Breastfeeding With Different Nipple Shapes and Sizes

High angle view of mother breast feeding baby girl at home

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

While most moms will not have any problems, women with flat nipples, inverted nipples, or very large nipples may find it harder to get their baby latched on to the breast properly. Here's what you need to know about breastfeeding with different nipple shapes and sizes.

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.

Breastfeeding With 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.

When babies latch on to the breast correctly, they take the entire nipple and part of the surrounding areola into their mouths. When you have large nipples, it can make it more difficult for the baby to latch on.

Tips

Here are some tips to keep in mind when breastfeeding with large nipples.

  • Get a nipple shield. If you have a preemie or your baby is having trouble latching on, you can talk to your doctor about trying a nipple shield.
  • Talk to a lactation consultant. If you're worried that your nipples will be too big for your baby, talk 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 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.

Complications

Most healthy full-term babies can 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, they may not be able to draw enough breast milk from the breast. It could also lead to sore nipples and painful breastfeeding for you.

Breastfeeding With Flat Nipples

Nipples are usually a raised 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.

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.

Tips

Here are some tips to keep in mind when breastfeeding with flat nipples.

  • Change nursing positions. 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 wearing breast shells between feedings to help your nipples stick out more.
  • Try hand-expressing. If you are dealing with breast engorgement, hand express a little milk out of your breasts 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.

Complications

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

Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples

If you have inverted nipples (the entire nipple turns inward), you can still breastfeed. 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. 

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. 

Tips

Below are several tips to help you breastfeed if your nipples are inverted.

  • Ask your doctor about using a nipple shield. 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.  
  • Change positions. Try the football hold or the natural nursing position to help get your baby latched on.
  • 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 to draw your nipples out right before you nurse your baby.
  • Wear breast shells. Talk to a lactation consultant about using breast shells. Breast shells put gentle pressure on the base of the nipple to help draw them out.  

Have your baby's weight monitored closely by their pediatrician. Weight gain is one of the biggest indicators that your baby is getting enough breast milk. If your baby is not able to latch on to your breast, you should get help immediately.  

Complications

A good latch is necessary for breastfeeding to be successful. If your baby cannot latch on well, they 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 low milk supply

A Word From Verywell

Women have been breastfeeding with different nipple shapes and sizes since the beginning of breastfeeding. In most situations, your baby will be able to latch on without any issues.

If you have any concerns about the size and shape of your nipples or your ability to breastfeed, see your doctor for an examination. Your nurse, midwife, doula, or lactation consultant can also help you get 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
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  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.

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