Are you struggling with breastfeeding with flat nipple? Not to worry. Take a help from one of these 6 useful flat nipple breastfeeding tools to make your life easier.
Flat nipple may cause many moms to doubt their ability to breastfeed their newborn babies. While it is little harder to successfully establish breastfeeding with flat nipples in the beginning, but it is not impossible.
One thing that you should remember is, babies breastfeed not nipple feed. As long as they latch on correctly, flat nipples shouldn’t cause any issue in breastfeeding.
However, breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipple may become challenging when your newborn already has difficulty latching or a weak suck.
That being said, there are multiple tools and aids available in the market that can make breastfeeding with flat nipple little easier.
With a little bit of knowledge, practice and with an aid of breastfeeding tools, you can learn how to breastfeed with flat nipple.
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What causes Flat Nipples?
A flat nipple do not stick out of areola (darker area surrounding your nipple) and may make it seem like a one flat surface. In contrary, inverted nipples protrudes in rather than protruding out.
For most women with flat nipple, they become erect during pregnancy as elasticity of the breast changes. If not, it may correct naturally when baby nurses on them naturally.
A flat nipple that does not sick out or turn inward when they are exposed to cold temperature or nipple stimulation are called a true flat nipple.
Research says that about 10% of women present with either flat or inverted nipple which can hinder with the establishment of breastfeeding (1).
True flat nipple may be caused by lactiferous duct not being stretched or grown properly. It can be hereditary too (2). It is not an indicator of serious health issue (2).
Rest assured, nipples shapes do not affect your ability to produce breast milk or dispense it.
How do I know if I have a Flat Nipples?
To see if you have true flat or inverted nipples, perform a pinch test.
Place your thumb and index finger around the areola and breast, one inch away from the edge and squeeze gently.
If your nipple remains flat, you have a flat nipple. Inverted nipple will pull inward.
You should take this test during pregnancy and after arrival of your baby to see the status of your nipples. Your nipple may look like flat during pregnancy, but hormonal changes after arrival of baby may cause it to stick out naturally.
Basic Breastfeeding tips for Flat Nipples
You might be surprised to know how simple these tips are to make breastfeeding with flat nipple easier.
Breastfeeding within one or two hours after birth of your baby is associated with prolonged breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby(3,4) .
By breastfeeding soon after delivery, you are helping your newborn to get accustomed to your breast before your milk come in. Breasts become firmer as your milk comes in and it can make breastfeeding with flat nipples harder for baby.
Before your milk first come in, breastfeed your baby as frequently as you can. It will not only help baby to learn to breastfeed but also give your body a signal to produce more milk. It also offers non-nutritive benefits to newborn.
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Latch on Correctly
Breastfeeding success with flat nipples lies on how well your baby latches onto your breast.
A deep latch with nipple and large portion of areola can be achieved as follow,
- Get into your favorite breastfeeding position. Football or cross-cradle hold can work best.
- Use one hand to support your baby’s head and neck.
- Use other hand to hold the breast. Hold your breast in such a way that your thumb is near baby’s upper jaw and your fingers near his lower jaw.
- Lift your baby’s head in such a way that his nose aligns across from your nipple.
- When your baby opens his mouth, place his lower jaw into your areola first followed by his upper jaw onto your breast.
- Release your hand when your baby is latched on.
- Sign of good latch is your nipple remains round, not flattened.
If you are still concerned about your latch, it is important to talk to lactation consultant and have your latch evaluated specifically when your have a flat or inverted nipple.
For more tips on breastfeeding with flat nipple, check out THIS article.
Success of breastfeeding with flat nipples depends largely on your baby’s ability to latch on correctly
Usually flat nipple does not cause any problem breastfeeding your baby unless your baby already has difficulty latching or a weak suck.
In this case, you need to stick out your flat nipple in order for your baby to nurse effectively.
Not to worry, mama!!
There are ways that can help you stick out your flat nipples for breastfeeding.
How do I make my Flat nipples Stick out for Breastfeeding?
You can achieve this manually or with the aid of breastfeeding tools.
Manual Method to pull out Flat Nipples for Breastfeeding
Reverse Pressure Softening
Reverse pressure softening was first discovered by lactation consultant Jean Cotterman to help nipple protrude when breasts are engorged.
It works by using your hands to move the fluid backward in your breast, in turn helping your nipple to stick out to make latching easier (5).
Here is how it works,
- Place your fingers and thumb around the base of your nipple on the areola
- Push back toward your ribs
- Continue putting pressure on that area for 1–2 minutes (should not be painful)
- You can repeat this technique and reposition your fingers farther away from your nipple on the areola if needed to relieve more swelling
- When you remove your fingers and thumb, your flat nipple should stick out and your baby should be able to latch on the softened area.
- Latching works best if you do it within a minute of completing Reverse pressure softening.
If you need visual, check out this video
The Hoffman Technique
This technique has been used to help moms draw out inverted nipples. It also works for drawing out flat nipples.
To do Hoffman technique
- Place your thumbs on either side of your nipple, right at the base of the nipple.
- Then press your thumb firmly into your breast tissue while you gently pull them apart from each other.
This should be done around the entire nipple at least once a day. This technique may help loosen the tissue in your nipple.
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Flat Nipple Breastfeeding Tools
Even after employing natural methods, sometimes moms with Flat or inverted nipple needs little extra help. Here are breastfeeding tools that can make a huge difference in breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples.
1. Nipple Shield
Nipple shield is worn over nipple during breastfeeding help nipple protrude out. When worn over nipple, it covers portion of your breast, areola and nipple.
Small holes in the tip of nipple shield allows milk flow through when baby is sucking.
Nipple shield has been used successfully by mothers with flat or inverted nipple for establishment of breastfeeding.
A small prospective observational cohort study published in 2016 evaluated 30 mothers – infant couplets who had difficulty breastfeeding due to flat or inverted nipple – for their ability to successfully breastfeed with the help of soft silicon nipple shield (6).
The result suggested that 80% of women were able to successfully breastfeed their babies after using nipple shield for a month with appropriate weight gain in infant.
Advantage of nipple shield is that it provides protruding nipple for your baby to latch on.
Medela contact nipple shield provides closer to nature experience of breastfeeding for your baby. It has unique cut out part to allowing skin-to-skin between mom and baby. You can buy Medela contact nipple shield HERE.
heck out THIS article to learn how to use nipple shield and what you should know before using it.
2. Breast Shells
Unlike nipple shield, breast shells are not worn during breastfeeding. They are worn between feedings.
They usually come as two pieces for each breast. The inner plastic or silicon piece fits as a circle around your nipple causing pressure directly on the breast tissue, allowing nipple to stick out for better latch.
The outer piece covers the nipple, so it does not come in contact with your bra.
Breast shells are also used to collect breast milk and prevent leaks. It is also great for protecting your cracked or sore nipples.
It is usually worn one hour before breastfeeding. However, prolonged use of it may cause clogged milk duct so be mindful about its use.
3. Supple Cups
Supple cups are clinically proven great tool to make breastfeeding with flat nipples easier (7).
They are soft silicon small cups that goes over your nipple. When used over flat or inverted nipples, it improves nipple protractility and facilitate nipple eversion so baby can latch properly.
To use this cup,
- Place supple cup over your nipple
- Squeezes the bottom of the supple cup as you gently press in onto the nipple
This will create a vacuum and draw your nipple further into the cups. Before placing supple cup onto your nipple, use nipple crème or butter to avoid blisters.
4. Lansinoh Nipple Everter
This little tool is designed to draw flat or inverted nipple outward to help baby latch.
It is a device with flange attached to a rubber bulb. It is used just before nursing to draw nipple out.
To use it, place flange over your nipple. Then gently squeeze the bulb to create a suction. The suction will cause nipple to protrude out. You can purchase it HERE.
5. Correcto Rings
Correcto rings are soft silicon bands to be tied around your nipple. That do sound little weird, but it does work to naturally enhance and enlarge flat or inverted nipples.
A small research study published in 2011 tested latex rubber bands from condom rim on 19 mothers with flat or inverted nipple. The bands were worn only during breastfeeding their babies (8).
The authors concluded that 60% of mothers were able to achieve latching at the breast with good attachment with in 3 days.
This could be budget friendly option if you want to give it a try.
Correcto rings comes in different sizes,color and because of it dimension it is easy to put on and keep them on the place.
You can use supple cup to draw your flat or inverted nipple out first followed by use of correcto rings to keep them protrude for longer period of time. Purchase it HERE.
6. Breast Pump
Breast pump can also be used to draw your flat or inverted nipple out just before feeding your baby. Suction from a breast pump can help elongate and protrude your flat or inverted nipple.
For moms with flat or inverted nipple, you may want to purchase an electric breast pump to create a uniform suction to draw the nipple out.
One that I like the most for flat nipple is Medela Pump in Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump.
Do Nipple Correctors Work?
Basic principle of variety of nipple corrector is to draw the nipple out into a small cup. It is achieved by creating a vacuum.
Frequent use of these devices help loosens the nipple tissue, increasing their protractibility. This will help your nipple remain protrude for longer period of time facilitating proper latch for your baby.
What does it mean when your Nipples are not out?
Some women are born with flat or inverted nipple. Usually, flat or inverted nipple does not indicate any health issue.
But if you notice your nipple start to point inward later in life, it could be a sign of medical issue and you need to see you doctor.
Flat Nipple Breastfeeding Tools: Conclusion
Nipples comes in all shapes and sizes. Having a flat nipple do not always interfere with establishing breastfeeding successfully. It is a challenge initially until your baby learns to latch on correctly.
Make this learning phase easy for your baby by using one or more of these breastfeeding tools. They are great in term of drawing your nipple out for good latch.
Persistent use of these devices may help your flat nipple protrude for longer period of time or even permanently as claimed by some of these tools.
However, When you are breastfeeding, it is always a good idea to talk to your lactation consultant before using these devices or learning how to use it properly for best results and avoid complications.
How About You?
How did you help your baby to latch properly with flat nipple? Have you tried a nipple corrector? How did it help you? Leave your comment below.
- Alexander J, Campbell M. Prevalence of inverted and non-protractile nipples in antenatal women who intend to breastfeed. Breast. 1997;6:72-8.
- Zucca-Matthes G, Urban C, Vallejo A. Anatomy of the nipple and breast ducts. Gland Surg. 2016;5(1):32-6. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2227-684X.2015.05.10
- de Carvalho, M., S. Robertson, R. Merkatz, and M. Klaus. 1982. Milk intake and frequency of feeding in breastfed infants. Early Hum. Dev. 7:155-163.
- Salariya, E.M., P.M. Easton, and J.I. Cater. 1978. Duration of breastfeeding after early initiation and frequent feeding. Lancet 2:1141-1143. [PubMed)
- Cotterman, K. J. (2004). Reverse Pressure Softening: A Simple Tool to Prepare Areola for Easier Latching During Engorgement. Journal of Human Lactation, 20(2), 227–237.
- Swati A. Manerkar, Jayashree A. Mondkar, Sorabh Goel. Use of silicone nipple shields as a lactation aid for flat or inverted nipples: an observational study in a tertiary care hospital. International Journal of Contemporary Medical Research 2016;3(12):3432-3435
- Bouchet-Horwitz Julie. The use of supple cups for flat, retracting and inverted nipples. Clinical Lactation. 2011; 2:30-3
- Chakrabarti K, Basu S. Management of flat or inverted nipples with simple rubber bands. Breastfeed Med. 2011;6(4):215-219. doi:10.1089/bfm.2010.0028
Reverse pressure softning pictograph adapted from Adapted from: http://www.salactationconsultants.co.za/Articles/Reverse%20Pressure%20Softening.pdf