When I got my nipples pierced, years ago, no one told me what sort of effect it would have on my future breastfeeding career. This is not surprising, of course – why on earth would such a thing come up. People (or more specifically women) getting their nipples pierced probably aren’t anywhere near the breastfeeding stage of their life. After all, if you’re contemplating breastfeeding, getting a nipple piercing is counter intuitive because you need to remove piercings to breastfeed, and that’s not something you want to be doing to a piercing that is not well seasoned and healed. And to be honest, even if it did come up, I’m not really sure I would have cared all that much – I really wanted pierced nipples, and nothing was going to stop me.
A few months after being pierced, I removed the barbell from my left nipple. My reasoning was twofold – first off, it was crooked and that really bugged me, and secondly my once stoic nipples had become incredible wusses, which was a problem because I like rough nipple play. So, one pierced and one ‘au natural’ seemed like a nice happy medium and I rocked that look for many years. And then, a year ago, in the midst of my first trimester of pregnancy my overly sensitive nipples got to be more than I could take and I bit the bullet and removed my remaining nipple piercing. This was a big deal for me – it signified the fact that I was giving up something I had chosen for my body; throwing in the towel, so to speak, and giving in to the inevitable chaos having a child throws one’s world into.
Anyway, fast forward to three days after my daughter was born and there I was, with massively swollen, hot and tender milk filled tits and a baby with a weak suckle who wasn’t doing a proper job of draining them. I’d shower and milk would spew everywhere out of my long ago healed left nipple, but then would only dribble from my piercing holes on my more recently barbelless right nipple. After a day of some feeding, some pumping, and a little bit of cooling it on the milk production my left breast had softened somewhat from its swollen rock hard state, but the right one? It was even harder, and now it had lumps. Uh oh.
So I did what you should never do when you have a health OR baby related question. I hit the internet. And about an hour later, I was sure I had done irreparable damage to my nipple by having it pierced, causing scar tissue to block milk duct outlets.
I got a little depressed about this. I loved my nipple piercing when I had it, and yet, it seemed like it was the worst choice I’d ever made. What kind of reckless fool was I when I got my nipples pierced? How could I have not known about the certain doom awaiting my future breastfeeding career. Speaking of which, I was clearly a failure as a mom and was going to have to feed my baby formula (which totally smells like ass by the way), not because of a legitimate reason (and there are many legitimate reasons) like a naturally low supply…nope, because I’d had a nipple piecing.
I was, perhaps, a little hormonal as well, which didn’t help anything.
And then the funniest thing happened. I saw a bunch of lactation consultants and none of them thought my nipple piercing was a problem. One went so far as to say that the unnatural hole in the side my nipple was helping milk drain better. As it turns out, like many mom-baby breastfeeding pairs my daughter and I hadn’t really worked things out properly. I helped her learn to suck, I started using about a million pillows, and I learned how to hold her. She, in turn, finally woke up, shook off her jaundice, and started eating with terrifying voracity. My right breast finally drained and for at least part of the day I wasn’t sporting hot-hard tits anymore. That is to say, things worked out.
In the weeks and months that have followed, my daughter and I have hit our stride. My left nipple, barely scarred from its short lived and crooked piercing, delivers high speed milk, and lots of it, to my daughter when she’s ravenous. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve hosed her face mid feed when she’s pulled off to get away from the sheer intensity of the stream. This nipple elongates to look like the nipple on my daughters bottles, and it spews almost as readily as those artificial feeding devices. It’s the feeding side, the one I put her to when its been a while since her last feed and she’s got ‘that look’ in her eyes. Conversely, my right nipple (whose piercing healed very well in the many years it was in place) still bears “exits” on its sides where milk leisurely dribbles out at a slow and steady rate during a feed. It is larger too, by about 5mm in diameter, and when it gets sucked on it lengthens unevenly, the area with the scar tissue remaining about the same size while everywhere else narrows down. I call it the pacifier side, and that’s truly what it is. I pull it out when I need her to nurse to a sleepy stupor, or when she’s needing comfort instead of a big ol’ milkstravaganza.
And so now, looking back, I feel I have realized something important. Sure, no one ever tells you that having your nipples pierced can cause soul destroying doubt in the mind of the hormonal and sleep deprived first time mother, but by the same token no one ever tells you that having your nipple pierced can transform it into a natural pacifier to act as a foil to the other one, the ‘feeder’ one. I’m glad no one ever said anything, because perhaps I would have thought twice about my nipple piercing, or would have taken it out sooner. As it is, however, the modification I did to my body when I was younger and simply interested in appearance and sensation has resulted in one of the best ticks I have up my sleeve as a mum. I get to choose between a fast feeding and a slow, leisurely, pacifying one. I always have a pacifier on hand for those times when my daughter has a meltdown. Forget those plastic ones that end up falling on the ground all the time, what I have is far superior. And I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for my nipple piercing.