Breastfeeding with flat nipples

Up until becoming pregnant it had never crossed my mind that my nipples weren’t ‘normal’, and by ‘normal’ I mean nipples that poke out when aroused.

Why would I? My nipples had never been a problem for me in any part of my life and I wasn’t even aware of how flat they where until I tried to breastfeed. I mean I knew they didn’t stand up/poke out when aroused as much as other women but I never thought anything of it and nobody had ever said they were different or not ‘normal’.

I want to shed some light on this for all my other mummy’s out there with flat/inverted nipples. So you might be sat there asking what is a flat/inverted nipple? How do I know if I have one?

What is it?

Well an inverted nipple is a one that protrudes (goes in) more than it pokes out. It could be like this all the time or just some of the time. You might have one inverted nipple or a pair of them! While a flat nipple is exactly what it sounds like, a nipple that is flat and neither goes in or out!

How to find out what nipples you have?

You might find yourself looking at your nipple wondering if it is ‘flat or inverted! After all nobody is going to tell you, you kind of have to figure it out for yourself. You can actually test your own nipple to see what you have by pinching your nipple and seeing what happens. If you nipple pokes out, goes in or stays flat. This is a good indicator of what kind of nipple you have!

So you have just tested your nipples?! About 10-20% of you will have flat or inverted nipples so it’s a pretty common variation to have. There is no need to worry – inverted or flat nipples are really no different from any other nipples!

How does your nipple effect breastfeeding?

So what’s the difference when it comes to breastfeeding? Well a baby needs a nipple to poke out so that they have something to latch on to and when they latch on the nipple touches the roof of their mouths which makes the baby start sucking to get the milk out. With flat or inverted nipples there is nothing for the baby to really latch on to and even if they do latch on the nipple may not touch the roof of their mouths to make them start sucking!

My experience

This is exactly what I experienced. After having just gone through a long labour and the pain of brining my baby into this world, I held her close (skin to skin) to try and feed her, only to he faced with more stress and difficulties. Initially she managed to semi latch onto the skin around my nipple and was sucking for a little while. I guess she was super hungry after going through the trauma of being born!

After that she couldn’t latch on and would cry and cry until she was exhausted and would fall asleep. I tried every position imaginable with the help of the midwives and while some midwives where great and very supportive, other were not and made me feel like I was doing something wrong and it was my fault!

I was already feeling super guilty and a bad mom for not being able to feed my little baby and she was becoming more and more hungry.

To keep her going I was using the syringe to collect colostrum to keep her going, but even that wasn’t enough after a day or two of not being able to get her to latch on. The midwives said I had to give her formula because they where worried she hadn’t been fed much over the first 48hours of her life.

My heart sank, what a failure! I really didn’t want to give her any formula because I knew how much better breast milk was for her, especially because I wasn’t planning on giving her any cows milk and most dairy products. I reluctantly gave her formula and it was so obvious that she was instantly happier from having a full belly and not being hungry. For a moment I thought I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed and maybe I would have to give my baby formula.

Then I had a conversation with an older midwife and she mentioned a nipple shield. This wasn’t the first time I had considered using one, because my sister used one (she had flat nipples too). The midwife mentioned that midwives had been told not to recommend them because mum’s should be able to breastfeed without them! I was totally taken a back with her comment. Here I was struggling and really wanting to breastfeed my baby and all along there was something that could potentially help but they were not allowed to tell me!

I immediately got my partner to go out on the search for a nipple shield which was surprisingly difficult to find. He went to at least 8 different shops and eventually found them in mother care.

I was excited/nervous to try it. I was worried it still wouldn’t make a difference but excited that this might be the solution for me!

From the first attempt my beautiful baby latched on a sucked and sucked for a good 40 minutes and we haven’t looked back since. I was relived I was able to feed my baby.

There is definitely something about breastfeeding that made me feel like I was a great mum because I was able to provide everything my baby needed. The overwhelming love that flushes through your body when you are feeding your baby and she is staring up at you is one of the most amazing feeling I have experienced. It is a feeling of true, pure and unconditional love. I can totally understand why people want to breastfeed for as long as possible and I will cherish and remember these moments forever. The moments that I was able to provide everything for my baby. The exact quantity and quality of milk provided exactly when she needed it – aren’t our bodies amazing?

So for all my flat/inverted nipple mummy’s to be out there, do not stress and do not worry! Your baby might be able to latch on regardless and it might not make any difference, but if they cannot I would 100% recommend using a nipple shield to help your baby out! It was the best thing I have done and I don’t go anywhere without it.

Yes it’s a bit of an extra thing to faff with before you feed your baby and it can make it slightly more awkward when your out and about, but who cares if it means you can feed your baby. I certainly don’t!

Did any of my others mummy’s have a similar or different breastfeeding problem?

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