Big, round, wide, short, long. Not only do breast come in all different shapes and sizes, but so do nipples. You might have noticed that when you were pregnant the areola, the dark circle around your nipples, started to change colors and somehow got larger. This is probably something you have never seen before, but relax, because this is normal. The reason why this happens is because the body is preparing for breastfeeding.
Although experiencing change in your nipples is normal, one study found that nearly 20% of breastfeeding women experience such difficulty with latch after birth that they stop breastfeeding. A portion of this difficulty is due to the shape of the nipple, which can make it difficult for the baby to latch (or get a good grip to nurse). For the most part, babies are highly adaptive creatures and can adjust their suckle to their moms features. However, on occasion, babies cannot latch to the moms shape due to a flat nipple, as well as inverted nipple. Both flat nipples and inverted nipples make it difficult for the baby to latch because the nipple does not protrude or become erect with ease. When this happens, moms are often told do the following: wear breast shields, use a breast pump, use breast shells.
While devices exist to help mothers with nipple issues, breast massage can also help when your baby has trouble with latch due to flat or inverted nipples. Studies describe the Hoffman Technique as well as nipple rolling, as a form of breast massage that makes your nipples protrude making it easier to latch your baby. [1, 2] As an example, the Hoffman technique involves placing the thumb or forefinger near the inverted nipple and firmly pressing the fingers down and outward away from the areola.
Flat and inverted nipples can leave a mom feeling helpless and hopeless. But, you are not alone! Speak to your doctor or your lactation consultant if you think your baby is having trouble latching due to issues with the nipple.
Hope this helps.
Ileisha Sanders, mother of 2
Featured image: Cry Baby, Cry by tostadophoto.com,CC BY-SA 2.0