Some mums can breastfeed and some mums need extra help.
If you've had your nipple(s) pierced, or you are thinking about it, you may wonder if this will affect breastfeeding now or in the future.
There hasn’t been a lot of research into this nor of how to manage breastfeeding when you have a nipple piercing. However, there are a few things to think about.
Effect on milk supply
It’s possible that nipple piercings may lead to a reduced milk supply. If the piercing damages a milk duct, it may be more difficult for milk to be taken out of that part of your breast. Milk is made on a supply equals demand basis so milk supply may fall as a result.
Problems with nipple jewellery
A baby may have difficulty attaching. They may slurp, gag or come on and off the breast. Milk may leak from the baby’s mouth and their sucking may not be effective. If the nipple jewellery is removed, these problems will usually stop.
In the early days, jewellery can be dangerous. The jewellery used is usually wider than the nipple itself to allow for swelling after piercing. There would be quite a large amount of metal in a baby's small mouth, which could cause injury.
Choking is also a potential hazard for baby if jewellery is kept in. As the baby sucks, the jewellery could become loose and get stuck in the baby’s throat. The baby's gums, tongue and/or palate could be hurt by the jewellery.
Some women choose to remove their jewellery for each feed. If you take the jewellery off before feeds, it's important to put it back in immediately afterwards. The hole could begin to close over in as little as 3 hours because breastmilk has healing properties.
Some women can still breastfeed
There are also many stories of mothers who have had nipple piercing(s) done and who have no problems at all with breastfeeding. If you have a nipple piercing, you may be able to breastfeed successfully as long as:
The piercing was done professionally and hygienically using sterile needles rather than a gun.
Any infection that happened after the piercing was minor and caused no internal, long-term tissue damage.
Your baby can get used to the jewellery staying during feeds, or you are willing to remove it before and after feeds. Alternatively, you may choose to remove the jewellery for the time you are breastfeeding and be re-pierced later.
You only wear very high-quality surgical stainless steel or gold jewellery to prevent damage to your baby's mouth (if you choose to leave jewellery in during feeds).
The risks that apply to body piercing in general (eg the risk of infection) also apply to nipple piercing, so think about these. You can contact your local health department to ask about laws and regulations to do with the safety and hygiene of nipple piercing.
If you need further help
If you've had a nipple pierced and you're concerned about its effect on breastfeeding, contact an ABA breastfeeding counsellor, doctor or lactation consultant.