Breastfeeding With Different Nipple Shapes and Sizes

What to Know, Complications, and Solutions

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Normal nipples vary in size and shape. Some women have large nipples, and other women have small nipples. Some nipples are pointy, and others are rounded. Some nipples are flat or even turned inward, while others are always protruding. All of these variations in nipple size and shape are normal, and breastfeeding can be successful with each of these types of nipples.

Breastfeeding With Different Nipple Shapes and Sizes

While most moms will not have any problems, there are certain nipples shapes and sizes can cause more difficulty with breastfeeding. Women with flat nipples, inverted nipples, or very large nipples may find it harder to get their baby latched on to the breast properly. A proper latch is so important to ensure that your baby gets enough breast milk to grow and remain healthy. A poor latch can lead to weight loss, dehydration and jaundice in your infant. It can also cause sore nipples and a decrease in your milk supply. Here's what you need to know about breastfeeding with different nipple shapes and sizes.

Large Nipples

When your nipples are large, you may worry that you won't be able to breastfeed. But, even with very big nipples, most babies can breastfeed just fine.

What to Know

When a baby latches on to the breast correctly, he takes in the entire nipple and part of the surrounding areola into his mouth. When you have large nipples, it can make it more difficult for the baby to latch on.

Complications

Most healthy full-term babies can latch open wide enough to latch on to large nipples without any issues. However, if you have a preemie or a baby with a small mouth, breastfeeding with a larger size nipple is more difficult. When the nipple fills the baby's mouth, the baby will have more trouble latching on to some of the surrounding areola. If the baby is latching on to just the nipple, she may not be able to draw enough breast milk from the breast. It could also lead to sore nipples and painful breastfeeding for you.

Tips

  • If you're worried that your nipples will be too big for your baby, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor can examine your breasts, assist you with your baby's latch, and put your mind at ease.
  • You can try to use a breast pump for a minute or two before breastfeeding. The suction can help change the shape of the nipple making it thinner and longer.
  • The football hold is a good breastfeeding position for moms with large nipples. It can give you a better view of your nipple and your baby's mouth as your baby latches on.
  • If you have a preemie or your baby is having trouble latching on, you can talk to your doctor about trying a nipple shield.

Flat Nipples

Nipples are usually a raised up area in the center of the areola. Sometimes they are flat against the areola and only begin to raise up with stimulation. However, some women have flat nipples that do not protrude from the breast. They tend to stay flat even during pregnancy and with stimulation.

What to Know

Most women with flat nipples can breastfeed successfully. When a baby latches on, he doesn't latch on to just the nipple. He takes in part of the surrounding areola, as well. Your baby doesn't need your nipple to protrude out to latch on.

Complications

Flat nipples can become an issue during breast engorgement. And, protruding nipples can even become flat during engorgement. Hard, overfull, swollen breasts can flatten the nipples and make it very difficult for the baby to latch on.

Tips

  • Try to use a breast pump to draw out your nipples before breastfeeding.
  • Ask your doctor about wearing breast shells between feedings to help your nipples stick out more.
  • Hold your breast in the v-hold or the c-hold to help your baby latch.
  • If you are dealing with breast engorgement, you can pump a little breast milk out of your breasts before breastfeeding to soften the breast and make it easier for your baby to latch.

Inverted Nipples

Inverted nipples do not protrude outward or lay flat. They turn inward toward your body.

What to Know

If you have inverted nipples, you can still breastfeed. As your pregnancy progresses, your inverted nipples may begin to protrude out naturally. They may fully extend, or they may only protrude a little, but that may be enough for your baby. Newborns can nurse on all types of nipples, so even if your nipples remain inverted, your baby may still be able to latch on and breastfeed just fine. And, as long as your baby can latch on to your breast correctly, breastfeed well and gain weight, you do not need to do anything to try to fix your inverted nipples. 

Complications

Inverted nipples can become a problem if the baby is not able to latch on. A good latch is necessary for breastfeeding to be successful. If your baby cannot latch on well, he will not get enough breast milk to grow at a healthy pace. A poor latch can also lead to breastfeeding issues such as sore nipples, engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis and a low milk supply

Tips

  • Talk to your doctor about using breast shells. Breast shells put gentle pressure on the base of the nipple to help draw them out.  
  • Try using a breast pump to pull your nipples outward right before you nurse your baby.
  • Try the football hold or the natural nursing position to help get your baby latched on.
  • Use the C-hold or the V-hold to compress your areola and make it easier for your baby to latch on. 
  • A nipple shield may help your baby latch on. However, you should only use a nipple shield under the supervision of a doctor or breastfeeding specialist since they can cause other problems if they are not used properly.  
  • Devices such as nipple extractors or nipple everters may be available through your doctor or lactation consultant. 
  • Keep an eye out for the signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk.
  • Have your baby monitored closely by the pediatrician to be sure he is gaining weight.
  • If your baby is not able to latch on to your breast, you should get help immediately.  

A Word From Verywell

Women have been breastfeeding with different nipple shapes and sizes since the beginning or breastfeeding. In most situations, your baby will be able to latch on without any issues. But, if you have any concerns about the size and shape of your nipples or your ability to breastfeed, you can talk to your doctor and have an examination of your breasts. Your doctor, midwife, nurse, doula or lactation consultant can also assist you to get your baby latched on well from the first breastfeeding. They can also recognize problems right away and help you to find a solution to get breastfeeding on track.  

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Article Sources
  • 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.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.