Breastfeeding with Flat Nipples

How to get Your Baby to Latch On

Tips For Breastfeeding With Flat Nipples, Latching A Baby Onto Flat Nipples
Breast engorgement can lead to flat nipples. onebluelight/E+/Getty Images

The Nipple

The nipple is the area on your breast that is usually slightly raised in the center of the areola. Each nipple has many small openings that lead to the milk ducts and allow breast milk to flow out of your breast to the baby. The size and shape of nipples vary from woman to woman.

What are Flat Nipples?

Flat nipples are not raised. They appear to lay even with the areola and the surrounding skin on your breast.

Flat nipples do not stick outward from the breast, but they don't turn inward (inverted nipples) either.

See Also: Tips For Breastfeeding With Nipples That Turn Inward

Many women have nipples that appear flat most of the time, but then become erect when they are exposed to cold temperature or sexual stimulation. These are not truly flat nipples. True flat nipples do not respond to cold or arousal. However, even if you have nipples that remain flat all the time, they will often start to protrude outward during your pregnancy. 

If you have protruding nipples, you may also experience flat nipples if your breasts become engorged. When your breasts become overfull with breast milk, they can become hard and swollen. This can cause your nipples to become flat and make it more difficult for your baby to latch on

Flat Nipples and Breastfeeding

In general, flat nipples do not usually interfere with breastfeeding.

Most newborns can latch on to flat nipples without much of a problem. And, as long as your baby can latch on to your breast properly, he or she will be able to draw your nipples out. Here are 6 tips to keep in mind if you're breastfeeding with flat nipples.

6 Tips for Breastfeeding With Flat Nipples

  1. You can wear a product called breast shells between feedings. Breast shells put pressure on the base of your nipple to help them stick out more. Just remember to remove the breast shells before you breastfeed your child. Unlike nipple shields, you cannot wear breast shells while you're nursing.
  1. Try using a breast pump right before you nurse your baby. The suction of a breast pump can help to draw out and elongate your nipples. There is also something called a nipple averter that can help pull out flat nipples. 
  2. If your nipples are flat due to breast engorgement, you can try to remove a little bit of breast milk before you put your baby to the breast. Hand expressing or pumping some breast milk before a feeding helps to soften engorged breasts and makes it easier for your baby to latch on. However, you should only pump a little bit of breast milk.  Remember that when you remove too much breast milk, your body will make more and engorgement could get worse.   
  3. Use a V-hold or a C-hold to gently squeeze your breast and present your nipple and areola to your baby. These holds compress the breast like a sandwich so the baby has something to latch on to. Learning how to hold and offer your breast to your baby can help to encourage a good latch.
  4. If you are having trouble getting your baby to latch on, or if you're not sure if your baby is latching on correctly, have your baby's latch evaluated by your doctor or a breastfeeding specialist. A trusted health professional with breastfeeding experience can recommend the best ways to deal with your specific circumstances. 
  1. To be sure that your baby is breastfeeding well on your flat nipples, look for the signs that he or she is getting enough breast milk. Keep track of your baby's wet diapers and be sure to take your baby to all her scheduled well-visits for weight checks. 
     

If you have any concerns about your nipples or if you are having difficulty latching your baby on to your breast seek help as soon as possible. A lactation consultant, your doctor, your baby's doctor or a local breastfeeding group can provide assistance.   

Sources:

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.

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