Your first pregnancy can be very stressful, everything is about to change and you are unsure if you are ready. On the positive side, there is no dearth of information and knowledge on this particular phase of life. But an often unrecognised problem of pregnancies is the difficulty in nursing, especially the problem of flat or inverted nipples. It is a problem faced by 1 in 10 mothers and is particularly true for first-time mothers.
Breastfeeding is an important aspect of life for a new born child. The first six months of a child’s diet consists entirely of the mother’s milk. If the child has difficulty nursing, it can adversely affect the health of the infant.
A flat or inverted nipple doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot nurse an infant. There are many techniques and non-surgical treatments to ensure your child gets the nourishment he/she needs.
Also, there are many steps that you can take to correct the problem before and after the pregnancy.
Determining whether you have a flat or inverted nipple:
The very first step is to determine whether you have a flat or inverted nipple before your child is born. There is a very simple test - the pinch test helps figure out whether you have flat or inverted nipples.
The steps to follow are -
1. Grip the areola of your breast between the thumb and index finger.
2. Pinch gently but firmly an inch behind your nipple.
3. A normal nipple should protrude. If the nipple does not become erect, it is considered flat. If it retracts or disappears, it is considered inverted.
Treating flat or inverted nipple:
Knowing if you do have an inverted or flat nipple before the birth of the child is very good, since you can take measures to correct them. One such method is the Hoffman Technique, it’s an exercise that helps reduce the inversion of the nipples.
The steps to follow are -
1.Place the thumbs of both hands opposite each other at the base of the nipple.
2.Press gently but firmly into your breast.
3.While your breast is still pressed down, pull the thumbs away from each other.
4.Move your thumb to another position and repeat.
Note: Repeat this exercise twice a day at first, then work up to five times a day.
It helps to do the Hoffman Technique during pregnancy so as to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding. Exercising your nipples even after the baby is born will help in drawing them out properly and help you nurse your baby better.
If unfortunately you were not aware of the shape of your nipple during pregnancy and have difficulty feeding your child due to flat or inverted nipples, there are many items that can help protrude your nipples along with exercising them.
One such method is pumping milk with breast pump, this will simulate the sucking action of a baby and help in breaking the adhesions under the skin of the nipple that causes the inversion or flatness of the nipple. The disadvantage is that if an infant gets attached to a bottle, it is hard to wean them off it and make them drink from the mother.
Nipple shields with their silicon-based protruding nipple form with holes in the end can help the infant suck directly from the mother. Unfortunately the success rate of this method is not very high. If your child is a fussy feeder, he/she may not take to the foreign feeling of a nipple shield well.
Overall, the best method would be to try and make your baby feed from you directly. This will help in reducing the inversion or flatness of your nipple and help you bond with your child.
Wishing you a happy and comfortable pregnancy. Feel free to contact us for further information about breast feeding and child care.