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Inverted Nipples

Bonnie Manning
Cincinnati OH USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 3, May-June 2003, p. 93.

At my appointment with my midwife, I learned that I had inverted nipples. I had no prior knowledge of the term and was afraid that I would be unable to breastfeed because of my own physiology. After all, my sister had been unable to breastfeed her babies, though she tried. My midwife reassured me and instructed me to pull out my nipples by rolling them between my finger and thumb. Because I have rather large breasts I had to support my breast with one hand then pull out my nipple with the finger and thumb of my opposite hand. I practiced this technique daily for a few months, but every time I released my grip the stubborn nipple would retract back to its inverted position like a frightened turtle. It seemed as if the weight of my breast would pull the downward facing nipple inward. I attended a La Leche League meeting in my sixth month of pregnancy and sought advice from the experienced Leader. She suggested I try breast shells to correct the problem. I wore the breast shells until the day of my daughter's birth, but my defiant nipples didn't respond. Instead, the shells left me with circular indentations in my areolas.

My breech positioned daughter was born on a Monday night via cesarean section. Though my midwife was present for the cesarean, she left soon after to assist another birth across town. Because of the late hour, no lactation consultant was available. Alone in my efforts, I tried to breastfeed. My husband and sister offered their support. With my daughter in a football hold, I offered each breast several times. She would attach herself to my breast but never really sucked well. As an inexperienced first-time mother, my confidence waned. The clock approached 3 am, and to my surprise, my midwife reappeared to support my efforts. We worked together with my patient daughter to obtain a proper latch-on. It was near dawn when the sound of her little gulps and the release of the colostrum allowed me to relax and drift off to sleep.

Over the next few days I continued to offer her my right breast alternately with my left breast. She never latched on successfully to my right side but nursed with ease on my left. When my milk came in I was astonished to find that it only came in on the left side. I assumed that even though I had nursed her solely on the left, that my breasts worked as a team and both sides would fill with milk. I squeezed my right breast and a little drop bubbled on the tip. This proved that I did have milk in the right side, but it was obvious that one breast was larger than the other was. My breasts worked independently in response to my baby's suckling.

As I continued to breastfeed her on one side I worried that her nutritional needs would not be met. After a call to my La Leche League Leader, this worry subsided as she reminded me of the many women who nurse twins. I am happy to say that my daughter nursed successfully for two years on one breast. Though my right nipple is still inverted, my left nipple now protrudes, thanks to my daughter's little mouth. Four months have passed since my daughter's last nursing, and my breasts are the same size once again. I believe the support of my midwife and my La Leche League Leader made it possible for me to have this wonderful time with my daughter.

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