Nipple Piercings and Breastfeeding: What You Need to KnowOct 12, 2023
Nipple piercings and breastfeeding require special considerations. This type of body piercing does not preclude someone from breastfeeding, you just need to understand certain nuances. Extra holes in the nipple from a piercing can add different dynamics to the breastfeeding experience. You also need to consider how nipple jewelry will affect your nursing baby.
In this article, we will look at how women with nipple piercings can navigate these issues. While getting new piercings during pregnancy and breastfeeding is often avoided by most women, we will look at whether or not it is safe to pierce your nipples during breastfeeding
Established Nipple Piercings and Breastfeeding
Nipple piercings present a unique set of challenges for women who desire to breastfeed. While these extra holes in your nipples will affect breastfeeding, they should not stop you from nursing your baby.
Ideally, pierced nipples would be completely healed prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Fully healed piercings are less likely to become infected than fresh piercings. Breast tissue is very sensitive and proper healing times are important to consider before breastfeeding.
In addition, proper nipple care is important during breastfeeding whether your nipples are pierced or not. You want to prevent infections or complications with simple techniques. The nipples should be kept clean, using warm water and a mild soap if necessary, and monitored for any signs of infection.
Any abrasions, scabs or other breaks in the skin of the nipples should be reported to your lactation consultant. Often, these lesions are signs of an improper latch.
Remove Nipple Jewelry Before Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding with nipple piercings can present certain risks and challenges that need to be addressed for the safety of both the mother and the baby. It is important to remove nipple jewelry before the baby goes to the breast in order to prevent the risk of choking.
Breast milk flow can be different in women with pierced nipples. The holes themselves or the scar tissue from the healing process can change the way that milk comes out of the milk pores. Additionally, if left in place during nursing, nipple jewelry can obstruct the flow of milk out of the nipple.
Best Way to Remove Nipple Jewelry
To ensure a safe and smooth breastfeeding experience, it is recommended to follow these steps when removing the jewelry:
1. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the jewelry and your breasts to maintain proper hygiene.
2. Gently remove the jewelry from both nipples, ensuring a careful and slow process to avoid any discomfort or injury.
3. Store the jewelry in a clean and safe place to prevent any damage or loss.
4. Cleanse the nipple area with warm water and a mild soap if necessary to maintain cleanliness.
When you remove your jewelry, your baby has a better experience with breastfeeding. You are also less worried about injury to the baby during the breastfeeding session.
Piercing Holes and Breast Milk Flow
Piercing holes in the nipples can affect the flow of breast milk during breastfeeding. Typically this is not disruptive if the baby has a proper latch. While milk may come out of the piercing holes, it usually does not interfere with the baby's ability to feed effectively.
Sometimes, the extra openings will cause a faster flow of milk. If your baby is struggling with this extra flow, you can try feeding in a laid back position to allow gravity to slow the milk flow.
If leakage occurs outside of feedings, breast pads can be used to manage the milk flow. Some women find it helpful to hand express or pump a small amount of milk before nursing to alleviate any discomfort or excessive leakage.
Nipple Piercings During Breastfeeding
Nipple piercings during breastfeeding can have potential impacts on both the mother and the baby. I recommend waiting until your baby is several months old before considering any body modification procedures such as piercing. You want your body to be completely healed from delivery. You also want your baby to be less dependent on breast milk as their sole source of nutrition in case you experience complications.
When considering body piercing while breastfeeding, it is most important to adhere to safety recommendations and aftercare cleaning instructions. Preventing an infection is key. You should pick a reputable person to do your piercing and carefully follow the after care instructions. Your risk of infection decreases if you choose a reputable piercer who follows sterile technique best practices.
Additionally, the material that you choose for the piercing also affects your rate of complications. Medical plastic or stainless steel are the least likely to cause a skin reaction. Professional piercers understand the importance of choosing appropriate materials and techniques as well as following safety precautions.
Intimate body piercing such as nipple piercings can lead to abnormal milk production, risk for infections and damage to milk ducts if not done carefully. Plus, your nipples are often very sensitive during pregnancy and breastfeeding and this may contribute to additional pain.
If you are worried about how a piercing will have an impact on breastfeeding, be sure to consult a lactation consultant for your particular situation.
When to Seek Medical Care
While safe body piercing is possible during breastfeeding, it really is best to wait until you are finished with this part of motherhood before you consider piercing your body, especially your nipples.
Piercing is a form of self-expression and it is important to many women. However, the risks associated with piercing during breastfeeding outweigh the benefits in my professional opinion.
If after weighing the pros and cons, you decide that a new nipple piercing is what you want, just be sure to be aware of the potential complications. Bleeding that persists beyond the initial healing process, oozing of pus, itching that does not subside, persistent swelling, or extensive redness all indicate that there is a problem with the piercing. Often these signs and symptoms signal an infection that will require antibiotics.
In addition other more serious symptoms include tenderness or pain around the piercing site, flu-like symptoms, nipple pain or fever. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical care right away.
Mothers with nipple piercings are able to successfully breastfeed their babies. While the risk for infection in already pierced nipples is low, it is not zero. Hopefully this article helped you to know how to navigate breastfeeding and nipple piercings.
© 127 Pediatrics; October 2023
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.
Dr. Andrea Wadley is the owner, pediatrician, and breastfeeding medicine specialist for 127 Pediatrics. She has an established house-calls only pediatric practice in Colleyville, TX. She is also the owner and operator of the 127 Pediatrics Online Breastfeeding Medicine and Education Center.