In a world where piercings, tattooing, and other body modifications are becoming more and more popular, the question of whether breastfeeding with pierced nipples is safe becomes more relevant. Many women have successfully breastfed with pierced nipples, and many have found that nipple jewelry has not impacted neither their milk supply nor breast health. That’s excellent news, but that does not mean there are complications that can arise. Plus, you need to be aware of how nipple jewelry can affect feeding sessions.
Effects of Piercings on the Nipple and Breast
Generally, pierced nipples will cause very few problems, if any. However, other locations, such as piercing the dark ring around the nipple, known as the areola, or surrounding tissue can cause problems. Whenever a milk duct is blocked, whether by milk or something like a piercing, the flow of milk through the breast can be impeded. When this happens, you risk developing a plugged duct or mastitis, or breast infection. On the opposite end, piercings can also prompt milk to leak from the breast, resulting in a faster flow that can overwhelm the baby.
Piercings through the areola can also affect the nerves responsible for the let-down reflex, making it more difficult for milk to flow. Other women report hypersensitivity in the nipple, causing breastfeeding to be painful. Another common concern is that nipple piercings may stimulate milk production, even in women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.
In the end, the thing you want to be most concerned about is whether or not your baby is getting enough milk. Should your milk supply be impacted from the piercing, it can cause low weight gain. If your baby isn’t gaining enough weight, consult with a lactation specialist to see what the cause could be. Fortunately, if you have only one pierced nipple, the other breast will often produce enough breastmilk to compensate.
Infections and Pierced Nipples
Although pierced nipples rarely become infected because of the piercing, women who have nipple jewelry during breastfeeding do tend to see increased cases of bacterial infection and inflammation. You will need to be vigilant of any tenderness, swelling, or lumps in the breast. Also, keep your eyes open for any discharge from the nipple.
Keep in mind that your piercing will need to be fully healed prior to breastfeeding. Saliva can enter the unhealed piercing site and increase the risk of getting an infection.
Is it Safe to Breastfeed With Nipple Piercings?
While it is safe to breastfeed with nipple piercings, some factors can impact both the mother and the baby. Aside from the previously mentioned effects on the breast, such as milk flow obstruction and milk production, there are other things that affect breastfeeding.
Nipple piercings typically take a long time to heal (around 3-6 months), and in some situations, it can take anywhere from 12 months to 24 months for complete recovery. You should never breastfeed if the puncture site is not yet healed, due to the risk of infection.
Because of this, it is recommended that nipple piercing should be done at least 12 months prior to getting pregnant. This ensures that the jewelry has been in place for at least 6 months, giving the hole time to fully heal.
Keep in mind that even with 24 months of healing, piercings can still close during breastfeeding, especially if you have removed the nipple jewelry for extended periods of time. If the holes have closed up, you will need to wait at least 3 months after your baby is weaned to attempt at re-piercing your nipples.
Can I Get My Nipples Pierced While Breastfeeding?
Most piercing professionals will not work with pregnant or breastfeeding mothers because of the risks involved. Additionally, there are liabilities. Do not be surprised if you are asked to sign a waiver that asks whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you want to get your nipples pierced after having a baby, it is recommended that you wait 3-4 months post-weaning. There are hormonal changes after weaning that can influence the healing process. Those hormonal shifts can increase the chance of embedding or rejection. Embedding jewelry involves the skin growing over the piercing. Rejection is when the body sees the piercing as foreign and struggles to properly heal.
Can I Keep My Nipple Jewelry During Breastfeeding?
There are a couple of reasons why you should always remove nipple jewelry before breastfeeding:
- Anything that can choke your baby is dangerous. Even secure piercings can come off during sucking and get lodged in your baby’s throat.
- The piercing can make it difficult for your baby to get a proper latch, increasing the risk of plugged ducts, milk blisters, and even breast infection (mastitis).
- Piercings can hurt your baby’s mouth, discouraging them from breastfeeding. The baby may then get fussy and will not gain enough weight.
As a result of these possible complications, it is recommended to remove any ring, bar, or stud from your breast prior to a feeding session.
If you are concerned about your piercing closing up, you can use insertion tapers or retainers. These temporary jewelry pieces are less risky than keeping in the nipple piercing and also prevent holes from completely closing.
In short, the answer to the question of whether you can breastfeed with nipple piercings is “yes.” However, you need to take precautions. The nipple piercing must be completely healed before beginning breastfeeding. You should always remove the nipple jewelry prior to a feeding session since jewelry is a choking hazard. While nipple piercings have been associated with breastfeeding problems, good hygiene can help lower the risk.
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