Breastfeeding With Pierced Nipples: Is It Safe For Me and My Baby?

Pierced nipples aren’t just for the young and rebellious. They’ve become a popular form of bodily empowerment for women of all ages and demographics, including soon-to-be mothers.

That’s right, you can totally rock a nipple piercing and be a doting mother to the newest addition to your family.

But you might be wondering how to make it all work with breastfeeding. You might even be wondering if you’ll be able to breastfeed at all.

Relax – We’ve got all your major questions on the topic covered right here.

Can You Breastfeed With A Nipple Piercing?

You certainly can.

Lots of women who have pierced nipples, or who used to have pierced nipples, breastfeed their children. Sure, it may be a little more involved, as we’ll explore in this article, but it can be done.

“Says who?” your skeptical mind may ask. The professionals, that’s who! Lots of different health groups, breastfeeding organizations and lactation consultants say so.

One thing to remember: When it comes to breastfeeding, every woman’s experience is different.

Some mothers find it easy, others find it difficult. Many different factors will impact your ability to breastfeed – having a nipple piercing is only one of them.

Will The Nipple Piercing Harm The Baby?

Not if you take the right safety precautions.

1) The Importance Of Removing Nipple Jewelry Before Nursing

Nipple jewelry can pose a choking hazard, as there is the risk that baby could swallow it. Securing it tightly isn’t enough. There’s always the threat that your baby’s suckling could dislodge the jewelry without you knowing.

According to midwife, Emma Dufficy, nipple jewelry can also cause damage to a baby’s gums, tongue or palate. Not to mention, the jewelry could be carrying bacteria that you don’t want transferred to your newborn.

But rest easy, because there’s a simple solution.

Simply remove your nipple jewelry before breastfeeding. In fact, that appears to be the common advice offered by most professionals.

Right, Baby Is Safe, But What About Proper Nourishment?

The truth is, not many evidence-based studies have been recorded, so there isn’t a ton of conclusive research on the topic. But, we do know that women with pierced nipples successfully breastfeed their children every day.

How? Go to any online forum on the topic and you’ll see loads of comments from women with nipple piercings who have breastfed happy, healthy babies.

But it’s handy to be aware of any possible complications, even if the risks are small.

From the limited research available, here’s what we know:

1) Impact On Milk Supply

According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, there’s evidence that nipple piercings can cause a reduced milk supply.

The idea here is that the piercing could make it harder for the baby to remove milk from the breast, likely due to scar tissue closing off some of the milk ducts or nipple pores. Since milk supply is based on milk removal, the body would eventually make less, leading to an overall reduction in supply.

But don’t freak out, because they make it clear that this information is based off a study of only three breastfeeding mothers. They also mention that there are many anecdotal reports of women with nipple piercings who experience no problems at all.

So while there may be a link between nipple piercings and a reduced milk supply, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen to you. It’s just something you need to be aware of and watch out for.

2) Potential Latching Issues

Nipple jewelry can make it hard for baby to latch onto the nipple.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association write that problems can also include ‘baby frequently coming on and off the breast, slurping, gagging and milk leaking from the baby’s mouth.’

Note from Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC: “This can happen if the piercing site has created a large opening – like a supersized nipple pore – which allows more milk to flow that would be typical if the nipple hadn’t been pierced.”

3) Blocked Milk Ducts

There is speculation that some piercings can cause blocked milk ducts due to scar tissue keeping the milk from flowing freely from all milk ducts.

Science writer, Joe Rojas-Burke, wrote an article in The Oregonian about the results of a study that explored this problem.

Researchers concluded that piercings may have been the cause of issues with a few women’s milk ducts – although once again, it was a very small study.

Many lactation consultants agree that the risks are small, and lots of women breastfeed with piercings just fine.

With this in mind, don’t be alarmed, just be informed and watch for any warning signs:

  • Sore, engorged breasts
  • Lumps on your breast
  • Breasts that look red and inflamed

How Does Scar Tissue Impact Breastfeeding?

Scar tissue caused by a nipple piercing will be different for everyone. So the truth is, there’s no firm answer on how it will affect your breastfeeding.

There is the possibility that scarring on the nipple will interfere with the flow of milk, and it does happen to some women. This can obviously reduce the amount of milk going to your baby and is definitely worth monitoring.

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Robyn Roche-Paull, points out that nipples have between eight to twelve pores. She suggests it is unlikely then that a piercing that has properly healed will block all of them.

But it’s better to err on the side of caution. If you have scarring and you’re worried about your baby’s milk intake, you can always visit a lactation consultant for tips and advice.

Will It Hurt To Breastfeed With Pierced Nipples?

According to the La Leche League, some women have reported nipple pain in a previously pierced nipple. But once again, everybody is different and lots of women breastfeed pain-free with nipple piercings.

With this in mind, it’s a bit difficult to predict what your own experience will be.

It’s also important to remember that even without any piercings, women may feel discomfort or pain when breastfeeding, particularly in those early days when your milk is coming in and your breasts are engorged.

Pain, however, isn’t normal. Work with a lactation consultant to help you get to pain-free feedings, whether from the piercing or something else.

Will Milk Leak Out Of The Piercing?

Every woman is different, but yes, milk or colostrum may leak out of the holes of the piercing.

For example, in this Youtube video, one mother discusses how this happened to her – also worth a watch for a firsthand understanding of what it’s like to breastfeed with a piercing.

Is it the end of the world? Nope. No need to cry over spilled milk, right? As long as baby is latched properly and getting enough milk, it shouldn’t be a major issue.

Just be aware that if you’ve had a piercing in the past but haven’t worn jewelry for years, you may still get a sneaky leak. Sometimes the hole doesn’t properly heal over.

Can You Still Express And Pump Milk?

Lots of women with nipple piercings still express and pump milk.

If you’re having difficulties, remember that it might not be the piercing that’s causing the problem. There could be any number of reasons affecting the process.

Should You Just Remove Jewelry Until Baby Is Weaned?

As mentioned earlier, you should definitely play it safe and remove the jewelry for breastfeeding. But whether you keep it out for good or put it back in after each nursing session is really up to you.

There are arguments for and against. Let’s take a closer look:

1) Why You Might Leave It Out

Anne Smith, an International Certified Board Lactation Consultant, suggests removing the jewelry completely in those first few weeks of breastfeeding.

This is a good option for some women as it’s less hassle when you’re feeding very frequently. And it takes the pressure off breasts that may be tender and sore.

You may choose to replace the jewelry once a day in those first few weeks, just to try to keep the holes open. Then once the milk supply has come in and baby is feeding less often, you can switch to wearing the jewelry more often.

2) Why You Might Leave It In

If you do decide to leave your jewelry out, even for a few feedings, be aware that the hole may shrink, making it hard to reinsert your jewelry.

Or it may close up completely and require re-piercing in the future. This may depend on how long it’s been since your nipples were pierced, as more recent piercings will close more quickly than older piercings.

If you’re not keen on the above, you’ll need to be vigilant about putting your jewelry back in when you’re not nursing your baby.

Which brings us to our next question…

What’s The Best Type Of Jewelry To Wear In Between Breastfeeding Sessions?

The consensus is usually to wear comfortable, easy-to-remove jewelry.

It’s best not to wear anything too tight – your nipples will likely be very sensitive, especially in those first few weeks when the milk comes in. If it’s new jewelry, it may also be smart to sterilize it first, as an extra safety precaution for your baby.

Don’t be surprised if it’s a tad uncomfortable when you’re putting in your jewelry. Be gentle and consider ways to make it easier, like using a water-based lubricant.

How Should You Care For The Piercing When Breastfeeding?

  • Keep it clean.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Take out the jewelry if it’s too painful.
  • Monitor closely for signs of infection.

If The Hole Closes, Can You Get It Re-Pierced Before Baby Is Weaned?

If your baby is still breastfeeding, this isn’t recommended. And actually, you’d be hard-pressed finding a piercer who would be willing to do it!

Anyway, if the hole has closed because of breastfeeding…you’d likely run into the same problems with your new piercing. So you’d be back at square one.

Thinking Of Getting Your First Ever Nipple Piercing While Breastfeeding?

Woah, let’s put on the brakes for a moment.

You’ve just spent nine months growing a tiny human being and now your body is literally the thing keeping them alive. You’re a super-mom but you don’t have super-powers.

On average, nipple piercings can take six to twelve months to heal. They also require a fair bit of cleaning and care to keep them free of infection. Saliva really shouldn’t touch the piercing site while it’s still healing, and the jewelry can’t be removed for a few months.

Save any body piercing aspirations for further down the track.

Followed All The Advice, But Still Having Trouble Breastfeeding?

First off, congratulations for trying! That’s all you can do. But do know that plenty of women have varying degrees of success when it comes to breastfeeding – with or without piercings.

Although it may feel isolating, you’re not alone.

So, what do you do?

1) Consult A Breastfeeding Professional

Sometimes it can be helpful to speak with a lactation consultant. They can offer tips and help you refine your technique. They’ll also be able to tell if the troubles you’re having are related to the piercing or a different reason altogether.

2) Get Some Advice From An Experienced Body Piercer

If the piercing itself is worrying you, it’d probably be beneficial to speak with a body piercer. They may be able to provide more personalized advice on keeping it clean and the best types of jewelry for your circumstances.

3) Most Importantly – Keep Your Baby Nourished And Healthy

If breastfeeding isn’t working, you may need to consider using formula or supplementing with pumped breast milk. No matter what, baby’s health should always come first, and that means doing whatever is necessary.

If breastfeeding is working but you’re still worried that bub isn’t getting enough milk, speak with a medical professional. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

You’ve Got This!

With or without body piercings, breastfeeding (especially for the first time) may not be easy.

But consider this: whether you got your nipples pierced a year ago, or ten years ago, there’s one thing we already know about you – you’re a bold, empowered lady who braved the needle and isn’t afraid of a challenge.

With the right precautions and an understanding of potential complications, you can breastfeed your baby with pierced nipples.

Or more specifically, just like any woman with or without body piercings, you can give it your best shot.

Got any of your own tips or experiences breastfeeding with pierced nipples? Let’s hear them!

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Medically Reviewed By: Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC

Medically Reviewed By: Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC is a board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor. She has taught classes ranging from healthy pregnancy, to childbirth preparation, to parenting, and more.

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