Small or large, pointing straight out or hanging east and west, inverted or pretty proud to see you… nipples come in all shapes and sizes. And the anatomy of yours can affect how well your baby latches on, as well as which breastfeeding position will work best for you both.
Given that both you and your baby are unique, it makes sense that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to breastfeeding.
‘Think of breastfeeding as a two-piece puzzle with your nipple and your baby’s mouth as two puzzle pieces,’ says Geraldine Miskin, a breastfeeding specialist. ‘Sometimes the fit is perfect. Sometimes the fit is less-than-great to start with, but gets better with time. And sometimes the size or shape of your nipples might makes getting your milk trickier for your baby. And this might be leading to long feeds, frequent feeds, nipple soreness or slow weight gain, even when you have the “perfect” position and a “textbook” latch.’
Sound familiar? Then let’s nip those problems in the bud! ‘Whatever the anatomical fit of those puzzle pieces, there is always a way to ensure that your baby gets your milk,’ promises Geraldine. So don’t worry for even a second if your nipples are small or extra-large: ‘Nipples come in different shapes and sizes’, says Geraldine. ‘And there is no right or wrong! It’s all about how you and baby work or fit together.’
How to find your best breastfeeding position
‘Just like us, babies are all different,’ says Geraldine. ‘They are born at different ages and sizes and this influences how big baby’s mouth is, and that affects the breastfeeding jigsaw.’ For instance, a small baby latching onto a long, wide nipple will need a different position to a larger baby latching on to a flat and narrow nipple. It’s all about you finding the best breastfeeding position for you and your baby.
If your nipple looks too big for your baby’s mouth...
‘If your nipples are average in length, your baby will be able to scoop up more breast or areola when latching,’ says Geraldine. ‘The trick is to position him nose-to-nipple at the start. This way he’ll have an off-centre latch with his lower lip on your areola and his top lip just next to your nipple. This will get your nipple to the back of his mouth where it’s comfortable for you both.’
What size are your nipples?
You can breastfeed however big or small your nipples are! There aren’t any official guidelines when it comes to nipple size, but this gauge is a handy guide for those of you who’ve never considered your nipple size before and are curious!
Measure the width of your nipples at their base (not your areola).
Less than 12mm: small
More than 23mm: extra-large.
Less than 5mm: flat
More than 12mm: long
Meet the expert: Geraldine Miskin is an independent breastfeeding specialist and founder of maternity nurse agency Miskin Maternity.