Flat or inverted nipples are a concern that several moms and moms-to-be experience. Your body prepares for breastfeeding right from the start of pregnancy but when the baby is born and you are faced with a flat or inverted nipple, making latching difficult, it can be heartbreaking and stressful for a new mother.
What does a flat or inverted nipple mean?
A nipple which is flattened against the areola or inverted into the areola is known as a flat or inverted nipple. In some cases, with stimulation, the nipple may protrude but in some cases this may not happen. When a baby is ready to breastfeed, s/he needs to open his mouth wide and take a major portion of the areola into the mouth. What happens is that the nipple reaches deep into the baby’s mouth and allows the baby to form a good grip with the tongue and the upper palate. This enables a deep latch and allows adequate transfer of milk. When the nipple is flat or inverted, the baby may lose the grip and the latch may not be deep enough.
Should this be a cause for concern? Should this be assessed during pregnancy?
Experts and research studies both state that the nipple is only the excretion point and even mothers with this condition can go on to feed successfully but may need some help and patience in getting started.
However, you may want to do a little check during pregnancy to prepare yourself.
Wait till about Week 36-37 before trying this. Nipple stimulation during pregnancy can trigger off uterine contractions and it is not advisable before reaching close to full term.
Tease the nipple or rub some ice on the nipple tissue. The nipple should stand erect. Next, use your fingers to create a latch and check if the nipple still maintains its erect position. If in either case, the nipple appears flat then you can keep the following in mind:
- During pregnancy, every day gently massage the nipples in a rolling fashion a few times a day.
- Once the baby is born, before every latch, massage the nipples gently to help them to protrude and then quickly latch the baby on.
- You can also use a nipple puller or a breast pump to help the nipple form before a feed.
- Hold the areola in a V hold to make it more formed and help the baby to latch.
- Seek help from a lactation specialist to help latch the baby.
- Once you have tried all the above you can consider using a nipple shield to help the baby latch. But do remember that once the baby gets habituated to the nipple shield it may be difficult to wean the baby off the shield and you may end up using it on a permanent basis.