Massage for treating a firm nipple root

How do I soften my nipple root?

Nipple root massage is used to decrease the swelling of the nipple root and make the muscles of the areola relax. It is a simple and effective treatment. Using your pointer (index) finger and thumb, grasp the nipple root over the areola, right behind the nipple bottom. Roll the root between your finger and thumb, changing positions on the areola periodically, until the root is soft and easy to hold. Use nipple root massage before each feed until the pinch test is normal without it. If massage does not soften the nipple root, the firmness may be caused by something else, such as inverted nipples, mastitis, an abscess, or breast cancer.

B) How to massage a nipple root

Nipple root massage is simple and effective. The technique is similar to that of the pinch test, but in nipple root massage, the pointer (index) finger and thumb massage the root instead of just feeling it.

  1. As with the pinch test, use your pointer finger and thumb to grasp the nipple root over the areola, right behind the nipple bottom.
  2. Roll the nipple root between your pointer finger and thumb.
  3. Change the position on the areola periodically.
  4. Keep massaging until the root is soft and easy to hold.
  5. The whole process typically takes a minute or so.
  6. Once the pinch test is normal:
    1. Use the sandwich technique and a compatible breastfeeding hold to position the baby and breastfeed or;
    2. Use the laid-back hold to breastfeed.
  7. Use nipple root massage before each feed until the pinch test is normal without it.

Mothers can also add in a little manual expression to soften the nipple root if needed.

C) Reverse pressure softening

An alternative to nipple root massage is reverse pressure softening. This involves pressing firmly on the nipple root with several fingers from both hands until the root feels softer. This usually takes several minutes. We have generally found that nipple root massage is quicker and more effective.

The two can be combined. Mothers with very tender nipples and breasts may find reverse pressure softening less painful and can start with this before using nipple root massage.