How to Successfully Breastfeed When You Have Large Nipples

Mother holding her baby on her chest

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Yes, it is possible to breastfeed if you have large nipples. Women have nipples of all shapes and sizes, and most of them can breastfeed just fine. Your newborn should be able to breastfeed on whichever type of nipple you have. It may even be easier for a healthy full-term baby to breastfeed on large nipples. A small newborn or a preemie could have a harder time latching on if mom has very big nipples.

Breastfeeding Latch

For your child to latch on to your breast correctly, they need to take your entire nipple and a good bit of your areola into their mouth. As they breastfeed, their mouth will squeeze the milk ducts under your areola to get the milk out of your breast.

If you have big nipples, your nipple may fill your child's mouth so that they cannot take in any of your areola. And, if they can only latch onto your nipple, they may not be able to breastfeed well.

If you have an abundant supply of breast milk and a strong let-down reflex, your baby could get enough breast milk by breastfeeding on your nipple alone. However, for many newborns, it's difficult to get enough breast milk from latching on to just the nipple.

Issues

If your newborn is having trouble latching on because of the size of your nipples, the greatest concern is whether or not they will be able to get enough breast milk to gain weight and grow in a healthy way.

Additionally, if breast milk isn't removed from your breasts, it can lead to breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis, and a low breast milk supply.

Poor breastfeeding latch can also lead to painful breast issues such as sore, cracked, bleeding nipples, or nipple blisters.

If large nipples are an issue at all, it will only be in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding. Once babies get a little bigger, they will be able to latch on to larger nipples and take in enough of the surrounding areola to successfully breastfeed. It may just take a few more weeks than you expected.

Tips

  • Be patient. Wait for your child to open their mouth very wide when you're latching them on to your breast. If they are not opening wide enough, they may not be able to get your nipple and some of the surrounding areola into his mouth.
  • Hand express your breast milk. If your breasts are overfull, hand express some of your breast milk before you begin to breastfeed. It's harder for a newborn to latch on to a hard and full breast. If you remove some of the breast milk and manually massage your breast, your baby may be able to latch on better and take in more of your areola.
  • Try breastfeeding in the football or clutch hold. This nursing position makes it easier to see your nipple so you can guide your child's mouth into a correct latch.​
  • Get a nipple shield. Your doctor or lactation consultant may recommend a nipple shield. Nipple shields make it easier for a small newborn or a premature baby to latch on to the breast. They can also protect sore nipples. When used under the direct supervision of a professional, this device can be very helpful.
  • Dab on breast milk. If you end up with sore nipples, try rubbing a few drops o of expressed breast milk over your nipples. You can also ask your doctor about using a safe nipple cream for nursing mothers.

Keep a close eye on your newborn and look for the signs that they are getting enough breast milk such as having enough wet diapers each day. Of course, the best sign is weight gain. So, take your baby to the doctor for regular weight checks to be sure they are gaining weight at a healthy pace.

What If It's Too Hard to Breastfeed?

If it's just too hard and overwhelming to continue to try to breastfeed, and your baby is not getting enough breast milk, it's OK to stop. If you want to continue giving your baby breast milk, you can pump and bottle feed your baby. Many women exclusively pump for their children.

You could also use infant formula or a combination of both formula and breast milk. Breastfeeding isn't an "all or nothing" process. If a mother isn't making enough milk, then formula is medically necessary. Ask a lactation consultant for advice. They can help you make sure your baby is fed now, while leaving the door open to try breastfeeding again when your baby gets a little bigger.

Have your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding specialist examine your breasts and nipples. These health care professionals can provide you with the advice and assistance you need to get your baby latched on well.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Your guide to breastfeeding. Updated October 8, 2018.

  2. Vazirinejad R, Darakhshan S, Esmaeili A, Hadadian S. The effect of maternal breast variations on neonatal weight gain in the first seven days of life. Int Breastfeed J. 2009;4:13. doi:10.1186/1746-4358-4-13

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.

  • Newman J, Pitma T. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press, 2006.

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