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Flat, Retracted & Inverted Nipples

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Updated November 15, 2009

Flat, Retracted & Inverted Nipples

Everted nipple

Pam Stephan - About.com Guide to Breast Cancer

YES! Mothers with flat (nipple does not protrude with stimulation), retracted (nipple pulls back slightly), and inverted (nipple pulls inward when compressed) nipples can still breastfeed. Of course, some inverted nipples which are severely inverted and breastfeeding is more difficult in those situations, but generally speaking, with some treatments to pull the nipple out, most respond very well.

  • Have a prenatal assessment by a lactation consultant.
  • Wearing breast shells can help pull the nipple out. Shells are dome-like cups that put gentle pressure around the areola that progressively "train" the nipple to protrude.
  • The Hoffman technique -- place fingers at the base of the nipple and press in firmly and roll the nipple. Repeat at least 5 times a day.
  • Use a breast pump for a few minutes prior to a feeding to pull out the nipple and then immediately put the baby to the breast. It may also help if you pump for a few minutes after the feeding as well.
  • Remember that babies do not nipple-feed, they breast feed, so ensure that the baby is latching-on well and getting enough of the areola into his mouth.

As mentioned before, there are some women who have such severely inverted nipples that they can't breastfeed. In such cases, pumping breastmilk is still an option. There are also many women who have one protruding nipple and one inverted and decide to feed the baby from just one side and pump the other. The mother should not assume that she can't feed the baby her milk if this is the case. She should speak with a board-certified lactation consultant to discuss options.

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