This week was one of many times where I have been helping a mom with lactation and the issue was her nipples. Nipples? you ask! We need to start encouraging women to look at their breasts- specifically their nipples during their pregnancies. If they can find out that their nipples are flat or inverted, they can do something about it long before they have their babies! Instead this is what is happening.

types of nipples

Women are being handed nipple shields like they are candy. I have even had one mom offered them before they were able to even attempt nursing- before the baby was in her arms (a few weeks early so off to the nursery to be evaluated) and even before the nurse looked at her nipples. It was ridiculous! In fact the mom nursed just fine and did not accept it! So what is the problem with nipple shields?  Research on the use of nipple shields has revealed reduced milk transfer of up to 58 percent. In fact La Leche League stated:| “Often, with use of rubber shields, infants are not able to compress the maternal milk sinuses, which can lead to long-term milk production problems and increased nipple soreness and damage. Since the infant has to rely on suction alone to transfer milk, nipple shields can drastically reduce his milk intake, potentially causing slow or inadequate weight gain. There are reports that even the thin silicone nipple shields cause reduced milk intake and present a potential for reduced maternal milk supply and nipple damage with improper placement.” And my favorite breast authority Jack Newman reports on it’s misuse as well. Nipple Shields.  shield

So what can women do during pregnancy to help? Dr Sears discusses the use of breast shells for inverted and flat nipples. Putting a simple shell into a woman’s bra during the day or evenings. with the smaller hole insert, helps to pull the nipple out over the last few months prior to birth. Often women use them with the large hole setting to help if there are sore nipples. I personally think fixing the latch issue so that the mom does not have sore nipples is the best option.

nipple shells1latch assist 2



We also sell a product that is like a small plunger that easily fits in your purse. It helps to pull the nipple out gently to protrude a bit more, especially if any engorgement occurs when your milk arrives. It is called a Latch Assist. We sell it in our store. So, midwives and doctors, start looking at the mom’s nipples during the pregnancy. Doulas and lactation educators, offer to look to see if there is a possible issue. Moms start asking for help in identifying an issue before it becomes a problem. Don’t risk a baby not being able to latch well – especially once your milk comes in and there is a bit more difficulty. If your headlights don’t come on when you are in the frozen food section, there is a chance you have flat or inverted nipples. It is fixable! Easily!

inverted nipple

inverted nipple                        flat nipple

flat nipple