Can I Nurse If I've Had Nipple Rings?

QUESTION

Dear Lactation Consultant,
I'm wondering if you can tell me if I can still breastfeed after I had nipple rings? I took them out a long time ago (2 years) but they seemed to leave permanent holes. I'm scared they might have caused damage, where no milk will come out or too much milk. Thanks for your time.

Leeann

ANSWER

Hi Leeann,
There is no evidence that pierced nipples will affect your ability to breastfeed. Your breasts will still produce adequate milk for your baby, and unless your body rejected the piercing right after you had it done, there is no reason to anticipate any additional problems with infection.

It is unlikely that the holes that are left in your nipple will cause a problem. Each nipple has 15-20 tiny nipple pores that the milk comes out of, so even if some were damaged, there should be plenty left for nursing. Breast surgery often damages the milk ducts inside the breast, and this can definitely create problems. The situation with nipple piercing is very different.

Pierced nipples may be more sensitive than unpierced nipples, so you may experience a little more soreness than most nursing mothers. Other than that, I wouldn't expect you to have any significant problems.

-- Anne, IBCLC

Kathleen Tackett

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and Research Associate Professor of Psychology specializing in women's health at the Family Research Lab, University of New Hampshire. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association in both the Divisions of Health Psychology and Trauma Psychology. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is a La Leche League leader, chair of the New Hampshire Breastfeeding Taskforce, and the Area Coordinator of Leaders for La Leche League of Maine and New Hampshire.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 140 journal articles, book chapters and other publications, and author or editor of 15 books including The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood (2005, Hale Publications), Depression in New Mothers (2005, Haworth), and Breastfeeding Made Simple, co-authored with Nancy Mohrbacher (2005, New Harbinger). She is on the editorial boards of the journals Child Abuse and Neglect, Journal of Child Sexual Abuse and the Journal of Human Lactation, and regularly reviews for 27 other journals in the fields of trauma, women's health, interpersonal violence, depression, and child development. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is the "Ask a Lactation Consultant" columnist on Pregnancy.org and serves on the Board of Directors of Attachment Parenting International.

Dr. Kendall-Tackett received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in psychology from California State University, Chico, and a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in social and developmental psychology. She has won several awards including the Outstanding Research Study Award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and was named 2003 Distinguished Alumna, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, California State University, Chico.