Next time you do a breast self-exam, you may want to check if you have inverted nipples—if you don’t already know.
Lightly pinch the area around the areola…does the nipple protrude or indent? If it goes in, you have an inverted nipple. These are also known as mammary duct ectasia.
What are inverted nipples, exactly? Do a lot of women have them? Can they impact your life, especially when it comes to breastfeeding? We broke down a few facts about inverted nipples.
Inverted nipples—or an inverted nipple–pulls in when stimulated instead of sticking out. Some can be stimulated and protrude at different times. When inverted, they have a dimpled appearance. Flat nipples are similar, but they are mostly just flat against the areola.
Your breast is the culprit.
Fully inverted nipples are caused by tissue in the breast. When it is attached to the skin inside the nipple tightly, it pulls the nipple into the chest.
They’re pretty common.
Dr. David Greuner, a New York City surgeon and doctor, said about 10 to 20 percent of women have them. “Inverted nipples may not look ‘normal’ to you, but they’re actually incredibly common,” he said.
Inverted nipples are in your genes.
Greuner said that having inverted nipples can be genetic.
Breastfeeding is possible, but tough.
One of the most common questions people have pertaining to inverted nipples is whether or not women can breastfeed if they have one inverted nipple or if both nipples are inverted. This makes sense because nipples play a big role in breastfeeding.
Because an inverted nipple does not stick out, it can be tough for some infants to latch on. Many women find they can use a breast pump to pull the nipples out prior to breastfeeding, and some do it manually prior to feeding.
“They can occasionally make breastfeeding difficult, but other than that it should not cause any other issues. It is possible to nurse with an inverted nipple,” Greuner said.
Leigh Anne O’Connor, a lactation consultant from New York City, said she has worked with many women with inverted nipples. She notes that an inverted nipple can be everted manually or with a pump. There are also a couple of gadgets on the market that pull them out.
“Often, once the baby is latched the nipple will stay out for the feeding,” she added. “In some cases breastfeeding helps to keep the nipples everted permanently though typically they invert again after weaning.”