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Breastfeeding with Piercings

astfeeding with Piercings

From: feral mermaid gardenia@magicnet.net Subject: Breastfeeding with Piercings (the true story!) Newsgroup: Rec.Arts.Bodyart

Okay... so I am a Licensed Midwife, a La Leche League leader (a breastfeeding counselor), a Certified Doula (childbirth assistant), a Certified Childbirth Educator, and a CDC Certified HIV/AIDS Counselor... Midwifery and Women's Health Care has been my calling for the last 14 years.

I have several body piercings and tatts but no nipple piercings. However, I have helped about 6 women successfully nurse their babies while keeping the rings/bars intact... and many others who chose to remove the rings/bars during the baby's suckling.

Even though it is way off topic... babies do not need to suckle in the first 24 hours in order for the mother to make milk. Many, many, many women are not able to nurse their babies... or choose not to nurse them... for days, weeks, and even months because of a baby being ill, in NICU, or on the bottle for a variety of reasons. Even if she doesn't pump... it only takes a couple of days to get the brain to kick into gear and the mammary glands to begin milk production all over again.

Many adoptive parents (and "other mothers") also nurse their babies... never having gotten pregnant before. They generally need to supplement (with a bottle or a nursing supplementer that simulates, and stimulates, lactation so the baby suckles and gets adequate nutrition), but women who have been pregnant before usually won't have to supplement. Some women will use oxytocin nosespray to help induce lactation, but most don't. Nursing a non-biological child takes incredible patience and time but everyone who has done it has found it well worth the time and effort.

Now, the deal with nursing with piercings.

If the piercings are well-healed at the time of delivery (and women are strongly encouraged to not get piercings during pregnancy or lactation), the decision to keep the rings/bars in is strictly up to the mom and partner/s.

Some women worry about the baby swallowing the ring/bar and/or the bead. I explain that captive beads are probably not the best way to go, but rings that connect or bars with screw on beads are more reassuring. Before nursing, make sure everything is closed properly (with your clean hands) and there shouldn't be a problem.

Yes, the operative word is "shouldn't". Something can always happen. Yes, babies have swallowed beads or bars or rings... none of the babies I have helped nurse... but I haven't ever heard of any problems when it did happen.

Some women choose to remove their jewelry each time the baby nurses... and that is certainly a choice I honor. Instinct is an important tool in mothering :)

Some women also choose to remove the jewelry for the duration of the nursing experience and be re-pierced when they are ready.

Lela's midwife asked her to remove her jewelry to prepare her nipples for breastfeeding. Nipple preparation is simply not done anymore... and Lela, I would be asking "why" and, after reading Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Sheila Kitzinger's Breastfeeding book, showing her that the nipples are perfect just the way they are. All research in the last 10 years has shown that sore nipples occur when positioning is off or if the baby has a suck problem (both usually easily corrected with a LLL leader or a Lactation Consultant). Tweaking, rubbing, pulling, and swishing washcloths over the nipples has actually been shown to cause damage to the nipples and surrounding breast tissue.

Most labial and clitoral jewlery would better be removed for delivery. Even with great pelvic integrity, it is hard to tell whose labia or clitoris will tear. Once delivery is over, it can be replaced :) Keep doing those kegels (before and after)!

If a Doc, Nurse, or Midwife brings in people to see your piercings without your consent... fire them!

I think that answered the questions so far in the thread... and I am glad to answer other questions either here [rec.arts.bodyart] or in email.

And here I'll insert the standard disclaimers... YMMV, check with your health care provider, use your head, listen to your intuition, etc.

Next is some followup that took place on rec.arts.bodyart:

Do you suggest they consider opting for larger jewelry for comfort, as the nipple increases in size?

I don't recall any of the women getting larger jewelry during the pregnancy... but that doesn't mean they didn't. When I helped the women (over a 10 year period), I knew less than nothing about body piercings. My knowledge then was focused on getting the baby to nurse... and we just worked around the jewelry. I am totally sure, now that I hear the other breastfeeding and piercing stories, that must have been very lucky to not have had the difficulties others obviously did. This discourse is a wonderful learning opportunity for me... and I plan on taking the info and running with it!

How about the concern for the baby's palate being irritated by jewelry?

Normal, healthy, full-term infants shouldn't have a problem with the jewelry... and a reminder that the baby sucks the nipple to the back of the mouth, near their throat, to "milk" the breast so, depending on the size of the jewelry, it shouldn't put too much pressure on the baby's palate. As always, ymmv and it would behoove the parents to check the babe's palate to make sure.

I have already heard from another rab poster who has heard of palate irritation (once), so it certainly is possible... but neither of us knew the integrity of the jewelry, either.

The thinner the gauge of jewelry, the more likely the ring is to tear the piercing under stress - either pressure from the front or sharp pulling. Towards the end of nursing, the baby may start to chew on the jewelry, or even pull on it.

Infants don't chew and pull as a general rule, though babies do begin doing so around 6 months old or so. As we teach them not to bite even without jewelry, we will have to teach them the same with the jewelry.

As I understand the gauges and safety from tears, the larger gauge jewelry would, indeed, be better as the baby gets older. I haven't ever had a pierced client nurse past 6 months of age (even though many many, myself included, have nursed well past the second year), so this is all virgin ground for me. If anyone has the experience, I know we all would love to hear it!

What about cleaning the piercing, the possibility of a fungal infection developing in the piercing itself?

Well, breastmilk is filled with antibacterial properties... and when women have cracked and sore nipples, we encourage them to express a little milk and let it sit on the nipple to soothe and help heal it. The jewelry will be equally "cleaned" in the same manner. Some caregivers recommend Vitamin E Oil (pure) on sore and cracked nipples, too... but that is controversial since Vitamin E is fat soluable... and can be stored in the baby's fat and cause problems if sie receives too much. Other home remedies can be used... and am glad to discuss them as they come up.

As far as a fungal infection... are you speaking of thrush (Candida Albicans aka yeast infection)? Thrush doesn't happen to every nursing couplet, but it also isn't uncommon. I could write something on thrush and breastfeeding if you'd like... or refer you to homepages that deal with it. If treating thrush, I don't think any added precautions would need to be done. The jewelry wouldn't be adversely affected by the Nystatin (Allopathic) or even the Gentian Violet (homeopathic) and either med (along with the other standard treatments and observances when a mom and/or baby has thrush. I will remind everyone though that when a baby has thrush in the mouth, a mother and baby need to be treated together, whether the mom is symptomatic or not... or the thrush can be passed back and forth.

What about blocked milk ducts unable to drain/be expressed? **** developed a massive infection with her new piercing, made months after she had dried up.

**** and I are just beginning correspondence... and I didn't address her post originally because she seemed to be comfortable with her care (which is excellent, btw) and didn't ask for help. Since you did, I'm glad to address the issue. :)

****'s original post said she had not nursed for 6 months' time. 6 months is not a very long time in the lifespan of a formerly active milk duct. Many, many women continue leaking (producing) milk several years after weaning. My first partner's mother continued leaking 30+ years after weaning her daughter. Even that isn't terribly unusual... especially when there is breastplay on any kind of a regular basis (and it doesn't have to be sucking).

So, that said... milk sitting inside the duct does have the potential for becoming infected. Usually, there isn't any reason for contaminants to enter the nipple, but the jewelry is a potential conductor for those contaminants. I would certainly encourage women to clean their rings or barbells a couple of times daily... being diligent about it... to try and lower the possibilities of getting infected.

Clogged ducts and mastitis (an infection of a clogged duct) happen even when babies are nursing and, more rarely, as in *'s case, when weaning has occured (unless weaning was abrupt). It is impossible to say why her duct got clogged (as well as pretty useless information at this point), but getting a duct unclogged is hard for any woman... and I'm not sure if having jewelry in there would make it any harder. It certainly could, but my instinct tells me no. Women who are nursing with a plugged duct would continue nursing... encouraging the baby to pull the clog out... and moms might also use an electric pump (which gets a mere 50% of the suction a baby is capacle of) to pull when the kidlet is sleeping. And so gets a little comfort, the pus isn't unusual at all... and babies do continue nursing even with the pus mixed with milk. Seeing it is a good sign that there is some relief as well as some opening for the infection and clogged milk to drain. Since *** isn't nursing, it gets a little more complicated because there is no suction and a re-initiation of lactation isn't desired.

is doing great in the massage and heat being applied. Wet heat is better... and I would encourage hot, wet compresses constantly, keeping wet washcloths in a crock pot on low is a good way to have a constant supply of wet heat. Massaging deeply* (not only the lump, but all over the breast... starting up under the armpits and massaging downward, covering every part of the breast, ending at the nipple, once an hour is a must. If is still symptomatic of mastitis (fever, lethargy, red spot or streak on her breast), I'd encourage her to get a massive* broad-spectrum antibiotic ASAP since mastitis can quickly turn to an abscess and need to be surgically drained. If she isn't symptomatic, I'd encourage aggressive non-medical means (the heat and massage taking a primary role) that would include vitamin supplements, loads of rest... and NO BRA WEARING! (and that's for as long as the lump is there and even for awhile afterwards)

Bras are one of the biggest reasons women have clogged ducts and mastitis since our ducts do go so far up from what most of us would consider breast tissue. The bra's cups (and underwires are the worst culprits) cut off the ducts and the clog forms, never being given relief from the pressure of the material or wire. Even though the duct might be pressed closed several inches above the hardened lump, the tissue is all inter-related. If **** hasn't been encouraged to take her bra off (if she wears one), this act alone might help tremendously. If a bra has to be worn for comfort or work... the wearing a loose sports bra is an option. And I know that what I have just said about bras is counter to what every childbirth book has ever said... but those of us who have worked with nursing women know the secrets :) I wouldn't lead you astray with something this serious.

Barb aka gardenia

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 Jan. 1997
in Nipple Piercing

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