Just as breasts come in many different shapes and sizes, so do nipples. While most people have nipples that either poke out or lie flat, some people's nipples actually poke inwards—they're known as retracted or inverted nipples. And if you've had them all your life, they're totally, completely normal.
"If you're born with inverted nipples, it's usually just a genetic difference in how your nipples were made, and is very rarely a problem even with breastfeeding," confirms Mary Claire Haver, M.D., an ob-gyn at the University of Texas Medical Branch. But if your nipples have always been outies and suddenly one or both pull inward, it may be cause for concern, she cautions. (Do your breasts hurt after a workout? You're not alone.)
"If you develop one, this can be a sign of something more serious—like an infection or even a malignancy—and it warrants a trip to your doctor to get evaluated," Haver says. Other symptoms that indicate you should get your breasts checked out: redness, swelling, pain, or any other change in the architecture of your breast. (These six chest moves can perk up your breasts.)
If you're breastfeeding and your nipple inverts, the problem may be something called mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue that can be caused by a blocked milk duct or bacteria that causes pain, redness, and swelling. If symptoms are mild, warm compresses and OTC painkillers usually help treat the infection. But sometimes antibiotics are needed. (In addition to breastfeeding, here are 14 other things that can change your breasts.)
Side note: There is such a thing as inverted nipple correction surgery. But there's no real reason for it, unless your innies really bother you aesthetically. If not, go ahead and #freethenipple.
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