When a woman, who has had her nipple(s) pierced, has a baby, often the question arises about how this will affect breastfeeding.
There has been limited research into how nipple piercing may affect breastfeeding. However, a small study of three breastfeeding mothers who had nipple piercings provided some evidence that nipple piercing may lead to a reduced milk supply. It is thought that this is because a nipple piercing may reduce how well breastmilk can be removed from a breast. Since breastmilk production works on a supply equals demand basis, this may lead to a reduced milk supply.1
Anecdotally, lactation consultants have observed breastfeeding problems in mothers who keep their nipple jewellery on while breastfeeding. These problems include poor attachment, baby frequently coming on and off the breast, slurping, gagging and milk leaking from the baby's mouth. Once the nipple jewellery is removed, these problems were observed to stop.2
On the other hand, there are also many anecdotal reports by breastfeeding mothers who have had nipple piercing(s) done and who encounter no problems at all with breastfeeding.3
Choking is a potential hazard for the baby whose mother keeps her nipple jewellery on for breastfeeding. This is because, as the baby sucks, the jewellery could become loose and lodge in the baby’s throat. The baby's gums, tongue and/or palate may potentially be injured by the jewellery.
The risks that apply to body piercing in general also apply to nipple piercing and need to be thought about by anyone wanting to get their nipple(s) pierced (eg the risk of infection). You should contact your local health department to inquire about laws and regulations to do with the safety and hygiene of nipple piercing.
For further information
Any mother who has had her nipple pierced and is concerned about its impact on breastfeeding can contact an Australian Breastfeeding Association breastfeeding counsellor, a medical adviser or lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding: breast and nipple care
Breastfeeding: Breast and Nipple Care tells you what to expect as your breasts change during pregnancy and briefly covers how breastfeeding works.
- 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.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association March 2012
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care providers.