Breastfeeding can feel like a daunting task, and way before you give birth. There seem to be so many variables that could potentially determine if you'll be able to nurse for as long as you'd planned. And, of course, you've probably heard more than a few stories about women struggling in the breastfeeding department. So if you're preparing to do something as incredible as feed another human being with your body, and you're wondering, "Can you breastfeed with inverted nipples?" know that there's an answer and all hope is not lost.
According to BabyCenter, "Changes in your breasts during pregnancy may make your nipples protrude more than usual." In other words, you will most likely be able to breastfeed if you have inverted nipples, due to the fact that your nipples will probably change during pregnancy to accommodate nursing later on down the road.
La Leche League also reminds breastfeeding moms (or planning-to-breastfeed moms) that nipples aren't the end all be all when it comes to breastfeeding:
"Remember that babies BREASTfeed, not NIPPLEfeed. As long as baby can take a good portion of the breast into his mouth (baby's mouth and gums should bypass the nipple entirely and latch on to the areola), most types of flat or inverted nipples will not cause problems with breastfeeding."
Just because you can nurse with inverted nipples doesn't mean it will be easy, though. BabyCenter goes on to explain, pointing out that inverted nipples can make it more difficult to breastfeed:
"On the other hand, inverted nipples can pull in even more when your breasts become engorged. (In extremely rare cases, deeply inverted nipples can sometimes obstruct milk flow.)"
If this is your first breastfeeding experience, and you're wondering if you have inverted nipples, La Leche League has a test you can take to help you determine the sate of your nipples and how they may or may not impact your breastfeeding experience:
"Gently compress your areola (the dark area around the nipple) about an inch behind your nipple. If the nipple does not become erect, then it is considered to be flat. If the nipple retracts, or becomes concave, it is considered to be inverted."
La Leche League also explains that truly inverted nipples won't become erect if exposed to cold, so that's a pretty good hint as to whether or not you're going to be facing the potential complication of inverted nipples once you start your nursing journey.
So how will you know if your inverted nipples are going to make breastfeeding more difficult? The best way to find out is by simply trying to nurse. If you realize that breastfeeding is difficult and suspect inverted nipples to be the cause, talk to your health care provider and/or lactation consultant. One way to combat inverted nipples is to try pumping before having your baby latch. BabyCenter adds, "[A lactation consultant] may suggest that you briefly use a breast pump to draw out the nipple before nursing and pull back on the breast tissue while your baby is latching on to help the nipple protrude."
What To Expect has another option for you to peruse if you suspect inverted nipples are keeping you from breastfeeding successfully:
"To the rescue: breast shells. These plastic wonders (available in most baby stores or through your lactation consultant) are worn over your nipples and apply painless pressure to gently and gradually draw them out. You can start using them before your baby is born but it's really not necessary — wearing them between feedings should be enough to draw the nipple out to an easily suckled position."
There are other solutions as well, and La Leche League outlines them in detail, but one includes nipple stimulation before feedings; usually using your fingers or an ice cube to stimulate the nipple before the baby latches on.
If you're facing nipple inversion, it's best to talk with your doctor before you even give birth, as there are things you can do to make breastfeeding easier as soon as you hold your little one in your arms.
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