Breastfeeding and Areola Size

How an Average, Small, or Large Areola Can Affect Your Baby's Latch

A baby latches on to the nipple and the areola. George Doyle/Getty Images

Breastfeeding and the Size of the Areola

The areola plays an important role in a proper breastfeeding latch. A baby does not breastfeed on the nipple alone. Located below the areola are the milk sinuses and the milk ducts. In order to draw the breast milk out of your breasts, your baby needs to squeeze this area while he's breastfeeding. To do this effectively, your baby must take in at least part, if not all, of your areola.

When your baby latches on correctly, he will have your entire nipple in his mouth plus approximately 1 inch of the surrounding areola and breast tissue. So, the amount of your areola that your child needs to latch on to depends on the size of your areola.

Breastfeeding Latch and an Average Size Areola

An average areola is about 1 to 2 inches across (diameter). When your baby latches on properly, he should have most of your areola in his mouth, and you should only be able to see a small amount of your areola around the latch.

Breastfeeding Latch and a Small Areola

A smaller areola – under 1 inch across - should fit entirely in your baby's mouth. When your child has a good latch, you may not see much, or any, of your areola. If you have a small areola, and you can see most of it when your baby is latched on, then break the suction of the latch, remove your little one from your breast, and try again.

Breastfeeding Latch and a Large Areola

If you have a larger areola – greater than 2 inches across - your baby is only going to take a small portion of it in during the latch. When your child latches on correctly, you will still be able to see a good deal of your areola. The first few times that you latch your baby on, it may be difficult to tell if your baby is latching on to more than just your nipple.

If you can, get some help in the beginning so you can feel confident that your baby is latching on well. It's also a good idea to learn the signs of good latch vs. a poor latch ahead of time, so you know what you're looking for when the time comes.

Why Is the Size of Your Areola Important?

It's important to understand how the size of your areola relates to your baby's latch. When you see diagrams or read the instructions on how to latch a baby on correctly, they are often generalized for women with an average size areola. If your areola is bigger or smaller than what is pictured or described, you may not think your baby is latching on properly, when he actually is. Or, you may think that your baby is latching on well when he really isn't.

Areola and the Importance of a Good Breastfeeding Latch

If your baby isn't taking in enough of your areola when he's latching on, it could cause some breastfeeding issues. A poor breastfeeding latch can lead to sore nipples, a lower breast milk supply, weight loss in your baby, and early weaning.

But, when your baby is latching on correctly,  she can get enough breast milk to gain weight and grow at a healthy rate. A good latch also means that your baby will be able to drain the breast milk from your breasts to stimulate your body to produce more, and it will help to prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as painful breast engorgement and plugged milk ducts.

Where to Find Help

If you aren't sure if your baby is latching on well, ask someone to check your breastfeeding technique. Your doctor, a nurse, a lactation professional, or a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche, can help.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Newman, Jack, MD, Pitman, Theresa. The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers. Three Rivers Press. New York. 2006.

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

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