Breastfeeding is not nipple feeding, however, some types of nipples may make it a little bit difficult for a baby to latch for the first time. With patience and practice, it gets easier and before you know it, you and your baby are masters of latching.
Your baby has a good latch when a significant portion of the breast is in their mouth, gums are past the nipple and have latched on to the areola. There should not be a pinching sensation, sounds heard during sucking and after breastfeeding the nipple should be elongated but not pinched.
Is my nipple flat or inverted?
To tell whether or not you have a flat or inverted nipple you need to do a ‘pinch test’. Hold your areola (the dark part of the breast) with your two fingers – about 1 – 2cm from the nipple and gently pinch it. If the nipple does not become erect then it is said to be flat, if it retracts then it is considered to be inverted.
What next if you have just found you have flat or inverted nipples?
It is still debatable whether or not to screen and treat pregnant ladies for flat nipples. But guess what, you can do a pinch test at any point! They are your nipples anyway. Now in case you have flat or inverted nipples, the following may be helpful;
1. Breast Shells
These are made of plastic and curved like shells with a hole at the centre worn inside the bra. The nipple is to protrude through the hole as the plastic exerts pressure on the areola. These may be worn during pregnancy or a few minutes before breastfeeding to draw out the nipple.
2. Modified Syringe
These are also made from plastic with an open on one end where the nipple is placed and a plunger on the other end. The nipple is placed on the open end and the plunger creates a negative pressure pulling the nipple out.
3. Nipple Stimulation before feeds
Hold your nipple and roll it between your two fingers for 2 minutes then immediately apply a cold cloth or ice to erect it. Don’t overdo it as it may make interfere with the letdown reflex.
4. Nipple Shield
This is made of silicone which is thin and worn over your nipple. It has holes on the tip to allow milk to flow to the baby while breastfeeding. As the baby suckles the nipple is pulled out. It should only be used to stimulate the nipple in the first few days of breastfeeding if other strategies have failed.
Breastfeeding is a skill learnt by both the mother and the baby. It takes patience and a calm mind to master it. No mother should feel inadequate because they are having challenges with breastfeeding in the first few days. Eventually, everyone will master breastfeeding if they are patient a lil’ longer.