Inverted nipples are ones that retract into the breast when the dark part of the breast (areola) is pinched, and flat nipples are ones that do not become erect.
It is possible to breastfeed with inverted/flat nipples depending on the degree of inversion or flatness. The magic about breastfeeding is that although the nipple is a delivery outlet, for babies to breastfeed effectively they need to latch on to the areola with the nipple at the back of the mouth. Therefore, even if a mother has nipples that do not protrude, as long as the baby can latch onto as much of the areola the milk will still flow from the breast into the back of the baby’s mouth without any obstruction.
However, it is imperative that a baby is able to achieve a deep latch from the beginning to avoid excessive pain and frustration. To make latching-on easier, a mum should try to make sure her breast is soft and not engorged before putting the baby on. This is because a full or engorged breast will stretch the skin and the baby may have difficulty taking in as much of the areola into his/her mouth as is needed for a deep latch.
It not uncommon for mothers with inverted or flat nipples to experience discomfort and even some degree of pain when the baby has latched on correctly. This is due to the separation of the nipple from the surrounding skin as it is drawn outwards by the baby’s sucking motion. Over time, most flat and inverted nipples will draw out enough to remain erect when pinched or stimulated, and the discomfort should subside.
A mother can also use a breast pump to help draw out the nipple and especially if she is engorged, she can pump a small amount to relieve the engorgement and to also draw out the nipple before latching the baby on.
Breastfeeding Advice for a new Mother who is just about to give Birth:
Your body begins to prepare itself for breastfeeding early in pregnancy, and by the beginning of the second trimester, your breasts are already producing colostrum, the special milk your baby will get for the first 3-4 days of life.
As a mum-to- be, you can also prepare yourself for the breastfeeding experience by taking a prenatal breastfeeding class offered by a qualified lactation educator. Taking a specialised class would help you to address concerns you may have such as how to breastfeed with inverted or flat nipples, and most importantly it would also empower you with the information and confidence you need to identify and effectively overcome any of the common obstacles of breastfeeding such as nipple pain and low milk supply.
For more information about Breastfeeding and Infant care visit Josephine’s Blog.