Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples

Inverted Nipple. Pam Stephan/ Breast Cancer

What Are Inverted Nipples?

Inverted nipples are nipples that do not protrude out of the breast. Instead, they face inward toward the body. When exposed to cold temperatures or stimulation, inverted nipples do not respond by getting larger and sticking out. This is caused by adhesions. Adhesions are small bands of tissue that attach to the nipple on the inside and prevent it from protruding outward.

You can tell if your nipples are truly inverted by placing your thumb above your nipple behind your areola and your first finger below your nipple behind your areola and gently squeezing. If your nipples turn inward when you compress the area they are inverted. Approximately 10% of women have true inverted nipples.

Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples

If you have inverted nipples, you can still breastfeed. As your pregnancy progresses, your inverted nipples may begin to protrude out naturally. They may fully extend or they may only protrude a little, but that may be enough for your baby. Newborns have the ability to nurse on all types of nipples, so even if your nipples remain inverted your baby may still be able to latch on and breastfeed just fine. As long as your baby can latch on to your breast correctly, breastfeed well, and gain weight, you do not need to do anything to try to fix your inverted nipples.

Inverted nipples are only a problem if they prevent your baby from latching on to your breast properly.  A good latch is necessary for breastfeeding to be successful. The way your baby latches on to your breast will determine if he or she is able to get enough breast milk. It will also stimulate your body to produce a healthy milk supply.

Without a good latch, your baby may lose too much weight, become dehydrated and develop jaundice. A poor latch can also lead to some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as sore nipples, engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis and a low milk supply. If your baby is not able to latch on to your breast, get help immediately.

Sometimes only one breast has an inverted nipple. If you can get your baby to latch on to one side, that's enough to breastfeed successfully. You can then pump the breast milk from the other breast to maintain your milk supply and keep your breasts even.

Although it is rare, nipples that are extremely inverted can block the milk ducts in the breast and decrease the amount of breast milk that gets to your baby. It is very important to have your baby monitored by a doctor during the first few weeks of breastfeeding to be sure that he or she is getting enough breast milk.

Tips For Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples

  • Have your doctor examine your breasts and nipples at the end of your pregnancy. Once it is confirmed that you have true inverted nipples, you can start to prepare.
  • Do not try to stimulate your nipples to move outward while you are pregnant unless your doctor has given you specific instructions to do so. Manipulating your nipples by hand or by using a breast pump can cause uterine contractions and premature labor.
  • Breast shells put gentle pressure on the base of the nipples to help draw them out. Talk to your doctor before using breast shells if you're pregnant. Once your baby is born, breast shells can be worn between feedings but they must be removed before you nurse your baby.
  • Try using a breast pump to pull your nipples outward right before you nurse your baby.
  • If your breasts are engorged, hand express or pump a little bit of breast milk before nursing to soften the breast and make it easier for your baby to latch on.
  • Try placing your baby in the football hold or use the natural nursing position
  • Use the C-hold or the V-hold to compress your areola as you bring your baby to your breast. This may make it easier for your baby to latch on.
  • Nipple shields can be worn while you breastfeed to help your baby latch on. However, you should only use a nipple shield under the supervision of a doctor or breastfeeding specialist since they can cause other problems if they are not used properly.
  • There are devices that you can buy to help you draw out your nipples. Nipple extractors or nipple everters may be available through your doctor or lactation consultant.
  • Have your baby monitored closely by the pediatrician to be sure he or she is getting enough milk and gaining weight.
  • Keep track of your baby's wet diapers and bowel movements.
  • Talk to a lactation consultant or join a local breastfeeding group for support and guidance.



American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

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