It’s not something we ladies chat about a lot, but it’s not something to be ashamed of either.
Inverted nipples can be temporary or permanent and affect more women than you may think.
Sometimes both nipples are inverted, sometimes one, there are even different ‘grades’ of nipple inversion. And don’t even get me started on all the treatments available!
What are Inverted Nipples
An inverted nipple (sometimes called an invaginated nipple) is a condition where the nipple is retracted into the breast, rather than pointing outwards. In some cases, the nipple can be manually stimulated and then temporarily protrudes, but a lot of cases see the inversion remains, regardless of any kind of manipulation. Both women and men can have inverted nipples, but it usually affects women more directly, as we use ours for a more practical purpose in breastfeeding and associate a lot of our femininity with our breasts and nipples.
Causes of Inverted Nipples
The most common causes for nipple inversion include:
- Congenital abnormaility
- Trauma to the nipple, including surgery, scars inflicted by an accident or fat necrosis (fatty, non-cancerous lump)
- Breast sagging or drooping
- Breast cancer, Pagets disease (cancer of the nipple/areola) and Inflammatory Breast Cancer
- Breast infections, including mastitis, abscess and mammary duct blockage
- Genetic variations
- Gynecomastia (male breast enlargement)
- Sudden and major weight loss
Around 10-20% of women are born with inverted nipples that do not correct themselves in early childhood or puberty, usually caused by short ducts or wide areola muscles.
Inverted Nipple Grading System
As mentioned, inverted nipples are categorised in severity by a grading system. There are 3 grades of inverted nipples, defined on how easily the nipple can be protracted, the presence of fibrosis (scarring) in the breast and damage of the milk ducts.
Inverted Nipple Grade 1
Nipples can easily be pulled out, by simply placing finger pressure around the nipple on the areola. This nipple very rarely retracts and may even pop up without manipulation (think the frozen food section at Coles, bit nipply!). The milk ducts are not usually affected and breastfeeding is possible.
Inverted Nipple Grade 2
It is when nipples can be pulled out, but retract after pressure is released. Breastfeeding is possible, but is usually difficult or even impossible.
Inverted Nipple Grade 3
Severely inverted and retracted nipples are classed as this. This is the condition which nipples cannot be pulled out physically and usually need some kind of surgical intervention. Milk ducts are usually constricted and breastfeeding is impossible. Rashes, infections and issues with nipple hygiene are usually a big problem for women with grade 3 inverted nipples.
Breastfeeding with Inverted Nipples
Women with inverted nipples may find that as their breasts and nipples increase in size during pregnancy and breastfeeding, their nipples may ‘come out’ temporarily or permanently. Most new mothers with inverted nipples are able to breastfeed, but first time mums usually find the experience very painful as they persevere, somewhat more than their non-inverted first timer friends! When a baby breastfeeds correctly, they latch onto the areola, not the nipple, so most infants are able to ‘suck out’ an inverted nipple, but if you find you are struggling, the use of a breast pump or other suction device can help to draw out the nipple before feeding. Some women also find that using a nipple shield can help when breastfeeding with inverted nipples.
The Repealing Solution – Inverted Nipples Treatment
Inverted Nipples Treatment 1: Piercing
Believe it or not, the most effective method to treat inverted nipples is piercing! This method is used on most cases, as it is not an invasive surgery, but nipples need to be able to be temporarily protracted. The piercing prevents the nipple from retracting back.
Inverted Nipples Treatment 2: Plastic Surgery
Plastic surgery is another method of correcting inverted nipples, but it can permanently destroy the women’s capacity to breastfeed.
Inverted Nipples Treatment 3: Sex Toys
Another, more ‘home-grown’ remedy is the regular stimulation of the nipples to a protruded state to gradually loosen the nipple tissue. Sex toys proved a second purpose here, with suction cups and clamps allowing the nipple to stay in a protracted state for longer!
As with any part of your body, everyone is different and inverted nipples are really just another example of how our bodies can take on their own unique traits. The main thing to remember is that inverted nipples don’t really cause any medical concerns, and only really pose issues when women want to breastfeed their babies, or in cosmetic circumstances.