One of the major misconceptions about breastfeeding is that it will turn your breasts into huge, deflated boobs, reminiscent of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade floats when all the air has been let out and that your nipples are basically long stretches of taffy, even after your kid has weaned. It sounds ridiculous, because it is, and knowing how breastfeeding affects your nipples can save you a lot of panicking over your breasts and how they look and feel.
Of course breastfeeding is going to affect your nipples in some way — you've never had a baby using them for nourishment before. But that doesn't mean your nipples are going to be ruined or stretched out to seven miles long. According to Parents, your breasts and nipples have been going through some changes since pregnancy, including your nipples and areolas becoming darker. But once you're breastfeeding, any changes to your nipple pretty much rely on how your breastfeeding journey is going. If you're having a difficult time, you might have more cracked or bleeding nipples than a mom who's baby latched on correctly. If you have to pump often, you might experience swollen, puffy nipples after removing the milk from your breast. And if you have a baby who clamps down on your nipple? You might have an indention or redness to it.
But these three ways breastfeeding affects your nipples can happen for a variety of reasons, so keep them in mind, but remember, your nipples are going to be OK. If you feel like you're having some serious issues with how breastfeeding affects your nipples, reach out to a lactation consultant for help in solving the problem.
1. It Can Leave Them Sore & Irritated
Whether you're in the early stages of breastfeeding or going on six months of nursing, breastfeeding can leave your nipples sore and irritated. Kelly Mom noted that anything from a blockage to a bad latch can leave your nipples in pain, so while it's not normal to be in constant pain, some twinges and irritation can be the result of common issues.
2. It Can Stretch Them Out
According to Medela, pumping can cause irritation, elongated nipples, and even some pain if you're not using the right breast shield size. But every mom's nipples are different, so while some may experience a change in the shape or size of their nipples, others may not have any issues. What to Expect also noted that if you naturally have flat or inverted nipples, breastfeeding (with or without a breast shield) and pumping can draw your nipple out, elongating them more than usual. (But don't worry, this doesn't last forever.)
3. It Can Cause Bacterial Infections
Breastfeeding can affect your nipples in another not-so-fun way — bacterial infections. If you're experiencing nipple pain, especially when it comes out of nowhere, it could be the cause of a yeast infection or thrush according to La Leche League International (LLLI). The warmth of your baby's mouth, plus going from dry to wet on your nipples creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth, especially if there are any cracks in your nipples. LLLI also noted that while yeast infections are common, for non-breastfeeding moms, infections on the nipples are pretty rare. But it's not guaranteed to happen when you're nursing and it doesn't last forever — these bacterial infections can be treated and you can continue to breastfeed.