some tips to continue breastfeeding with her nipple conditions.
At that time, even after only less than 2 days nursing the baby, her nipples are very sore and close to bleeding. Even slathering her nipple with a nipple cream didn’t help much.
So, the lactation consultant gave her a nipple shield to minimize the soreness while breastfeeding the baby.
Although using nipple shield help her to minimize the pain, unfortunately, the baby hated it.
And so she went back to the usual nursing without shields and starts pumping.
When the pain is so unbearable, she would use the expressed milk to feed the baby.
She also kept in contact with a breastfeeding counselor who she can comfortably share her struggles with, and from this person, she received some useful tips and encouragements.
This time around, she was lucky that her parents came to stay with her for quite some time.
She can focus her attention to her newborn while the grandparents play and entertain with her elder daughter.
She also had a follow-up consultation with a pediatrician to check on her baby’s growth, who assured her that breastfeeding in the early days may be rough, but it will eventually get easier.
She continued her routine of pumping and nursing persistently despite of the pain.
Until finally at day 14, her baby was finally able to latch on without a problem.
Slowly after that, her nipples healed and she can skip pumping altogether.
Now at 20 months, she’s still breastfeeding her baby, just like a nursing-pro.
What lessons can we learned from her story?
Yeah, we know that breastfeeding with flat /inverted nipples is possible for most cases.
But, it is important that we don’t take this statement for granted.
Though it can be done, you should be prepared for some hard work in the early days.
Dieni was one of the lucky mom who managed to breastfeed without nipple shields.
Some other moms are more dependent to nipple shields and continue to use it throughout their breastfeeding journey .
Some other moms may end up exclusively pumping because their baby refuse to latch altogether.
But the most important thing is:
From the story, we also learned that three things play a key role to support breastfeeding success:
- Persistence (by keep trying to latch the baby all the time and keep on pumping to establish the milk supply.
- Having a good support (by consulting with lactation consultant / breastfeeding counselor about breastfeeding progress). A good support group will also give you the correct information that you need to solve your problem.
- Focusing on breastfeeding the newborn in the early days (which can only be achieved by delegating other tasks, primarily household tasks and looking after the elder children to spouse or parents, and accept as much help as possible. By focusing your effort to your newborn, you get a better chance to practice frequent breastfeeding, find out the most comfortable nursing position, learning your baby’s cues and to establish your milk supply.
Some tips to breastfeed with inverted nipples:
- It’s never too early to consult with a lactation consultant. If you suspect you have a flat/inverted nipple before you give birth, discuss with a lactation consultant to see if you can do some treatment to draw out your nipple before your baby arrives.
- After birth, breastfeed early and often, aiming to achieve a deep latch in each nursing session.
- Use a C-hold when trying to latch the baby on, so that the nipple is drawn out. Alternatively, you can stimulate the nipple using cold / warm pad or pump for a short time before feeding.
- Try laid-back breastfeeding position and let the baby find his own way to latch on your breast. It is also easier to achieve a deep-latch with this position.
- While you still have difficulty in latching your baby or the nipple soreness prevents you from direct latch, keep pumping to maintain and establish your milk supply. Here’s my recommended breast pump that are good for establishing milk supply.
- Apply nipple cream to your nipple to help it heal faster. If your milk already comes in, applying a tiny bit of breast milk will make the healing process quicker.
For more information and practical tips on how to breastfeed with an inverted nipple, please visit this LLLI webpage.
Are you a breastfeeding mom with flat/inverted nipples?
I hope you learned something useful from this story.
Keep in mind that every mother-baby is unique, and I believe, you will have a unique breastfeeding story, too.
Remember, you are doing a great job for your baby!
Keep it up, Mama!
I have great milk supply but I have one flat n one short nipple. Baby is 9 days old and both of us get really frustrated during feeding time. The LCs I’ve met have made me feel flawed as a Mother due to my nipples. Ugh. I do have a nipple shield and try to use it on the flat nipple. She occasionally latches on my short nipple but only on lucky days. I don’t know what to do..
While both of you are learning direct latch, I suggest you to keep pumping to protect your milk supply.
I understand that it is difficult and frustrating to use the nipple shield.
My only suggestion is to just keep trying to latch, it may get easier as the baby grows bigger.
If this is too frustrating, you can resort to exclusive pumping if you decided to keep providing breastmillk without nursing your baby.
I have flat and slightly inverted nipples… my little girl had to get bottle fed from the beginning because she had a pneumothorax and needed to be in an incubator. They did let me pump but would top her up with formula… I felt very overwhelmed because by time I was able to try to breastfeed her she was already so good with a bottle that she would try to latch and wouldn’t do very well.. finally we resorted to a nipple shield and I have had to use it since she was 5 days old. They are super annoying to use but at the same time it has allowed me to nurse my babe. My milk supply hasn’t been effected by the nipple shields either which is nice.. just thought I would give some encouragement by sharing our story because it is possible and is great. 🙂
Courtney, thank you for sharing your story with us!
I believe it will encourage mothers who are in similar position that they can keep continue to breastfeed despite having a flat/inverted nipple.
Yeah, it’s not easy, but possible =)