Can You Breastfeed With Pierced Nipples?

While you can breastfeed with pierced nipples, there are a few things you'll want to consider. Read on to learn more, including what two piercing experts and a lactation consultant have to say.

Mother breastfeeding her baby

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If you are a chest- or breastfeeding parent with nipples piercings, or if you are a pregnant or breastfeeding parent who's considering getting a nipple piercing, you likely have several questions. You might want to know if your nipple piercing will affect your ability to breastfeed or impact your milk supply. You might be unsure if you can get a nipple piercing while you're expecting or nursing too.

We connected with piercing experts as well as lactation experts to answer parents' most common questions about breastfeeding with pierced nipples, including whether it's safe to breastfeed if your nipples are pierced, how breastfeeding may be affected, and whether it's okay to get a nipple piercing while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Can You Breastfeed With Nipple Piercings?

Kimberleigh Weiss-Lewit, IBCLC, a lactation consultant in private practice, says that yes, you can definitely breastfeed if you already have a nipple piercing. The only caveat? You'll need to remove the piercing before latching on your baby. "Nursing with pierced nipples can be safe as long as you remove the jewelry before breastfeeding and use good hygiene if you are placing it back in between nursing sessions," Weiss-Lewit explains.

According to LactMed, a database from the National Library of Medicine, there hasn't been a ton of research about this topic. Still, breastfeeding with a nipple piercing, "seems to not interfere with lactation in most cases." LactMed reiterates the fact that aspiration and choking is one theoretical concern, but can be mitigated by removal of nipple jewelry before nursing. At the same, this complication has never been reported, LactMed notes.

What Are the Risks of Breastfeeding With Pierced Nipples?

Besides the risk of your child ingesting a piercing, the other main risk to breastfeeding with pierced nipples is the chance of passing an infection onto your child. However, this is more likely to happen if you have a recent nipple piercing and the area is not completely healed. "Especially newer nipple piercings are at risk of infection—if this happens, connect with your provider right away to keep you and your baby safe," Weiss-Lewit advises. Signs of an infection in the nipple after piercing may include swelling, tenderness, pus or discharge, and rash.

Elayne Angel, a member of the Association of Professional Piercers and author of The Piercing Bible—The Definitive Guide to Safe Piercing, agrees that a recent piercing is more likely to cause an infection that could be harmful to your baby. "Both trauma and oral contact must be avoided when healing a nipple (or any other) piercing," she says. She says it takes at least three months for the tissue to normalize after a piercing. According to LactMed, most nipples will be fully healed about 6 to 12 months after a nipple piercing.

Do Nipple Piercings Affect Your Ability to Breastfeed?

"The vast majority of people with pierced nipples can breastfeed without any issues… except maybe some milk coming out of the extra holes in your nipples!" says Weiss-Lewit. However, she says, depending on the placement of your piercing, there may be nerve damage or scar tissue. This can affect aspects of breastfeeding such as letdown, which is a reflex that occurs after suckling and which causes your milk to start flowing. According to a 2018 study published in Dermatology Online Journal, nipple piercings have the potential to inhibit the letdown reflex.

As LactMed notes, some studies have found that the presence of a nipple piercing may increase your risk of mastitis, a breast infection that can cause soreness and inflammation of the breast as well as flu-like symptoms. Nipple piercing has also been linked to blockage in the ducts and leaking of milk out of the piercing area.

Again, these complications are rare, especially if your nipple piercing is well healed. "If you are concerned about milk supply or let down, please reach out to a lactation consultant," Weiss-Lewit reminds.

Is It Safe to Get Nipple Piercings During Pregnancy or While Breastfeeding?

The truth is, there are pretty much no scenarios where it would be recommended to get a new nipple piercing while you are breastfeeding or pregnant. As James Weber, an Association of Professional Piercers member and founder of Infinite Body Piercing in Philadelphia and Baltimore notes, the Association of Professional Piercers (APP) strongly advises against both practices.

When it comes to pregnancy, the APP explains that your immune response is lowered during pregnancy, making piercings less likely to heal well; older piercings can even act up during pregnancy. Additionally, as Weber describes, you often have to remove any jewelry during a hospital birth. "This means a fresh piercing would have a good chance of being removed too early, resulting in the piercing healing over," he says.

As for breastfeeding, the APP actually doesn't recommend against all piercings during breastfeeding, provided they happen three months after giving birth. But nipple piercings are an exception. They recommend waiting until about three months after you have finished breastfeeding to get a nipple piercing. Angel agrees with this advice. "It is obviously necessary to wait until breastfeeding is over before piercing the nipples," she says.

But healing skin and infection risk aren't the only reasons to wait. "Piercings can be difficult to heal while breastfeeding simply because you have a child crawling over you constantly," Weber says. "Newborns often find dangly and shiny objects very appealing, and trying to keep fresh piercings (like ear and nose jewelry) out of the reach of curious little fingers can be tough while feeding."

The Bottom Line

The good news is that if you have an older nipple piercing that is well healed, it's unlikely that your breastfeeding experience will be negatively impacted—although you definitely want to remember to remove your piercing each time you latch your little love bug onto the breast! Unfortunately, you can't get a new nipple piercing while you're breastfeeding, but other body piercings should be fine, especially if you are over three months postpartum.

If you have further questions about breastfeeding with pierced nipples, please reach out to an OB-GYN, midwife, or lactation consultant.

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