Breastfeeding With Different Nipple Shapes and Sizes

High angle view of mother breast feeding baby girl at home

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Before, during, and after breastfeeding, nipple shapes and sizes vary. Some people have large nipples; others have small nipples. Some nipples are pointy, and others are rounded. Some nipples are flat or turned inward, while others protrude. These variations in the size and shapes of nipples are perfectly normal, and breastfeeding can be successful with each of these types of nipples.

While most breastfeeding parents will not have lasting problems, those with flat nipples, inverted nipples, or very large nipples may find it harder to get their baby latched on to the breast properly, especially at first. Since a poor latch can lead to sore nipples and a decrease in milk supply, these tips for mastering a proper latch will help ensure your comfort and your baby's healthy growth.

By learning to latch on to the breast properly by taking the whole nipple and some of the areola in their mouth, your baby will be more likely to get enough breast milk to grow and remain healthy.

Breastfeeding With Large Nipples

Having large nipples won't prevent you from breastfeeding successfully. But it is important to make sure your baby is latching on correctly by taking the entire nipple and part of the surrounding areola into their mouth. If the baby is latching on to just the nipple, they may not be able to draw enough milk from the breast. It could also lead to sore nipples and a painful breastfeeding experience for you.

Most healthy full-term babies can latch on to big nipples without any issues. However, if you have a preemie or a baby with a small mouth, they might need some help.

What to Do

Your baby will likely breastfeed just fine if you have large nipples. But if they are having trouble, or your nipples feel sore, you can try these strategies:

  • Get a nipple shield. If you have a preemie or your baby is having trouble latching on, you can try a nipple shield, which helps position the nipple and create suction. You should only use a nipple shield under the supervision of a doctor or breastfeeding specialist since it can cause other problems if not used properly. 
  • Talk to a lactation consultant. If you're worried that your nipples will be too big for your baby, consider reaching out to a lactation consultant. They can give you guidance on breastfeeding positions that are better suited for big nipples.
  • Try the football hold. The football hold is a good position for breastfeeding parents with large nipples. It can give you a better view of your nipple and your baby's mouth as your baby latches on.

Breastfeeding With Flat Nipples

Nipples are usually a raised area in the center of the areola. For some, they extend out from the areola only when stimulated. Others have flat nipples that never protrude from the breast, even during pregnancy and with stimulation.

Most people with flat nipples can breastfeed because babies don't necessarily need nipples to protrude to be able to feed properly and get enough milk. But sometimes, babies can have difficulty latching on to flat nipples. Latching may be especially difficult when your breasts are engorged, as overfull, swollen, and hard breasts can cause even protruding nipples to become temporarily flat.

What to Do

Flat nipples won't prevent most babies from latching on, but certain techniques and tools can help if any issues arise.

  • Change nursing holds. Hold your breast in the V-hold or the C-hold to help your baby latch.
  • Look into breast shells. Ask a lactation consultant about breast shells, which put gentle pressure on the base of the nipples to help them stick out more.
  • Try hand-expressing. If you are dealing with breast engorgement, hand express a little milk before breastfeeding to soften the breast and make it easier for your baby to latch.
  • Try out a new technique. Reverse pressure softening can help draw out the nipple, especially if there is engorgement.

Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples

If you have inverted nipples (where the entire nipple turns inward), you can still breastfeed. And, as long as your baby can latch on to your breast correctly and is gaining weight steadily, you do not need to do anything to try to fix inverted nipples. However, if your baby cannot latch on well to inverted nipples, they might not be getting enough breast milk to grow at a healthy pace.

Some women who have always had inverted nipples find that they start to protrude outward during the third trimester or when their baby begins to breastfeed.

What to Do

As your pregnancy progresses, inverted nipples may begin to protrude out naturally. But there are ways to help your baby latch on more easily if your nipples remain inverted over the course of your breastfeeding journey.

  • Ask your doctor about using a nipple shield. A nipple shield may help your baby latch on. 
  • Change holds or positions. Try the football hold or the "natural" nursing position to help guide your baby's head and mouth into a good place to latch.
  • Support your breasts. Use the C-hold or the V-hold to compress your areola and make it easier for your baby to latch on. 
  • Try a gentle suction device. Devices such as nipple extractors or nipple everters may be available through your doctor or lactation consultant. 
  • Use a pump to draw your nipples out. Try using a breast pump right before you nurse your baby.
  • Try breast shells. Talk to a lactation consultant about using breast shells between feedings to help extend your nipples.
  • Have your baby's weight monitored closely by their pediatrician. Weight gain is one of the main indicators that your baby is latching on well and getting enough breast milk.

A Word From Verywell

People have been breastfeeding successfully with different nipple shapes and sizes forever. In most situations, your baby will be able to latch on without major issues, though it may still take some time for you and your baby to get the hang of breastfeeding.

If you have any concerns about the size and shape of your nipples or your ability to breastfeed, consider asking for expert help. Your doctor, nurse, midwife, doula, or lactation consultant can help you guide your baby to latch on correctly from the first breastfeeding. They can recognize problems right away and help you to find a solution to get breastfeeding on track.  

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. Your guide to breastfeeding.

  2. Cotterman KJ. Reverse pressure softening: A simple tool to prepare areola for easier latching during engorgement. J Hum Lact. 2004;20(2):227-37. doi:10.1177/0890334404264224

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books, 2011.

  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015.

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