Just as there are different sizes and shapes of breasts, there are also different types of nipples. While most nipples point outward, some others retreat or point back into the breast. Such nipples are called inverted nipples.
According to MedicineNet, a US medical website, an inverted nipple is a condition in which the nipple is pulled inward into the breast instead of pointing outward. This condition can also be called nipple inversion, nipple retraction, or invaginated nipple.
Causes of inverted nipples
Statistics show that 10 to 20 percent of women are born with inverted nipples, making it a common occurence to some extent. Also, normal nipples can become inverted over time due to weight loss, trauma, abscess formation, or in rarer cases, a disease affecting the breast tissue like cancer.
Can a woman with inverted nipples breastfeed?
Women with inverted nipples can breastfeed but they do face challenges.
According to Downs-Canner, M.D., an assistant professor of oncological breast surgery at the University of North Carolina, breastfeeding with inverted nipple is possible but it might take a little more patience and the help of a lactation consultant.
How to fix inverted nipples
Fixing inverted nipples depend on the causes. Those who are born with it and want to correct it can try any of these methods.
Medical website, Mindbodygreen mentioned three ways by which inverted nipples can be fixed: They are:
Although yet to be clinically proven, it is believed that nipple piercing can prevent inverted nipples from retracting. While it may work for some, it is not a guaranteed process. As a matter of fact, it could create an unfavourable situation whereby the nipple looks erect most of the time because of the piece of jewelry physically blocking it from retracting.
2. Breastfeeding or other stimulation
Breastfeeding, foreplay involving nipple sucking, and other vacuum stimulation like a breast pump can stimulate the nipple to come out.
3. Plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is needed for some nipple inversions, but most can do without it. Even when plastic surgery is performed to protract the nipple, there is a risk of interfering with milk ducts and surrounding tissue although some innovative surgeons are working on new ways of preserving them.
Healthline lists other methods to include:
4. Hoffman Technique
The technique has been in use since the 1950s. To try the Hoffman technique, these are the procedures:
This procedure does not produce permanent protrusion of the nipple. It done whenever the person with inverted nipples wants the nipples to protrude for breastfeeding or any other purpose. For best results, this technique should be practiced at least once a day. Regular stimulation may help the nipples protrude more often.
- Place your thumbs on either side of your nipple. Be sure to place them at the base of the nipple, not the outside of the areola.
- Press firmly into your breast tissue. While still pressing down, gently pull your thumbs away from each other.
- Move your thumbs all around the nipple and repeat.
5. Suction devices
There are some suction devices available for reversing inverted nipples. Most of them are worn under clothing for extended periods of time. They usually work by pulling the nipple into a small cup. This stimulates the nipple and makes it protrude.
When used over time, these devices can help loosen the nipple tissues. This can help the nipples remain erect for longer periods of time.
None of these methods are guaranteed to permanently fix inverted nipples and if they do there is a chance the nipple will invert later.
In a case where normal nipples suddenly become inverted due to infections, diseases or other unknown causes, there is need for such person to see a medical doctor immediately for treatment. After treatment, there is a good chance the nipples will return to their original proud stances, says Downs-Canner.
Are inverted nipples less sensitive?
The only difference between inverted and erect nipples is the contract nerves not the sensory nerves. Inverted nipples can experience the same sensations as erect nipples. Nipple sensitivity can also vary from person to person.