Potential predictors of nipple trauma from an in-home breastfeeding programme: A cross-sectional study

Robyn Thompson, Sue Kruske, Lesley Barclay, Karin Linden, Yu Gao, Sue Kildea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Australian breastfeeding rates fall significantly in the months following birth, often as a result of breastfeeding complications.

Aim: To explore the potential risk factors for nipple trauma and breast engorgement in a group of women who were referred to the in home breastfeeding service in Melbourne, Australia.

Method: A retrospective, cross-sectional analyses of the maternal–infant records (n = 653) from 2003 to 2007 including demographic characteristics; pregnancy, labour and birth data; the presenting complications and observational and diagnostic results. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were conducted to explore the predictors of nipple trauma and engorgement.

Results: Nipple trauma was the most common presenting complication (62.9%). Logistic regression analyses identified four statistically significant predictors: facio-mandibular asymmetry (AOR 4.21, 95% CI [1.25–14.20]), inflammatory mastitis (AOR 2.99, 95% CI [1.57–5.68], nipple malignment (AOR 2.51, 95% CI [1.13–5.55]) and the cross-cradle technique (AOR 1.90, 95% CI [1.03–3.50]). Engorgement was associated with the first postpartum breastfeed being less than one-hour duration (AOR 2.01, 95% CI [1.07–3.79]).

Conclusion: Nipple trauma was associated with commonly taught techniques that involved the cross-cradle hold and manoeuvres of the breast, nipple and baby that resulted in nipple malalignment and facio-mandibular asymmetry. This practice, appeared to interfere with the baby's intra-oral function by restricting movement of the cranio-cervical spine and nuchal ligament. The combination appeared to limit the baby's instinctive ability to activate neuro-sensory mammalian behaviours to freely locate and effectively draw the nipple and breast tissue without causing trauma. Changes to the first and early breastfeeding techniques are recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-344
Number of pages9
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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