Breastfeeding With Large Nipples

Information and Tips for Success

Mother holding premature baby. Breastfeeding and Large Nipple: 7 Tips for Success
Small newborns and preemies may have trouble latching on to larger nipples.. casenbina/E+/Getty Images

Can You Breastfeed if You Have Large Nipples?

Yes, it is possible to breastfeed if you have large nipples. Women have nipples of all shapes and sizes, and most of them can breastfeed just fine. Your newborns should be able to breastfeed on whichever type of nipple you have. However, it may be harder for a small newborn or a premature baby to latch on to very large nipples.

Large Nipples and the Breastfeeding Latch

For your baby to latch on to your breast correctly, she needs to take your entire nipple and a good bit of your areola into her mouth.

Then, as she breastfeeds, her mouth squeezes the milk ducts under your areola, to get the breast milk out of your breast. But, if you have big nipples, your nipple may fill your baby's mouth preventing her from latching onto your areola. So, if your child can only latch onto your nipple, she may not be able to breastfeed well.

Now, 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, latching onto the nipple alone doesn't allow the baby to get enough milk. Plus, breastfeeding on the nipple alone can also cause sore, cracked, bleeding nipples and a decrease in your breast milk supply.

Large nipples are really only an issue in early breastfeeding. Once your baby begins to grow, he will be able to latch on to your larger nipples and take in enough of the surrounding areola to successfully breastfeed.

It may just take a few more weeks than you expected. 

Tips for Breastfeeding with Large Nipples

  1. Have your doctor, a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding specialist examine your breasts and nipples. These health care professionals can provide you with the advice and assistance you need to get your baby latched on well.  
  1. Try using a breast pump before you breastfeed your baby. The suction of a breast pump can help to make your nipple longer, and it can thin out large nipples making it easier for your baby to latch on. 
  2. If your breasts are overfull or engorged, you can pump or hand express some of your breast milk before you begin to breastfeed. Since, it's more difficult for a newborn to latch on to a hard, full breast, if you remove some of the breast milk and make your breast softer, your baby may be able to latch on better and take in more of your areola. 
  3. Try breastfeeding your baby using the football hold, 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. 
  4. 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. However, if it's not used correctly, it could cause even more breastfeeding problems. So, if you do use it, follow all of the directions that your healthcare provider gives you. 
  1. Learn the differences between a good latch and a poor latch so that you can recognize when your baby is latching on correctly and when he's not.
  2. Keep a close eye on your baby and look for the signs that he's getting enough breast milk such as having enough wet diapers each day. Of course, the best sign is weight gain. So, take your baby to his doctor for regular weight checks to be sure he's gaining weight at a healthy pace.

What if Breastfeeding with Large Nipples Is Too Hard?

If it's just too hard and overwhelming to continue to try to breastfeed, and your baby is not getting enough breast milk, it's OK to stop. If you want to continue giving your baby breast milk, you can pump and bottle feed your baby. Many women exclusively pump for their children.

You could also use infant formula or a combination of both formula and breast milk. You need to do what is best for you and your baby, and whatever you decide, you don't have to feel guilty. Just be sure to talk to your child's doctor to find out what your baby needs at this stage. Then, if you want to try breastfeeding again when your baby gets a little bigger, you can.

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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