Written by Lynn Loheide and Edited by Margo Dellaquila
It’s often wondered if nipple piercings and breast feeding are compatible. One of our frequently asked questions when it comes to nipple piercing is “Will I still be able to breastfeed later on down the road?” The answer to that question is what will be discussed here.
To begin with, it is possible (and very likely) to still be able to breast feed with nipple piercings, but under certain circumstances, the piercings may inhibit that ability.The nipple itself is made up of not one, but many small openings. These openings are where the milk comes from. They’re connected to multiple milk ducts which all connect to the milk gland. If the pathway between these openings and the ducts gets obstructed (by severe scarring) then there may be a reduction in the amount of milk able to be received from them. If breastfeeding is something you plan on doing, its important to seek a reputable piercer to preform your piercing(s). Nipple piercings require a certain level of knowledge and experience to preform properly. No two people are alike, no two nipples are alike, so it should be understood that your piercing is done in a way that’s suited for your specific anatomy. If the piercing is done incorrectly, there’s an increased risk of heavy scarring which, as mentioned above, can later effect milk flow from that nipple.
Scarring can also occur if you get pierced with/wear jewelry you are sensitive to. Keep in mind that ‘surgical/stainless steel’ does still contain nickel, which for many is an allergen that may cause such scarring. It is ideal to use jewelry that is implant grade and nickel free, like titanium, to help prevent any issue and minimize scarring. Having your piercings done correctly in a clean and safe environment with high quality jewelry will give you the best chance of successful breastfeeding in the future.
We do stress removing any and all jewelry to feed. The small parts that make up the jewelry are considered a choking hazard to your infant. With that being said, a common concern is the piercing(s) closing. With a well healed, unwounded piercing, jewelry removal and reinsertion is typically easy. This means you can either choose to insert and remove jewelry each time you feed, or you can remove jewelry entirely for the duration you are planning to breast feed. If you choose to remove the piercings for the entirety of the baby’s breastfeeding period, there’s the chance the piercing(s) may shrink a bit. Once the baby is weaned this may make jewelry difficult to reinsert at home, but no need to panic! Visit your local reputable piercer to have them assist you in reinserting your jewelry.
Some mothers find it too much of a hassle to insert and remove each feeding, some even find that their nipples are too tender or sore to try, and then others say it was easy and comfortable. Everyone is different, and you will find what option suites your lifestyle and needs the best. Please be aware that if you do have piercings, you may experience leaking from the sites of the piercing and a difference in flow. This is perfectly normal. Your piercings are two larger openings connected to the milk ducts that can be a little messier than the rest because of their size. Nursing pads can help keep you dry if that’s the case. We also have some folks who say their babies prefer the pierced nipple in comparison to the non pierced nipple because of its heavier flow! More flow, more food! So overall, breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, and fully compatible with having piercings. If you have any further questions you can always call or contact us, or speak with a lactation councilor for further advice on your feeding journey.
Garbin CP, Deacon JP, Rowan MK, HartmannPE, Geddes DT 2009, Association of Nipple Piercing With Abnormal Milk Production and Breastfeeding. JAMA 301(24):2550–2551.
Martin J 1999, Nipple Piercing: Is It Compatible with Breastfeeding? LEAVEN 35(3): 64-65. Accessed 16/2/2012 from: http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/lv/lvjunjul99p64.html
Speller E 1998 Pierced Nipples and Breastfeeding. ALCA Galaxy 9(1):12–13.