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Whether you had your nipples pierced long before breastfeeding was on your radar, or you’re interested in piercing them now, there are some safety considerations to be aware of when it comes to lactation and nipple jewelry.
Is It Even Possible to Breastfeed With Pierced Nipples?
Yes, you can breastfeed with nipple piercings, but there are dangers to be aware of. Logistically, piercing holes may make latching more difficult for your baby, and these extra holes could lead to a faster, messier milk flow that’s more difficult for your little one to manage.
… And Is It Safe?
Here’s the thing: piercings can get infected… and when your piercing holes are exposed to the germs in your baby’s mouth and the bacteria in your milk, your infection risk goes up. Lactating parents with nipple piercings are more prone to mastitis and, in rare cases, scarring or even nerve damage that could disrupt your milk supply and flow.
Can You Get a Nipple Piercing While Breastfeeding?
Most reputable piercers will not knowingly pierce a pregnant or lactating client’s nipples due to the infection risk. Nipple piercings can take up one full year to heal completely, and during that time, they’re 20% more likely to get infected. Plus, pregnancy lowers your immune system—as does sleep deprivation—meaning prenatal and postnatal, your body could have a tougher time fighting off infection. You’re much better off waiting to get nipple jewelry until you’re completely finished with breastfeeding: you’ll be less vulnerable to infection and your piercings will heal faster.
What If You Already Have a Nipple Piercing?
Pierced parents need to take extra precaution. First, always remove your jewelry before you breastfeed. Nipple jewelry is a choking hazard for your nursing baby. Suction from your baby’s mouth could dislodge your ring or stud and cause a serious problem. And even if your jewelry stays put, it could damage your baby’s mouth tissue. Your safest bet is to remove your jewelry altogether for the first several months with your baby.
Although it’s not recommended, if you do choose to reinsert your nipple jewelry after each breastfeeding session, it’s extremely important to keep everything clean. Wash your hands with soap and water before removing and reinserting your jewelry, sterilize your ring or stud, and use soap and water to wash the area around your piercing to remove dead skin cells and old discharge. If you have questions about this process, call your doctor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to make sure you have a hygiene strategy in place that works for you and your baby.
Pierced parents may also want to pump or hand express for a minute or two to clear out any debris before feeding your baby. And remember that the more holes you have around your nipples, the faster your milk will flow out. If it seems like too much for your baby to handle, try leaning back or lying on your side to slow things down.
The bottom line is: if you’re not pierced yet, it’s best to wait until after your baby is finished breastfeeding. But if are pierced, don’t fret. Your IBCLC can help you determine the safest, most effective hygiene procedure and nursing position for you and your baby.