So, you had your nipples pierce when you were going through a phase, a time when the thought of having kids was nothing you, and you rocked those pierced titties well. But now, things have changed, you’ve grown older (and a little wiser), would love to have kids someday (or soon), but are unsure about pierced nipples and whether you will be able to breastfeed or not.
If this is you, we believe that this article will give you all the answers you seek. Understandably, there isn’t sufficient research into the subject, and if you believe in the power of exclusive breastfeeding, you’d be tripping with guilt about not being able to give your child the best gift nature has to offer. We’ll shed light on all the important bits you need to know.
Can I breastfeed if I have had my nipples pierced?
Generally, nipple piercings will not affect your ability to make breast milk or the supply of the milk, and like other piercings, the nipple piercings hardly come with complications.
However, you should not freak out if you notice that breast milk leaks from the piercing holes.
That said, you need to think about the location of the piercing because a piercing on the areola, that dark area around your nipple, or in the surrounding breast tissue might be a problem. Things might be even more difficult if it turns out that your piercings cut right through your milk ducts because then this would mean loss of an important milk duct, and that would get in the way of breast milk flow. The biggest issue with this is that when a breast milk duct and the subsequent flow of breast milk is affected, there might be plugging of the ducts at that spot, and that might affect your breastfeeding journey.
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The other consideration you need to keep in mind is the location of the piercing with regards to the location of your nerves in the areola and the nipple. If the piercing tampers with your nerves in the nipple or around the areola, there’s a risk of poor milk flow because the natural, hormone-initiated milk let-down reflex is cut off.
You also need to think about infections. If you had an infection that’s related to the piercing, recently or in the past, you might encounter some issues breastfeeding, primarily because infections leave a mark, in the form of scarred tissue. The problem with scarring is that it might close up some of those tiny holes in the nipples/ milk ducts, blocking breast milk flow.
Other than these issues with nerves and milk ducts, you should be able to breastfeed with pierced nipples.
Research into Breastfeeding and Nipple Piercings
Research on the issue of breastfeeding and nipple piercings have yielded results that support both sides. While some women have no problems with breastfeeding with their pierced nipples, others note a slight reduction in milk supply.
However, lactation specialists note that as long as the piercing was done well and one breastfeeds without jewelry, then there are no problems associated with pierced nipples.
Tips and Advice
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1. Plan ahead, always
What this means is that even before you are ready to bake a bun in the oven, your breasts must be ready. We are talking about 18 to 24 months before pregnancy and 3 months after you wean your child.
This is also the amount of time you should consider if you are planning to get your nipples pierced. This is an important step because this time is adequate for the piercings to heal fully and also before the pregnancy hormones course through your body.
The time also means that by the time you are pregnant or ready to breastfeed, you have removed the jewelry, knowing that the piercing is fully healed. Saliva must never get close to a healing or a freshly-pierced nipple, which means that you should never think of breastfeeding if your nipples are still sore.
2. Beware of the risks involved
When you have a nipple pierced, you must be aware of all the associated risks, including infections, hepatitis, keloids, scar tissue, mastitis, and the damage imparted on the milk ducts.
You may also suffer trauma to nerves around the areola and nipples, and the resultant loss of sensation could negatively affect the milk let-down reflexes by inhibiting the release of the milk let-down hormone, oxytocin, meaning that you will struggle with an inadequate supply of milk.
From the experiences of other women, get a horizontal piercing if you will be breastfeeding.
3. Your piercing must heal
To ensure that you can breastfeed with little difficulty, you need to make sure that the piercing is healed 100%.
And with nipple piercings expected to fully heal in at least a year, if you don’t have issues with jewelry rejections and infections, you need have to plan well.
To minimize the risk of rejection and infections, first find a reputable piercer, preferably one registered by the Association of Professional Piercers and someone who knows what they are doing.
You could also minimize the risk of jewelry rejection by being careful with the piercing depth, diameter, and width, ensure the use of appropriate tools, as well as jewelry. The safest jewelry options include nickel-free gold, niobium, surgical stainless steel, titanium, or platinum.
4.No jewelry in the third trimester
You need to remove the nipple jewelry before you hit the 6th-month mark in your pregnancy (although being without the nipple piercing throughout the pregnancy is a great move), and you have to stay without the jewelry for as long as your baby breastfeeds.
Leaving the jewelry on could cause latching problems, damage/ injury to your baby’s tiny mouth, and it might also increase the risk of tenderness and infections. If you insist on wearing jewelry, opt for the PTFE barbell retainers that can be tightened before every breastfeeding session.
Remember that nipple jewelry might appear fine to you, but it is a choking hazard for the baby, and your baby might gag, slurp, or come on and off the breast as milk leaks. These are very uncomfortable and you out to do all you can to avoid them.
5. Your healthcare team should know about it.
Your lactation specialist and all the other specialists should know about the nipple piercings, especially for the assessment of your milk supply and the baby’s growth rate.
6. Don’t stop breastfeeding
As long as the piercing is done the right way, you should be able to breastfeed with a pierced nipple.
You can breastfeed well with pierced nipples, especially if the nipple is healed properly if the piercing didn’t damage nerves or milk ducts, and if you are not wearing jewelry. However, you should be careful and more mindful of your baby and body, especially if you didn’t get the piercing too long before the pregnancy.
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