You never really think what kind of nipples you have before you actually start to breastfeed. Imagine how daunting and discouraging it might be for a new mother to realize she has flat nipples when she tries to latch her baby to the breast multiple times with no sucess during her first nursing sessions.
Having flat nipples is something moms wish to be told before they step on their breastfeeding journey, since the cascade of difficulties and discomforts they bring is not at all anticipated, specifically, from troubles latching to low milk supply and clogged milk ducts – this is to say the least.
The worst part of having this “nipple peculiarity” so-to-speak is probably the one where you are not prepared for the upcoming breastfeeding issues starting from day one and as a result feel like you are failing as a mother, being unable to feed your baby as the Nature desired you to.
So how to breastfeed with flat nipples? Don’t worry, there are solutions!
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What Nipples Are Considered Flat?
Flat nipples do not stand out much from the areola. Nipples lay flat with the surrounding area, the areola. Flat nipples are not extended outwards, neither do they go below the breast tissue as inverted nipples do.
Some women have nipples that tend to stay flat constantly. However, they can extend by being sensitive to touch or cold. Such nipples are considered normal without any pathologic condition. Actual flat nipples do not react to temperature changes or stimulation.
As a matter of fact, having a nipple in a constant flat position doesn’t mean it will remain to stay like this. Pregnancy in many cases transforms a flat nipple into a protruding one.
Usually, flat nipples do not raise many problems for breastfeeding. Mostly, it is a matter of adjustment for both the mother and the baby. But rest assured that babies can easily feed from the breast with flat nipples as long as they can latch on to it, since they will instinctively pull out the nipple while breastfeeding (even the flat one).
Nipple Pinch Test
How can you check if your nipples are flat?
- Place your thumb and forefinger at the edges of your areola
- Squeeze them gently
If your nipple has been pushed out, then chances are your baby will manage to do the same with no problem. It also means that you’re likely to have normal nipples that are just tend to lay flat but react to stimulation.
Having flat nipples mean that while performing this test the nipples will flatten or pull into your breast rather than stand out.
Further, you can learn 8 key points of breastfeeding basics to help you get a perfect breastfeeding latch with flat nipples.
Breastfeeding Guide: How to Get a Comfortable Breastfeeding Latch with Flat Nipples
- In order to overcome some difficulties with flat nipples, you can wear specially designed corrective disks for breasts called breast shells. Use them in between the feedings. The shells are helpful in flat nipples’ correction by giving you a gentle pressure at your nipple area. Nevertheless, be aware of getting them off before breastfeeding. Breast shells, unlike the nipple shields, are not allowed to be used during the nursing sessions.
2. Try using a nipple shield. It’s basically a little plastic thing that resembles a nipple shape. It is applied to the skin of the breast where the areola is and encourages the baby’s latching. A nipple shield is a temporary aid and is usually used in the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding to help a new mom adjust to breastfeeding with flat nipples.
While a nipple shield can be a real way out for moms struggling to breastfeed with flat nipples, its usage is still controversial.
It may contribute to other problems, such as clogged milk ducts (due to incomplete breast emptying because of reduced milk transfer) and baby refusing to feed from the breast (because, obviously, it is much easier for the baby to latch on to the nipple shield rather than to a flat mother’s nipple).
A nipple shield positioned in an improper way can also cause some damage to the nipple and the surrounding breast skin.
3. Every time you are planning to nurse your baby, consider using a breast pump first. Breast pump’s suction is great in terms of helping to pull out and stretch your flat nipples to prepare them for the feeding.
4. Try Hoffman Technique to stimulate the nipple. Gentle stimulation of the nipple may be really effective at improving the quality of breastfeeding.
- Place your thumb and index finger on both sides of the areola
- Firmly press your fingers down to the breast tissue
- Stretch the skin of your areola by moving your fingers to the sides
- Repeat this stimulation up to 5 times every day.
5. In case your nipples are flat because your breasts are engorged, you should try pumping some milk before nursing your baby. Using the pump or hand extraction of breast milk assists you in soothing the breasts, and ease off the latching process. Remember to remove just a small amount of breast milk. In case of pumping much more, your body will instinctively produce more milk and engorgement may get worse.
6. Use a C-Hold or V-Hold grip to softly press the breast and get your baby latched on correctly. Such position looks like a nipple sandwich and it will assist your baby with a proper breastfeeding latch. Using the right holds will make the latching process go smooth and well.
7. When you are experiencing difficulties nursing the baby or you can’t evaluate whether your baby is having a good breastfeeding latch, don’t hesitate to contact a local doctor or a lactation consultant to assist you with this. Getting some recommendations from a professional specualist will help you manage your breastfeeding problems.
8. If you have flat nipples you would want to ensure your baby is getting enough breast milk. Along with monitoring your baby’s wet diapers, do not forget to schedule monthly doctor appointments to check your baby’s weight gain.
Breastfeeding with flat nipples is absolutely possible and shouldn’t bring many troubles.
Try the tips and techniques I mentioned above to work on your flat nipples and ease off breastfeeding.
If nothing really helps, you might want to consider a surgical option to correct flat nipples. However, keep in mind that many women succeed at breastfeeding with flat nipples.
This does bring some difficulties at the beginning, but it’s only a matter of time and some adjustments that you will start getting a good grip on breastfeeding.