Inverted nipples?

Originally Published: March 19, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 11, 2012
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Dear Alice,

I have inverted nipples. Is there anything that I can do to make them come out? I think that they are unattractive inverted. I have tried massaging them daily as doctors and magazines have suggested, but they do not stay out. They have only come out a couple of times when my boyfriend has sucked on them. Is there something wrong with them? One doctor said that I might have to get a minor surgical procedure.

—Inside-out

Dear Inside-out,

“Innies” and “outies” (nipples, of course) rejoice! Inverted nipples are one of the many variations of the human body that make each person unique. Some people may feel awkward about having "innies" because their nipples look different, or appear to be hiding or shy. Fortunately, no medical problems are associated with being born with inverted nipples; however, one thing to note is that for some women, inverted nipples can sometimes make it difficult to breast feed since a baby latches on more easily to an erect nipple. However, most inverted or flat nipples will not cause problems during breastfeeding.

Inverted nipples can be either temporary or permanent. A truly inverted nipple is caused by adhesions at the base of the nipple that bind the skin to the underlying tissue. It is also possible to have an inverted nipple on one breast, but not the other. To test whether you do indeed have inverted nipples, you can try the "pinch" test. Hold your breast at the edge of the areola between your thumb and index finger. Press in gently but firmly about an inch behind your nipple. If your nipple protrudes, that’s great. If it does not protrude or become erect, it is considered flat. If it retracts or disappears, it is truly inverted.

Though only a temporary fix, nipple stimulation and low temperatures may succeed at drawing out an inverted nipple. The only way to permanently change "innies" to "outies" is through plastic surgery (although some women have reported a permanent protraction to the "outie" state after breastfeeding). Going under the knife is only recommended for healthy people over age 18, women who are neither pregnant nor breast feeding, and for patients having the surgery for the first time. However, these procedures are expensive (ranging from about two to five thousand dollars), and there is still a chance that nipples will revert to their former orientation. This is particularly true for people who develop inverted nipples later in life.

Have you always had inverted nipples? Developing inverted nipples later in life may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, such as Paget's disease of the breast. This condition primarily affects women over age 50 and is a rare form of breast cancer in which the ducts beneath the areola or in some rare cases, the nipple itself, have been affected by cancer. While breast cancer rarer in men than in women, it can also occur in men. There is also a less severe condition, mammary duct ectasia, which is an inflammation and sometimes infection of the mammary ducts. This condition is usually more present in women over 50 as it is typically caused by hormonal changes. Inversion of the nipples can also indicate disorders of the breast, such as breast abscess, fat necrosis, and mastitis.

If your nipples have gone from protracted to inverted, it is a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider. Columbia students can make an appointment to see a health care provider by calling Medical Services at x4-2284 or by logging in to Open Communicator.

Here’s to loving your nipples — “innies” and “outies” alike!

Alice

June 11, 2004

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Dear Alice, For inside out on inverted nipples: I had inverted nipples and my Dr. told me to gently pull and rotate my nipple back and forth using my thumb and forefinger. This will stretch the...
Dear Alice, For inside out on inverted nipples: I had inverted nipples and my Dr. told me to gently pull and rotate my nipple back and forth using my thumb and forefinger. This will stretch the muscles that are too short. I was able to nurse my daughter and they stayed out. Good luck!

May 7, 2004

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Dear Alice, I am a 25-year-old with a daughter of 3. I, too, have lived all my Life with Inverted Nipples. I have spent years feeling really depressed and couldn't even tell my doctor I was so...
Dear Alice, I am a 25-year-old with a daughter of 3. I, too, have lived all my Life with Inverted Nipples. I have spent years feeling really depressed and couldn't even tell my doctor I was so ashamed. This was at least until 6 months ago. I discovered the Niplette; it's a cheap, small device available from most chemists that you wear under your clothes. It took 4 weeks of day-time wear for my severely inverted nipples to stay permanently erect. My heart goes out to anybody who doesn't know about this and lives with this terribly embarrassing problem. Please help other people by posting this! Kind Regards, Go Ask Alice! Fan

May 7, 2004

20577
Dear Alice, I am a twenty-six-year-old female who has lived with inverted nipples since I was 13/14. I have lived with the embarrassment of not being able to show anyone my nipples. It's not about...
Dear Alice, I am a twenty-six-year-old female who has lived with inverted nipples since I was 13/14. I have lived with the embarrassment of not being able to show anyone my nipples. It's not about feeling special or unique, and being able to tolerate living with it, I guess you would not understand unless you have inverted nipples! I have a four-year-old child and even though there is no evidence to support any type of nipple being more effective than the other, the fact is that if the nipple is there, then the baby can latch onto it, if you have inverted nipples it is not that easy!!! I recently had a breast examination in which the local GP found a lump and referred me for an ultrasound; everything was fine apart from the radiologist who performed the scan who seemed horrified by my nipples. I must admit I had began to get use to them (I hated them, but it was me), until this lady looked at them like I was some sort of alien and suggested I used a breast pump to pull them out! That was 3 weeks ago. I went straight to the chemist and bought a Niplette by advent. Both my nipples are sticking out now and feel so much better. Sometimes they retreat back in, but I am sure with time, they will be fine! If you want to change them, change them; don't let anyone tell you it's your uniqueness, they don't have to live with it!

May 7, 2004

20578
Alice, My first girlfriend had inverted nipples, and it never upset me or freaked me out at all. I would have felt awful if I thought she was embarrassed by them, or hated the way she looked because...
Alice, My first girlfriend had inverted nipples, and it never upset me or freaked me out at all. I would have felt awful if I thought she was embarrassed by them, or hated the way she looked because of them, since I thought (and still do) her to look stunning in bed

May 7, 2004

20579
Dear Alice, I am writing to you concerning the topic, Inverted nipples?. Even though the question was originally asked a few years ago, I feel my response is necessary. I am 20 years old, and I have...
Dear Alice, I am writing to you concerning the topic, Inverted nipples?. Even though the question was originally asked a few years ago, I feel my response is necessary. I am 20 years old, and I have had inverted nipples all my life. I do not see a problem with having them, and my partners have never had a problem with them. As a matter of fact, my partners thought inverted nipples were the greatest things ever. I do not think any one should be embarrassed because their nipples do not stick out. I think it's better to have them stick in. When it is cold, my nipples do not poke through my shirt, so I never have to worry about wearing fitted clothing. Women should be proud of the bodies they have. It is also important to recognize that many men also have inverted nipples. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.

May 7, 2004

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Alice, comment on the Inverted Nipples section— I am 21 and have inverted nipples. I just want to tell others not to be embarrassed about them. I used to be embarrassed about them when I was a pre-...
Alice, comment on the Inverted Nipples section— I am 21 and have inverted nipples. I just want to tell others not to be embarrassed about them. I used to be embarrassed about them when I was a pre-teen, but have since come to love them. They make you special and unique! And I have found the guys are more likely to be intrigued by them than grossed out. My boyfriend and I have made it a game to try to "pop" them out. Have fun with them! Not many women are blessed with inverted nipples, and they can be tons of sexual fun! Plus, you never get hard nipples for people to stare at! lol

October 4, 2002

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Dear Alice, I am replying to your answer that inverted nipples do not interfere with breastfeeding. I have to disagree. Mine are inverted, and although it does not get in the way of my relationship...
Dear Alice, I am replying to your answer that inverted nipples do not interfere with breastfeeding. I have to disagree. Mine are inverted, and although it does not get in the way of my relationship with my husband, it HAS prevented my 3 children from satisfactorily feeding when they were babies. We tried massaging, pulling, etc., but my babies just couldn't latch on to a large, flat nipple. It was very frustrating for myself and the babies. Just thought I would add my 2 cents!