Previously pierced nipples

Did piercing my nipples affect my milk supply?

Most mothers who have had one or both nipples pierced can breastfeed without problems, our clinic has found. In some women, piercing damages the ducts that carry milk to the nipple which keeps the baby from getting enough milk and may cause plugged ducts. It can leave a scar in the pierced area, leading to a thick and lumpy nipple root and make it difficult for the baby to latch. 

A) Describing nipple piercing

When a nipple is pierced to hold jewelry, the piercing generally goes through a part of the nipple or the nipple root. To allow the maximum time for the nipple to heal, piercing jewelry should be taken out at the start of pregnancy. Breastfeeding with piercing jewelry can pose a risk to the baby; it should be removed before breastfeeding.

Once removed, piercings generally do not affect nipple sensitivity and do not increase nipple pain while breastfeeding.

B) Effect of piercing on breastfeeding

Our clinic has found that most mothers who have had one or both nipples pierced can breastfeed without problems. We estimate that one in ten mothers have major problems.

Once removed, piercings generally do not generally affect nipple sensitivity and do not increase nipple pain while breastfeeding. 

1) Poor breast emptying

A piercing may cut or scar the milk ducts, which carry milk from the milk tissue in the breast to the openings in the nipple.

The inability of the milk to leave the breast can result in the baby not taking in enough milk during the first weeks after birth and in the long term. The mother may also develop plugged ducts (Garbin 2009).

2) Damage of the nipple root

Piercing may scar the nipple root, making it less able to stretch. This abnormality, which can cause latching problems, may be identified by a pinch test before the baby is born. Some mothers have scarring in the nipple that leaves a small, hard lump. This too can make it hard for the baby to latch.

3) Effect of complications

The risk of damage to the milk ducts and scarring increases if the piercings:

  • Resulted in infection.
  • Caused an allergic reaction.
  • Tore the piercing tract when accidentally ripped out.

 4) Leaking from the piercing holes

Old piercings often leak small amounts of milk. This does not affect the amount of milk the baby gets, but it can be bothersome and will require the use of breast pads.

References

Garbin CP, Deacon JP, Rowan MK, et al. Association of nipple piercing with abnormal milk production and breastfeeding. JAMA. 2009 Jun 24;301(24):2550-1