Breastfeeding With Large Nipples

How to Make Breastfeeding Easier for You and Your Baby

Mother holding her baby on her chest

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If you have large nipples, you may worry about your ability to breastfeed. However, your newborn should be able to breastfeed on whichever type of nipple you have, including large nipples. People have nipples of all shapes and sizes, and the vast majority of them can breastfeed just fine. It may even be easier for a healthy, full-term baby to breastfeed on large nipples, as they provide a good target to latch on to.

On the other hand, a small newborn or preemie could have a more challenging time latching on if you have very big nipples because their mouths are smaller. However, they will likely get the hang of it after they grow a little. Also, slight shifts in breastfeeding techniques can often make a world of difference in helping them latch on effectively. Learn more about how to successfully breastfeed with large nipples.

Potential Challenges of Breastfeeding With Large Nipples

For your baby to breastfeed successfully, they need to latch on to your breast correctly. Latching on entails taking 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.

The main issue people with large nipples face is that a newborn baby may have trouble latching on because their mouth is small relative to the size of the nipple.

If you have large nipples, the nipple may fill your child's mouth so that they struggle to take in any of the areola. This can lead to not much milk being expressed, which can make feeding difficult for your baby and create potential breast issues for you.

If breast milk isn't removed from your breasts, it can develop into 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 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. So, the greatest concern is whether or not they will be able to get enough breast milk for healthy weight gain and development.

While it may be a bit more challenging at first, typically, you can achieve a successful latch with large nipples by making simple adjustments in positioning. It's helpful for the baby's mouth to be straight on when making their latch, which encourages a full mouthful of nipple and areola.

Seek Out Breastfeeding Help

Have your doctor, a lactation consultant, or other breastfeeding specialist examine your breasts, nipples, and breastfeeding technique. These health care professionals can often work wonders to make breastfeeding much easier by providing you with the advice and assistance you need to get your baby latched on well.

How to Make Breastfeeding Easier

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 onto breasts with larger nipples and take in enough of the surrounding areola to successfully breastfeed. It may just take a few more weeks than you expected for breastfeeding to feel easier. In the meantime, there are some strategies for helping your baby latch on.

Be Patient

Encourage your baby to open their mouth very wide when you're latching them onto 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 their mouth. Touching or stroking their cheek or lips may stimulate their natural reflex to open their mouth for feeding—be ready to bring them onto your breast when this happens.

Also, be patient with yourself—and the process of learning this new skill. It's very normal to feel frustrated, confused, or worried when faced with breastfeeding challenges. Breastfeeding often feels difficult or overwhelming at first, especially when you are tired and recovering from childbirth. However, if you give it time—and give yourself grace, it will likely become much easier pretty quickly as you and your baby get the hang of it.

Use Proper Technique

The position you hold your baby and how you help them latch on makes a big difference in how well your baby murses—and how comfortable it is for you. Some popular breastfeeding positions include the football or clutch hold, side-lying hold, cradle hold, and laid-back hold. Whichever position you choose, try cupping your breast from below with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other. Squeeze gently while guiding your nipple and areola into your baby's mouth.

If you're unsure of which breastfeeding techniques to use—or how to do them in the first place, don't hesitate to ask for guidance. A breastfeeding expert, called a lactation consultant, can teach you the most effective techniques for successfully breastfeeding with large nipples. In addition to lactation consultants, pediatricians, labor and delivery nurses, OB/GYNs, doulas, midwives, and friends or relatives who have breastfed are all great sources of information and support.

Take Care of Your Nipples

If you end up with sore nipples, try rubbing a few drops of expressed breast milk over your nipples. You can also ask your doctor about using a safe nipple cream for nursing parents. Letting nipples air dry after feeding sessions may also help to soothe them.

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.

Pump or Hand Express First

If your breasts are overly full, hand express some of your breastmilk 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 breastmilk and manually massage your breast, your baby may be able to latch on better and take in more of your areola.

Feel Confident That Your Newborn Is Well-Fed

While it's very common to worry that your baby isn't getting enough breastmilk, most often they are. Ways to know for sure include keeping a close eye on your newborn and looking for the signs that they are getting enough breast milk, such as swallowing while nursing, appearing satiated after feeding, and having enough soiled and wet diapers each day.

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 rate. And check in with their pediatrician if you ever have any concerns.

A Word From Verywell

If your baby is not getting enough breastmilk and not growing adequately and/or it's too frustrating to continue to try to breastfeed, it's OK to stop or supplement with formula, as needed. However, know that many people struggle to get the hang of nursing during the first few weeks. If you stick with breastfeeding, it usually gets much easier with time. Also, a lactation consultant or your doctor can offer helpful feedback. Often, subtle shifts in technique make a huge difference.

Also, there are many options for feeding your baby—and ways to breastfeed. What matters most is that your baby is fed, not how you do it. You can feed your baby infant formula, a combination of both formula and breast milk, pump and bottle feed your baby, or breastfeed exclusively. Some people decide to exclusively pump for their children. You can also pump for a few days or weeks and then resume breastfeeding when your baby gets a little bigger if you'd like.

2 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 Agriculture. WIC Works Resource System. Your guide to breastfeeding.

  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.

  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding a Guide for the Medical Profession, Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences.

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

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

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.