Will the size and shape of my nipples make breastfeeding more difficult?
So many new moms (and moms-to-be) are concerned about their baby’s ability to breastfeed because they’re worried they may have problem nipples. Since there isn’t one nipple type, here comes some encouraging news: once your newborn nurses for the first time, they memorize your nipple size and shape. Whenever they come back to the breast to feed, they get more familiar and comfortable with that unique and individual nipple. They know just where to place their tongue to maximize milk removal and develop their own special rhythm for all future feedings.
There are some nipple shapes and sizes that can cause minor difficulties with feedings early on:
- Large, bulbous nipples may make it harder for your baby to have their gums deep enough on the areola to cause compression and allow adequate milk removal.
- Small or shorter nipples, or inverted nipples, sometimes prevent the baby from getting a deep latch-on. This can create nipple tenderness or trauma and might lead to decreased milk removal, which can result in a diminished supply.
Nipples come in all different shapes and sizes. Some have a smooth surface, while others are more textured with small crevices. Regardless of which type you have, you should plan to nurse early after delivery and repeat the feeding process often in the first 48-72 hours so you and your baby can develop a pattern. Doing this will also help you see if your baby has mastered a deep and effective latch-on without causing any pain or trauma to you. If you need help healing sore, cracked or painful nipples, some treatments can include natural nipple creams and balms, soothing and cooling gel pads, breast shells, nipple shields, and medicated creams or ointments, which may be necessary in extreme cases.
It’s a good idea to speak with your midwife, OB physician, or nurse practitioner early in your pregnancy about any of your worries. When you deliver, make sure your nurses and lactation consultant are aware of your concerns.
Need more support to get breastfeeding off to a good start? Talk to us about your breastfeeding challenges and get help from a lactation consultant on our team.