Why are my nipples numb?
April 8, 2010 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Is it normal for nipples to be numb?

I'm an early 20s female and my nipples have been numb like this for as long as I can remember. Now that I'm starting sexual activity I realize that it's kinda abnormal for my nipples to not react to stimulation. They get "erect" and they can feel pain and temperature (at least cold, it's harder to test warm) but not so much when someone is licking them or something. I wouldn't even be aware if I wasn't watching. The areola is even more numb. I think I've read somewhere that 50% of women's nipples are numb but I can't find that anywhere anymore. I can't actually find anything about this on google.

I would like for my nipples to react to sexual stimulation but I guess I don't know what I'm missing so whatev. My partner just seems to be having a great time when I stimulate their nipples!

I have not had any surgery or anything like that.

What would be the cause of this? Hormone imbalance? The nipple and areola are far less sensitive than any of my other skin. This doesn't seem quite right. Would this affect breast feeding? Apparently, while trying to research this, I learned that you need feeling in your nipples to breast feed. (I was reading about people who lost sensation due to breast augmentation or whatever).

So, anecdotes are useful and data is more useful. Causes would be useful too and perhaps treatment from there. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
could you email the mods with what cup size you are?

in my anecdotal research - the smaller the boobs, the more sensitive they are. i am a 38DD and i have quite large areolas. around ovulation and my period my nipples are so sore that even the barest touch can make me cry - but the rest of the month...far less so. like if i pinch them, i can feel it, but light licking and such, before they're erect, i feel then hand on my breast much more than the mouth on my nipple. girls i've dated (most of them smaller breasted) seem to have more of a feather touch sort of sensation, as in, even the lightest touch can set them on fire...
posted by nadawi at 12:49 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Anecdote: I am pretty much exactly the same way. It's really annoying.

Treatment: This might not be your bag, but (cough) some people (cough) get them pierced, and it can help a little.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2010

Also in response to the above, I'm just a B.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:51 PM on April 8, 2010

Yeah, ditto the above. I wouldn't describe mine as "numb" but they're not all that sensitive.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:53 PM on April 8, 2010

I'm a guy who has been around boobs forever. I've found nipple sensitivity runs along a continuum ranging from numb to supersensitive.

Some women I know have really sensitive nipples. Some are so sensitive they'll push me away.I've also known women where one nipple was significantly more sensitive than the other.

Some are like mine in that they're FPO* and are not sensitive at all. In general dudes' nips are less sensitive than women's but I assume there's a sensitivity continuum at play as well. Some girlfriends will want to suck on my nipples in an effort to stimulate me, but it does nothing for me. The only enjoyment I get is knowing she is enjoying herself.

When I encounter a nipple that isn't sensitive I may still go to town on it, but I'll also seek out other spots on her body that might be more responsive like neck/ears/forearm/whatnot.

This doesn't help you with your "problem" but I only mean to point out that you are completely "normal" in this regard.

*for placement only
posted by birdherder at 1:13 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Before going to the extreme of piercing them, you may want to try these which I, um, hear work wonders! (cough) You get the point, they worked wonders.
posted by 6:1 at 1:16 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Former B-cup here, and mine were never all that sensitive (indeed, the areolas were and are downright numb, as you describe). Also, currently in my 12th month of successful breastfeeding. The sensation of a baby nursing is very, very, very different from romantic nipple play-- much more pressure, focused deeper "in" the nipple-- so I wouldn't worry too much about your nipples' sexual responsiveness being an index of their breastfeeding capabilities later on.
posted by Bardolph at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2010

err, I guess I got so excited I was redundant in how well they worked. I also have a friend, (really!) they had success with them.
posted by 6:1 at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2010

Also, do not pierce your nipples if you want to breastfeed someday!
posted by Bardolph at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2010

Are they completely numb?

I always thought my (female) nipples ought to be more sensitive than they are. I wonder if this is a misconception from porn. I.e. over-the-top gasping from the actors when someone even comes close to their nipples.

My (male) partner loves his nipples being touched, but I could take/leave it. Maybe pleasurable nipple stimulation is just not in the cards for you.
posted by cranberrymonger at 1:18 PM on April 8, 2010

Also, do not pierce your nipples if you want to breastfeed someday!

I don't want to cause a derail, but it's actually perfectly possible and safe to breastfeed with pierced nipples.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:21 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it helps (as I'm a guy), but you exactly described my nipples. I can tell when they're being touched, I can feel pain and temperature, they are tumescent but I feel absolutely nothing that could be even vaguely described as pleasure from them under any context. You might as well be playing with my elbows. I had an ex who was surprised at this and she related a story of a male ex of hers who could be brought to climax through nipple stimulation.

Again, I don't think this is an apples/apples comparison, but it strikes me that you are not abnormal, but just more towards one end of the spectrum than the other.
posted by plinth at 1:32 PM on April 8, 2010

Anecdotal: I was a 34DDD (or more) and I can't remember ever really feeling my nipples. Then I had the breast reduction and things were pretty much the same. The end/worst story ever/then I found five dollars. Not everyone has such predictable erogenous zones.

Since piercing was mentioned (yes, you can definitely breastfeed with pierced nipples), let me pass on a word of advice from my piercer: large-breasted women have difficulty keeping nipple piercings. This is apparently because most women with larger breasts also have shorter nipples. So if you're going to get your nipples pierced and it would basically be a surface piercing, just save your money, IMO. I had 3 rejections before I finally gave up.
posted by giraffe at 1:47 PM on April 8, 2010

More anecdotal: Former 38F, now 36C. Pierced right nipple 12 years ago. Nipples are not shallow. Took forever to heal but no rejection. Piercing did not enhance sensitivity but they were already pretty sensitive to start with. And still are. My surgeon is awesome.

And yes, you can breastfeed with pierced nipples.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2010

If your nipples have been numb as long as you can remember, then I'd say that yes, that's normal *for you*. Just reading the thread, you can see that you are not alone, and that in fact there is a spectrum.

I'm on the opposite side of the spectrum as you, for data point, and I think that's okay, too. Some of us have really sensitive nipples, others not so much.
posted by misha at 2:15 PM on April 8, 2010

Yeah, another data point here. 34C, and my nipples are strictly for decorative purposes. I got them pierced a few years ago, which pretty much just increased their decorative qualities. (My body sucks at healing piercings, so I took them out ~2 years later, just fyi.) If they've always been like this, you're probably fine. Like most body things, sensitive nips seem to occur on a continuum.
posted by kalimac at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2010

It's totally normal. As I read this question, I thought, I wonder if she has large breasts, and then I read the comments and many people are saying the same thing. I have F cup breasts and if no one ever touched my nipples again, I would be totally fine with it. I have almost no sensation in them, and the only way they provide even a tiny bit of enjoyment is with really rough play.
posted by crankylex at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2010

J cup, very little sensation, coming up to 10 months breastfeeding. Some problems in the beginning but all down to my nipples being tiny and flat and baby anachronism being a bit of a gumby. The sensation in your nipples for breastfeeding isn't something I've ever come across - it certainly helps as far as latch and placement goes but the people I know who have had trouble breastfeeding after breast surgery had more issues with supply due to milk duct damage/removal than latch. And like someone said the sensation of breastfeeding isn't like nipple stimulation - it involves the entire breast and internal sensations. Also, I've got so little sensation that the other night I had a minor panic because I thought she'd fallen off the bed when she was actually still attached and feeding away - that's how little sensation I feel for the most part.

I always figured my issue with sensation was because my boobs are so big the nerves are overstretched.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:21 PM on April 8, 2010

34 B/C checking in-- I too had very little sensitivity in my nipples, but in my case I think it was from a few years of jiu jitsu desensitizing them for me since I didn't WANT to feel the knuckles in my chest. Piercing them was the best boob-related decision I ever made. It looks great, makes me feel incredibly sexy, was the least troublesome piercing I've ever had, and I can feel about 250% more than I could before. Not saying it's right for everyone, but that may be a route you want to consider.
posted by WidgetAlley at 3:46 PM on April 8, 2010

34 C/D, fairly sensitive. no piercings. i'm not sure if i believe the smaller/increased sensitivity theory advanced upthread.
posted by anthropomorphic at 5:11 PM on April 8, 2010

This is a fascinating thread, thanks! I have pretty much the exact same thing you describe. Actually this comment is pretty much me : My (male) partner loves his nipples being touched, but I could take/leave it.

I'm actually a little relieved to see so many people responding with similar answers, as I was a tiny bit worried I was some kind of freak. My college roommate had sensitive nipples (on tiny breasts, fwiw) and had them pierced, after which she claimed she could climax just from stimulation of water in the shower.

Anyway, really what I came on here to say is that I also have a larger (though not huge) cup size, and I always figured that my lack of nipple sensitivity was related to psychological issues. I really dislike the inconvenience of large breasts (most of the time). I also tend to feel a little guilty that I don't really enjoy it when my hubby tries to stimulate my nipples. It just feels... lacking.
posted by purpletangerine at 5:17 PM on April 8, 2010

A/B cup here. I'm glad you asked this because, like you, I've spent a long time thinking I was just weird. My nipples are typically sensually impervious to touching / licking and, as such, it's boooooring. BUT they've become extremely, sometimes painfully sensitive since I became pregnant. So that's pretty interesting for me. Maybe you'll get to experience that some day.
posted by kitcat at 5:21 PM on April 8, 2010

A/B cup chiming in. Mine aren't very sensitive either, and nothing changed when I got them pierced. However, I can feel it if he plays rough or pinches hard. And it feels good. =) Maybe you could try less gentle touches?
posted by infinityjinx at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2010

GayDudeFilter: Yep, totally normal...some people's nipples are just 'wired up' and some people's just aren't...(mine aren't)...have been with guys who can't get enough and others who are all like 'ok, you can stop now' ;) one time though...guy twists my nipple, hard, then immediately punches me in the chest, right there...thought i was going to have an orgasm on the spot. don't know how that would work out with boobs, though...

my advice, tell your partner (next time they're working the area) 'hey, guess what, my nips aren't all that sensitive' and (if you're up for it) 'maybe try being a little rougher with them *cocked eyebrow, naughty look*' if that still doesn't work, shrug it off with an 'oh well, guess they're not really hooked up, never mind' and act like it isn't that important...and after all, it really isn't as important as how well they cook and clean for you ;)
posted by sexyrobot at 6:52 PM on April 8, 2010

34 C, pierced, not sensitive to light touching, but at a certain level of (fairly forceful) pressure it clicks on a VERY different level of sensation. Mmmf.
posted by desuetude at 9:01 PM on April 8, 2010

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