While there has been limited research into the subject, a small study of three women suggests that nipple piercings may reduce the flow of breastmilk. This is because the jewellery acts as an obstruction and results in the fluid not being able to be removed as easily. In turn, this may affect how much is produced as research shows breastmilk works by a method of ‘demand and supply’ rather than ‘supply and demand.’ Meaning the body will only produce enough milk to meet the rate of consumption. This can also occur if the piercing cuts into the milk ducts, causing a 'plug' in that spot.
According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, there are other problems that may arise from breastfeeding with nipple piercings. These include poor attachment, the baby frequently coming on and off the breast, slurping, gagging, milk leaking from the baby’s mouth and injury to the gums, tongue and or palate. Chocking is also a potential hazard, as the jewellery could come loose and lodge in the baby’s throat while sucking.
Despite these risks, many breastfeeding mothers with nipple piercings have nursed successfully.
What if it gets infected?
If your piercing has caused an infected nipple in the past, it may lead to additional issues when breastfeeding. Infections commonly leave behind scars, which, if formed over the holes in the nipples or milk ducts, can inhibit the flow of breastmilk and may affect your ability to breastfeed in the future.
Does it matter what type of jewellery you have?
All piercers should ensure proper placement of the jewellery to prevent embedding or rejection. The size and type of jewellery is also important: allergies to certain metals in the ring or bar of the nipple piercing are reasonably common. Gold that is nickel free, Platinum, Niobium or surgical Stainless steel are the safest metals to use.
- It’s vital to practise good hygiene when you have a nipple piercing. Wash your hands before removing and reinserting your jewellery and keep it clean to prevent any infection from developing.
- If milk leaks out of the hole of the piercing, you can use a breast pad or nursing pad in your bra to help soak up the excess milk.
- In some cases, piercings may change the sensitivity of your nipple (either increasing or decreasing it).
- Experts strongly advise against piercing your nipples while breastfeeding. As piercings can take up to six months to heal, it’s best to do so at least a year before falling pregnant.
Always seek a reputable piercer if you’re looking into nipple piercings and consult your doctor or health practitioner if you have any queries.