How Areola Size Affects Breastfeeding

Mother breastfeeding her infant.
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The areola is a part of the breast. It's the circular or oval area that surrounds the nipple, and it's usually red, pink or brown in color. But, how big should it be? What is normal when it comes to areola size?

The size of the areola can vary widely from woman to woman. A normal areola can be small, average, or large. It may even grow a bit and become darker during pregnancy. And while a small areola is just as normal as a large one, it's important to pay attention to the size of your areola when you're breastfeeding.

The Size of the Areola

The areola plays a key role in a proper breastfeeding latch. When your baby is breastfeeding, she does not latch on to the nipple alone.

Since the milk sinuses and the milk ducts are below the areola, your baby needs to squeeze this area while she's breastfeeding to pull the breast milk out of your breasts.

To do this effectively, your baby must take in at least part, if not all, of your areola. When your little one latches on correctly, she will have your entire nipple in her mouth plus approximately one inch of the surrounding areola and breast tissue. So, the amount of your areola that your child needs to latch on to depends on the size of your areola.

Average Size

The average size of the areola is about one to two inches across (diameter). If you have an average size areola, your child should have most of your areola in his mouth when he latches on. There should only be a small amount of the areola visible around your baby's mouth.


A smaller areola—under one inch across—should fit entirely in your baby's mouth. When your child has a good latch, you may not see much, or any, of your areola. If you have a small areola, and you can see most of it when your baby is breastfeeding, then your child isn't latching on well. You should break the suction of the latch, remove your little one from your breast, and try to latch him on again.


If you have a larger areola—more than two inches across—your baby is only going to take a small portion of it in during the latch. When your child latches on correctly, you will still be able to see a good deal of your areola. The first few times that you latch your baby on, it may be difficult to tell if your baby is latching on to more than just your nipple. If you can, get some help in the beginning so you can feel confident that your baby is latching on well. It's also a good idea to learn the signs of a good latch and a poor latch ahead of time, so you know what you're looking for when the time comes.

Why Is Size Important?

It's important to understand how the size of your areola relates to your baby's latch.

When you see diagrams or read the instructions on how to latch a baby on correctly, they are often generalized for women with an average size areola. If your areola is bigger or smaller than what is pictured or described, you may not think your baby is latching on correctly, when he actually is. Or, you may believe that your baby is latching on well when he really isn't.

Importance of a Breastfeeding Latch

If your baby isn't taking in enough of your areola when he's latching on, it could cause some breastfeeding issues. A poor breastfeeding latch can lead to sore nipples, a low breast milk supply, weight loss in your baby, and early weaning. But, when your baby is latching on correctly, she can get enough breast milk to gain weight and grow at a healthy rate. A good latch also means that your child will be able to drain the breast milk from your breasts to stimulate your body to make more, and it will help to prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as painful breast engorgement and plugged milk ducts.

Where to Find Help

If you aren't sure if your baby is latching on well, ask someone to check your breastfeeding technique. Your doctor, a nurse, a lactation professional, or a breastfeeding support group, can help.

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Article Sources
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  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.
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