Body Modifications are a group of practices that include branding, piercing, scarification and tattooing. Body modifications have been around for over 5000 years and have experienced an explosion in popularity over the past 20 years. It is increasingly common for mothers to have a tattoo or want to get their nipples pierced. If you are either considering getting your nipple(s) pierced or a tattoo, or already have your nipple(s) pierced or a tattoo in place, you may wondering if you can breastfeed your baby. You can, but there are some important items you should know.
Is Breastfeeding OK?
Yes. Breastfeeding will not cause any problems with your piercings, especially if they are well healed. While there are a few studies on breastfeeding after nipple piercing that show possible problems, many mothers go onto breastfeed successfully with pierced nipples.
What are the risks for me?
While all piercings carry some risk, nipple piercings carry some additional risks that you should be aware of. Nipple piercings can take a full year or more to heal completely, with infections and rejections the most common problems. In addition milk ducts can be damaged or obstructed leading to lowered milk supply. Leaking milk from piercing holes, mastitis, reduced or extra sensitivity of the nipple, scar tissue, and development of allergies to the metal in the piercing have been reported.
What are the risks for my baby?
There are risks to breastfeeding your baby with nipple piercings, however they can be reduced or eliminated with careful planning. The most common risks to your infant from pierced nipples include leaking milk (creating too fast a flow), obstructed ducts leading to lowered milk supply, latch difficulties, damage to the baby’s mouth, bacterial infection and/or choking from jewellery that is not removed.
Nipple Piercing and Breastfeeding: Recommendations
Plan before getting pierced
It is best to pierce your nipples 18-24 months before pregnancy or 3 months after weaning. This allows the piercing to fully heal before the hormonal changes of pregnancy. It also allows for the piercing to be removed without the holes closing up. Saliva must not enter a freshly pierced nipple and jewellery must remain in place during healing making piercing while breastfeeding impossible.
Follow all universal precautions and aftercare instructions
Be sure to go to a reputable piercer who follows universal precautions and is a member of the Association of Professional Piercers. Follow all aftercare instructions to prevent infection or rejection.
Remove jewellery before the 6th month of pregnancy
If possible, remove jewellery during pregnancy to prevent possible nipple stimulation and premature contractions. Increased nipple sensitivity and hormonal changes can cause rejection or embedding of jewellery.
Leave jewellery out during breastfeeding
Most women find it easier to remove jewellery during the breastfeeding period rather than take it out and reinsert it with every feeding. Frequent removal can lead to increased risk of infection and tenderness.
Remove jewellery each and every time baby breastfeeds
Leaving jewellery in place can lead to latch problems, damage to baby’s mouth, increased risk of infection or choking. Many women insert a ‘taper’ between feedings to keep the piercing open. If you must keep jewellery in place, use a PTFE barbell and tighten the ends before each and every breastfeeding session.
Watch baby’s weight gain
Be sure that your baby’s weigh gain is normal as well as number of poops and pees. Milk supply problems can be due to obstructed or damaged ducts, or excess leakage from piercing holes.
If you have any problems with breastfeeding be sure to contact your HCP or IBCLC without delay. It is very important to mention any nipple piercings, even if the holes have closed.
©2009-2014 Robyn Roche-Paull, RN, BSN, IBCLC This information is general and should not serve as a substitute for the advice of a health care provider