Can I breastfeed with a nipple piercing? What if I used to have one? Will a nipple piercing affect my milk supply or my baby?
You might not have previously considered breastfeeding at the time you got your nipple pierced. Maybe now you’re thinking about breastfeeding or you’re about to have a baby and wondering if you need to take out the piercing.
When a nipple piercing is placed, it’s important to consider the possible implications it could have for breastfeeding.
The short answer is yes, most people who have had nipple piercings can successfully breastfeed but their breastfeeding experience may look different than they planned. This is because a nipple piercing will affect different nipples in different ways.
Most people who have had nipple piercings can successfully breastfeed but their breastfeeding experience may look different than they planned
The possibility of nerve damage
There is a possibility of nerve damage that could interfere with milk let-down and may cause pain. Your body will still make milk because the breast tissue is healthy but when your nipple is stimulated (by a suckling baby or a pump) the nerves do not tell your brain to let-down milk. This can also interfere with the feedback required to sustain milk production. This means in the first few weeks you might have a strong supply but a times goes on, you may find your supply decreasing. Every body is different. You won’t know how it will affect your body until you start breastfeeding. Overtime and over multiple breastfeeding experiences, sometime the nerves regenerate. They are reports however of some people experiencing nipple pain at the site of the piercing possibly due to nerve damage.
Generally, the longer the amount of time between your piercing and breastfeeding, the better the outcomes.
The possibility of scar tissue
With a nipple piercing, there is a risk of scar tissue that could block some of the ducts. This could affect milk production over time. If your nipple piercing scars shut, it won’t affect your initial ability to make milk but rather how much milk comes out of the nipple. If the milk cannot exit the nipple, there is a higher risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. What happens in these conditions is the milk sits in the ducts and coagulates. It creates a lump or a firm spot. It can quickly become inflamed and lead to an infective condition known as mastitis. With recurrent plugged ducts and an inability to exit the nipple, the milk making cells in that part of the breast may stop producing milk overtime. Your body will adapt to producing all the milk that can be removed. Ultimately, this may affect supply on that side only. Your baby may be fussier on the side with less milk and may prefer the opposite side (if you had just one side pierced). Every body is different. You won’t know how it will affect your body until you start breastfeeding.
Do you have to remove a nipple piercing to breastfeed?
If you do currently have a piercing, it is recommended you remove the jewellery before breastfeeding. The jewellery could rub on the baby’s hard palate (roof of the mouth) and make breastfeeding uncomfortable for them. Not to mention it could damage the soft tissue. In addition, if the jewellery were to come loose, it’s a choking hazard. Removing the jewellery will leave holes that are no longer plugged. It is very common to leak milk from these holes.
The possibility of leaking through the extra holes
When you remove any piercing, a hole is left behind. With a nipple piercing, two holes are left behind in an area where milk exits the breast. It is not uncommon to leak milk through these additional holes. The nipple itself has an average of 9 pores milk exits through. This number varies per person and ranges from 4-18 per nipple. When you remove the nipple piercing, there is now one large hole on each side of the nipple. Depending on the gauge of your piercing the holes may be relatively small or possibly much larger. This means, when your body has a let-down there is a possibility milk will also come out the sides of the nipple. If this happens when you are not breastfeeding (because you heard your baby cry) just wear some breast pads inside your bra. When your baby is breastfeeding, ensure they have a deep latch and are actively swallowing milk. For some babies, the extra milk can be challenging to manage if they don’t have a deep, effective latch. Despite the extra milk leaking through your nipple(s), you shouldn’t see any milk pouring from your baby’s mouth.
Will a nipple piercing affect my milk supply?
It’s unknown if your nipple piercing is going to affect your supply or your breastfeeding experience until you actually begin lactating. It’s important to understand the implications it might have and to have realistic expectations of what it means for breastfeeding. Our bodies are intelligent and amazing and many people can feed a baby on one breast alone. Other times, there is no impact to supply. It’s truly individual. If you’re concerned about what it means for breastfeeding, meet with a lactation consultant during pregnancy to discuss your goals and options. They will also create a plan for you and makes adjustments after you begin breastfeeding.
Last updated March 30th 2021
Garbin, C., Deacon, J., Rowan, M., Hartmann, P., & Geddes, D. (2009). Association of nipple piercing with abnormal milk production and breastfeeding. JAMA, 301(24), 2550-2551.
La Leche League International (LLLI). (n.d). Nipple Piercings. LLLI.org. Retrieved from: https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/nipple-piercings/
Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.