Breasts come in all shapes, sizes. No two are alike, even on the same woman. The same is true for nipples. Certain nipple shapes may make breastfeeding more challenging but not impossible!
Here is a list of different types of nipples and some tips, tools, and resources that can help reduce breastfeeding challenges:
Everted – this may be the “easiest” type of nipple to nurse with and the kind most women may be expected to have. This nipple extends with or without cold temperature or stimulation.
Flat nipples – a nipple (or nipples) that do not erect or protrude even when stimulated or cold. Try a nipple shield with the guidance of an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). You can find nipple shields in many places, but there are right ways and wrong ways to use them. Let the pros help you with this one.
A simple pinch test can determine the difference between flat or inverted nipples. If you pinch the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) and the nipple protrudes this is considered “flat”. If the nipple turns into the breast it is considered “inverted”.You can also try breast shells for both types.
Unilateral – no two nipples are alike and it is possible to have one everted and one inverted nipple. Hence unilateral. Once you determine your nipple type try the shell, evertor or shield on the breast that needs a little help.
Long – similar to everted nipples only longer and more stated. May have latch issues if nipple gags baby with deep latch.
Short – some nipples aren’t quite “flat” or “inverted”, but they still don’t evert as easily as baby may prefer.
Remember, it’s called “breastfeeding” not “nipplefeeding”, so the shape of your nipple isn’t all there is to it. A good latch is one that is deep onto the breast. A shallow latch might cause cracked and/or bleeding nipples from rubbing up against baby’s gum ridges instead of her smooth palette deeper into her mouth.
Babies do best when they feel a firm nipple on the roof of their mouths, which is why using tools to lengthen the nipple (like a nipple everter), or a nipple shield may be helpful tools to encourage your baby’s latch. Some women have found that wearing breast shells during the last weeks of pregnancy help to bring out their nipples, though research is conflicted on how effective this actually is.
If your nipples have different shapes know that you are not alone and breastfeeding is certainly still possible. Consult with a lactation consultant, practice patience and consider using one of the tools mentioned in this article.
Remember your breasts are beautiful and unique. It might take a little extra effort but breastfeeding should be possible with the right tools and support.
Photo by Jim Cooke