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Can I breastfeed if I have an inverted nipple?
Q: I’m eight and a half months pregnant and am interested in breastfeeding. However, one of my nipples is inverted. Is this any reason not to?
A: I’m delighted that you plan to breastfeed—you will be providing your baby with ideal nourishment! About 2 percent of women have flat or inverted nipples. Your body should be able to produce plenty of breast milk, so there is no reason not to breast-feed. However, inverted nipples may make the first days of breast-feeding more challenging, so it’s great that you’re asking questions now.

When a nipple is flat or inverted, it’s more difficult for a newborn to latch on to the breast. However, a breast-feeding baby sucks on the areola, which is the pigmented skin around your nipple. There are techniques to help draw out inverted nipples. If you place your thumb above and your fingers below the areola on the inverted side, you can try pulling your breast tissue inward to see if your nipple will evert. You can also wear a special breast cup or shell within your bra for several hours a day to encourage your nipple to protrude.

After birth, you may find it helpful to use a breast pump just before nursing your baby; the suction of the pump can help pull your nipple outward. Consult with a lactation specialist or your doctor before the birth for additional advice and more specific help with your situation. La Leche leaders can also be a terrific source of support—check out www.lalecheleague.org for more information.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist