Breastfeeding Concerns: Flat Nipples

breastfeeding with flat nipplesMany women with flat or inverted nipples often worry that they might not be able to successfully breastfeed their babies, and while flat nipples can certainly make it more difficult, they should not stop you from being able to breastfeed. Follow this guide:

If My Nipples Are Flat, How Can My Baby Latch?

This is the biggest concern for women who have flat nipples but, often, your nipples won’t stop your baby from latching on and feeding.  Because your baby should be opening her mouth wide, taking in plenty of the areola (not just the nipple), a flat nipple should be drawn out when she starts sucking anyway.  Always ensuring a correct latch should help flat nipples to be less of an issue.

What Can Cause Flat Nipples?

Some women are simply predisposed to flat nipples, however temporarily flat nipples can sometimes be caused by engorged breasts as the breast is so full the nipple flattens.  Expressing a little milk before feeding, if your baby is having difficulty latching on, usually helps reduce engorgement.

Is There Anything I Can Do At Home?

A method you could try is using a breast pump to express some milk for a minute or two before you feed your baby.  The pump may draw your nipple out, which may make it easier for you to feed your baby.  Alternatively, hand expressing may help.  Ensure you use good positioning. The clutch or football hold may help you with latching if you are struggling with a traditional cradle hold.

What Other Treatments Are Available?

While you may not need a specific treatment (see above), if you still have problems, there are various treatments available for flat nipples, including breast shells, nipple shields and different latching techniques. Seek advice from your midwife or a qualified lactation consultant (ask your hospital for one) before using any of these treatment methods to ensure you are using them correctly as incorrect use could be detrimental.  In some cases, nipple shields can cause nipple confusion making it difficult to get your baby back to the breast, so they should be used with caution and only after seeking medical advice.

If you are having any problems latching your baby on, ask, as soon as you can. Ask for help with latching and positioning before you leave the hospital, or ask your midwife when she visits you at home. It’s important that your baby feeds on demand in order to establish a good milk supply, so seeking help to overcome any potential difficulties is essential. If you have any concerns, always talk to your doctor or midwife.