Can Nipples Be Too Big/Small to Breastfeed?   

Can Nipples Be Too Big/Small to Breastfeed?

A woman breastfeeding her child on the couch at home.

June 06, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Luiza Zuraw, RNC, IBCLC

Are you eager to breastfeed but worried that your breasts are the wrong size? Relax – most people can breastfeed, no matter the size or shape of their breasts.

If you’re concerned that your nipples are too big or small, also don’t worry. Most new moms can nurse their babies, regardless of nipple size.

Nipple size( or shape) may have more of an impact on breastfeeding than breast size, but you should still be able to breastfeed, although some women may need modifications.

How Nipple Size & Shape Can Impact Breastfeeding

When you think of a nipple, what image comes to mind? You’re probably picturing a nipple plus its areola, the darkened skin surrounding the center.

Areola, nipple and breast sizes vary between women. But the size of the areola shouldn’t impact your ability to breastfeed.

When babies breastfeed, they take the nipple and some areola into their mouths. It’s fine if part of the areola doesn’t fit into a baby’s mouth.

However, it’s important for a baby to have the entire nipple in their mouth. Milk ducts are located within the nipple, so babies must latch on for nourishment.

Large nipples: 

  • If you have large nipples (the central protrusions), breastfeeding a newborn could be challenging: A newborn might not be able to fit the whole nipple into their mouth.
  • This is a rare occurrence, and it’s something that newborns grow out of: As babies grow, their mouths get larger, enabling them to latch on more easily.

Flat or inverted nipples:

  • Some people have flat nipples, which don’t protrude in response to cold. Other people have inverted nipples, which point inward, not outward.
  • Luckily, even women with flat or inverted nipples may breastfeed their babies. After a baby latches on to suckle, the sucking action pulls the nipple outward.
  • If your breasts are engorged (very full), normal nipples may appear to be flat. If your baby has trouble latching on, hand-express some milk to relieve pressure.

A breastfeeding baby’s suck draws the mother’s nipple deep into the mouth, releasing milk. This may happen whether the mother’s nipples are flat, inverted or normal.

Many babies whose moms have flat or inverted nipples manage to breastfeed effectively. If you have difficulty, seek advice from a lactation consultant or pediatrician.

If your baby has difficulty latching, consider:

  • Avoiding engorgement. Breastfeed often, so your breasts don’t become engorged, which may make latching on trickier.
  • Using different positions. Place your baby on the breast from different angles, or lie on your side. Your baby may have better luck in certain positions.
  • Squeezing your breast tissue. Roll the nipple and areola between your thumb and index finger, “pinching” it gently. Holding yourself this way may make it easier for your baby to latch on.
  • “Warming up” your nipples with a breast pump. The pump’s suction helps to extend your nipples, pulling them outward. Try using a breast pump for a minute or two, then having your baby latch on.
  • Trying a nipple shield. Placing this thin silicone device over a flat or inverted nipple may improve latching. They should only be used temporarily, until your baby becomes adept at breastfeeding.

Before using a nipple shield or other strategies, seek help from a lactation consultant. There may be another solution that you may not have considered.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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