Inverted nipple is of great concern for women who are breastfeeding. Nipples differ widely in shape and size. They are the organs given for nursing the babies shortly after childbirth. If the nipples protrude properly then it becomes easy for the infant to grasp it and hold it in his mouth. Flat nipples and inverted nipples make it difficult for the baby to feed on mother’s milk.
Many women (around 25-35%) of women who are pregnant will not have their nipples protruding properly. However this problem will settle as pregnancy progresses or while breastfeeding. Many times, the nipples will get straightened once the mother starts feeding her child. This problem is caused by inheritance and will automatically cure. Again the inverted nipples will not interfere for any woman who wishes to nurse her baby since the baby can latch out into the areola of the nipple for getting milk. Actually speaking, an infant can cure the inverted nipple of the mother if he is able to latch out well. However in rare cases, a suction device is used for breastfeeding.
Inverted nipple or flat nipple is not medically harmful and is quite common to have them. Medically it is termed as “shy” nipples which are seen often pulled “inward”. Hereditary is the major cause for inverted nipple since for many women it is inherited by birth. However this kind of shy nipple can be pulled out through stimulation or proper massage when she becomes pregnant. Actual reason for inheriting inverted nipple is the underlying tissues and ligaments of the breast.
These ligaments are really short and they pull the nipple inwards towards the breast tissue making it fully inverted. It is believed to be caused by adhesions found at the base of the breast that pulls the nipple inward. For some women, (in case they have not inherited inverted nipple) the skin can become loose which would eventually relax the nipples making it inverted.
A woman can easily identify inverted nipples by mere physical examination. You can do a “pinch” test for identifying the inverted nipple. Just hold the breast with your hands pressing on the edges using thumb and index finger. If the nipple protrudes outside, then it is right. In case if it is drawn inward then is truly inverted. The nipple would be pulled inward and not protruding from the breast like others. However this will not cause any pain or discomfort for sexual activity.
The degree of inversion may vary in women ranging from slight inversion to true inversion. True inverted nipples will never protrude by stimulation or pinch test.
In case of inverted nipple, the pregnant women can consult her doctor during the stages of pregnancy. He would suggest doing some massage and stimulation therapy for pulling the nipple outward gradually. In case of severe form, you can use suction device for feeding the baby. It is necessary to keep the breast clean while using devices like breast pump and you should consult your doctor before using it.
Some doctors recommend using breast shells which are nothing but plastic cups to exert constant pressure on the areola of the breast. Pregnant women can wear this special bra with shells for facilitating protruding of nipples before the baby is born.
Very often, inverted nipples can be corrected by three methods:-
Stimulation technique can be used daily for few minutes during pregnancy for making good the inverted nipple. You can also wear disposable nursing pad and dampen it which would serve as ice pack for setting right the inversion. Alternatively you can also use nipple shied or breast shell.
Surgery is the last option for correcting inverted nipples. You should discuss with your doctor about the outcomes of the surgery and is usually not done for breastfeeding mothers, since it may cut down the milk duct and interfere with breastfeeding.