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What are the Best Tips for Breastfeeding with Inverted Nipples?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2016
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Some of the best tips for breastfeeding with inverted nipples include understanding how a baby gets milk from the breast, teaching the baby to latch properly, and preventing engorgement. Avoiding pacifiers and bottles can also be helpful when breastfeeding with inverted nipples, as can breast shells. If all else fails, temporarily using a nipple shield can help to establish a strong nursing relationship between mom and baby.

Women often believe that breastfeeding with inverted nipples isn’t possible because the nipple is where breast milk comes from. In reality, the baby gets milk from the areola, i.e., the surrounding area. The nipple excretes very minimal milk, with its main purpose being to help the baby latch onto the breast in the first place. Teaching a baby to latch properly can be more difficult with inverted nipples, but in most cases it is entirely possible.

When a baby is nursing, as much of the areola as possible needs to be in his or her mouth. When breastfeeding with inverted nipples, a baby can have a difficult time determining when to latch on because the nipple acts as a guide for the mouth. To help the baby latch, mom can make a sandwich shape of her breast.

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To do this, cup a hand around the breast, leaving the areola uncovered. Gently compress the breast, flattening the areola. This will help the nipple protrude in many cases, but will also give the baby a point where the nipple should be exposed, thereby helping the newborn to latch on. Point the breast towards the baby's upper lip. As a reflex, the newborn will often open its mouth widely, enabling it to attach and nurse.

Engorgement, which is common in the first month of nursing, can make breastfeeding with inverted nipples difficult. Engorgement makes the breasts hard and latching on difficult for the baby. Expressing or pumping a little bit of milk, just to soften the breast, before feeding can make it much easier to nurse with inverted nipples. A small, handheld breast pump is typically ideal for this.

As breastfeeding with inverted nipples makes it a little harder for the baby to latch on, using pacifiers and bottles can be confusing for the baby. Pacifiers, which usually have very prominent nipples, can interfere with a baby's natural latching reflex. Bottles can cause a baby to become frustrated with nursing because bottle nipples provide nearly instant gratification. Limiting the use of these items until a baby consistently latches on to the breast can greatly help when breastfeeding with inverted nipples.

Breast shells, when worn about a half hour before each feeding, can help to draw the nipple out. Worn inside the bra, these small plastic shells press down on the areola, causing the nipple to protrude. A woman can also use a breast pump right before a feeding to help bring out an inverted nipple.

Nipple shields are typically a last resort and are best used under at the recommendation of a lactation specialist. The nipple shield creates a fake nipple when worn over the breast, thereby aiding a baby in latching on properly. Using one for an entire feeding can limit the amount of milk drained from the breast, which can reduce milk supply. Most often, it is best to use the shield to latch the baby on, then quickly unlatch the infant's mouth, remove the shield, and relatch. This can help to prevent nipple confusion as well as drain as much milk as possible from the breast, thus protecting the mother's milk supply.

Breastfeeding with inverted nipples can make nursing a little more time consuming than normal at first. It is, however, possible for the majority of women with inverted nipples. Using these tips and working with a lactation specialist can help mothering and baby establish a strong nursing relationship, providing both parties with numerous health benefits.

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