How to Successfully Breastfeed When You Have Large Nipples

Mother holding her baby on her chest

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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. A small newborn or a preemie could have a harder time latching on if you have very big nipples, but they will likely be able to after they grow a little.

Trouble Latching On

For your child 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.

Your nipple may fill your child's mouth so that they cannot 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.

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 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. In the meantime, there are some strategies for helping your baby latch on.

  • 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 their mouth. Touching 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.
  • Cup your breast: Hold 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.
  • Dab on breast milk: 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 mothers.
  • 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.
  • Get help from a lactation consultant: A breastfeeding expert can teach you the most effective techniques for successfully breastfeeding with large nipples.
  • Hand express your breast milk: If your breasts are overly full, 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.​

Keep a close eye on your newborn and look for the signs that they are getting enough breast milk such as having enough soiled and 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 rate.

A Word From Verywell

If your baby is not getting enough breast milk and not growing adequately and/or it's too frustrating to continue to try to breastfeed, it's OK to stop. Many women struggle to get the hang of nursing during the first few weeks and/or choose to feed their baby formula. However, know that 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. You can feed your baby infant formula or a combination of both formula and breast milk. If you want to keep giving your baby breast milk, one choice is to pump and bottle feed your baby. Some women 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.

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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 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.