To remove, or not to remove piercings while breastfeeding? That is the question.
One of the most common myths about pierced nipples is that you can’t breastfeed. While breastfeeding with pierced nipples is not recommended, it is doable.
If you already have your nipples pierced, or are thinking about getting a piercing in the future, it's important to know the potential challenges you might encounter when breastfeeding your brand-new bub to ensure you're making an informed decision.
We're here to take you through the ins and outs of breastfeeding with pierced nipples, including the common risks like affected breast milk supply, latch difficulties, choking hazards and the chance of infection so that you can make the best choice for you and your baby.
Can you breastfeed with pierced nipples?
If you got your nipple pierced a while back, you probably weren’t thinking about breastfeeding at the time!
Breastfeeding with pierced nipples is possible but can make your experience a bit more difficult. That's why it's not usually recommended to breastfeed with a nipple piercing.
So why is a nipple piercing or nipple jewellery a potential problem when breastfeeding? Essentially, there is a chance that scar tissue from a pierced nipple can inhibit or block the free flow of milk.
It won't completely cut-off supply, but will cause an interesting "spray" of your milk flow. Unfortunately, there is really no way of knowing if your piercing will affect your ability to breastfeed before giving it a go.
If nursing with pierced nipples, you’ll need to factor in a few extra steps into your breastfeeding routine and be extra vigilant to ensure your baby is not only getting enough milk flow but also ensuring that your nipple piercing isn't interfering with your milk ducts.
It is advised that you remove your nipple piercing for the duration of breastfeeding.
However, if this is not an option, make sure that you tighten your nipple jewellery before each nursing session and maintain a very close eye on bub’s latch while feeding.
This will help you understand if you'll be able to breastfeed with nipple piercings, or if you might need to remove your body piercing for the next few months.
What issues can nipple piercings cause when breastfeeding?
There are a few key challenges breastfeeding mums can face when breastfeeding with pierced nipples.
Usually, the key challenges you might encounter are a change in your milk supply, feeding issues, a higher chance of infection and even more worrying issues such as your nipple piercing becoming a choking hazard.
Let's run you through each of these key challenges so you can clearly understand how your nipple piercings might impact the success of your breastfeeding journey.
Unless there is an infection at play, pierced nipples don’t typically damage milk production. That's because breast milk is produced in the mammary glands, which are located in the breast tissue behind the nipple.
Rather than issues with milk production itself, lactation experts have observed challenges with bub receiving milk supply because of poor attachment and latch.
With a nipple piercing in the way, babies might frequently come on and off the breast, and you may notice they're slurping, gagging and leaking milk from their mouth.
These are all signs that you might need to remove your nipple jewellery or work with a lactation consultant to figure out how to feed safely with a piercing.
Baby's ability to feed
It can be difficult for a baby to latch with a piercing in the way, often affecting the quality of their feed.
In some cases, space around piercings or extra piercing holes can actually often lead to a faster milk flow, which can be a struggle for your baby to manage the extra breast milk.
If you suspect that your piercing is making it harder for your baby to latch, or you run into other challenges, talk with a lactation consultant.
Piercings can easily become loose, dislodge and end up in your baby’s mouth, or even get stuck in their throat, creating a very real choking hazard.
There’s also potential for the sharp jewellery to damage the soft tissue inside your baby’s mouth like their gums, tongue or palate.
There are also risks to the actual nipple itself. The longer the piercing has been in place initially, the less chance of nipple damage.
However common concerns for breastfeeding mothers include nerve damage, mastitis and abscesses. Scaring can also affect the milk ejection reflex, which could impact your milk supply.
For these reasons, breastfeeding women are encouraged to remove nipple piercings for the duration of their breastfeeding journey.
How to breastfeed safely with nipple piercings
Infections occur in 10 to 20 per cent of nipple piercings, so you’ll want to stay on top of your hygiene when handling piercings before and after each breastfeeding session to avoid a breast infection or illness in your baby.
Wash your hands and the jewellery thoroughly with warm water and unscented soap and sterilise your pierced skin with a natural antiseptic such as sea salt spray, before removing and re-inserting piercings.
Throughout this process, keep an eye out for early signs of infection like increased pain, discharge from the piercing site, an odour or fever.
Rather than constantly taking piercings in and out before and after each breastfeeding session, it’s worth considering if it might make more sense to remove your piercings for the entire duration of your planned nursing time.
While you may run the risk of your piercings closing up, it can be the safest option for your baby. If there’s any chance that you might forget to take it out before feeding, you’re better off removing the nipple piercings altogether.
If you decide not to remove your piercing while nursing, it is absolutely vital that you check the piercing is nice and tight before attaching your baby to the breast, then keep a keen eye on their feeding behaviour to prevent choking or cuts to their mouth.
If you notice your baby frequently coming off the breast or see milk leaking out of their mouth, it might be time to consider removing your nipple piercing.
Also, consider expressing some milk first before your baby latches, to clear out any dirt or debris from your nipple jewellery.
Does the type of piercing make a difference?
Whether your nipples are adorned with rings or studs, are pierced horizontally, vertically or diagonally, or you have multiple piercings, the risks and challenges with breastfeeding remain the same.
Good quality stainless steel or gold-plated nipple jewellery can help avoid infection.
Plus, it's important to make sure your nipple piercings heal completely before you begin breastfeeding to ensure you're minimising the chances of infection.
Is it safe to get your nipple pierced while pregnant or breastfeeding?
While it is possible to feed safely with the proper precautions in place, you should not get a new piercing while pregnant or during your breastfeeding journey.
In fact, reputable piercers will not knowingly pierce a pregnant or breastfeeding mother for liability reasons.
As a rule of thumb, it typically takes six to 12 months for the piercing to fully heal completely, making the risk of infections like mastitis, hyperprolactinemia and galactorrhea highly likely if you choose to pierce your nipple during your breastfeeding period.
Ideally, you should wait three to four months after weaning before getting nipple piercings as hormonal imbalances and changes during breastfeeding can affect the healing process.
How to take care of your breasts while breastfeeding
Breastfeeding, with pierced nipples or not, can be challenging and often results in sore nipples.
Although there are risks to breastfeeding your baby with nipple piercings, they can be reduced or eliminated with risk assessment and careful planning with your lactation consultant.
By knowing the warning signs to watch out for, you can prevent the biggest risks of breastfeeding with pierced nipples and have the best success during your feeding journey.