Nipple Variations and Breastfeeding


When you're breastfeeding, there's a few things that can cause some hiccups along the way. 

Did you know that the size and shape of your nipples may play a role in the way your baby is able to breastfeed effectively? Even if nipple shape is different for every mother, there's a few tips and tricks that can make breastfeeding easier for you and and your baby. 

An improper latch can result in nipple pain and a fussy, frustrated baby.

The first step is identifying what your nipple shape is, and the cues your baby is giving at feeding time. 

Flat Nipples

If your nipples lay flat or flush to your breast when not stimulated, you might be in this category. Flat nipples can be a challenge while breastfeeding, as they keep your baby from being able to latch properly. If this sounds like you, try stimulating the nipple area before latching your baby to give them a helping hand. Your breast pump may also help draw out the nipple more before breastfeeding. Many mothers with flatter nipples find that the football or cross-cradle hold gives them more control and allows the baby to latch properly. Experiment with different feeding positions that allows the baby to latch as far as possible.  

Inverted Nipples

Having inverted nipples can be even more of a challenge than flat nipples because they are typically unable to be stimulated to protrude. When breasts become engorged, inverted nipples may even more difficult to stimulate. Your lactation consultant may recommend pumping several days to a week before breastfeeding to encourage nipples to protrude enough for your baby to latch properly. While nursing you might find it to be more helpful to pull back on the breast tissue to expose more nipple to the baby. Your postpartum doula can help you create a breastfeeding plan that makes feeding time more comfortable with nipple inversion.

Large Nipples

Properly latching for the first few times can be challenging if the mother has large nipples. The problem here is the baby is unable to get the entire nipple in their mouth properly, disrupting milk flow and causing them to slip off the breast. This can be remedied with different positions and some assistance as they latch. Also it may be helpful to avoid any additional stimulation of the nipple right before latching as you would for inverted or flat nipples. When your baby goes to feed, help manipulate the breast tissue to align them properly with the nipple and try holding them at different angles that can keep you both comfortable. In this case, practice makes perfect and your baby will develop their own techniques. 

Even with a few challenges, breastfeeding can be an incredible and rewarding experience. 

Having some additional support can give you the confidence you need to reach your breastfeeding goals and overcome obstacles along the way.


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Are you drinking that? I thought you were breastfeeding!

‘Tis the season for holiday gatherings, celebrations and festivities. For breastfeeding mothers it often feels like a really gray area – breastfeeding and alcohol consumption. Champagne toasts, festive cocktails, egg nog, hot toddies, wine with dinner or appetizers, whatever you like to indulge in during the season it all comes into question when we are now breastfeeding a new or even an older baby. What are you supposed to do? Pump and dump? Supplement? Breastfeed as usual? It's all so confusing!


Let the doulas and the lactation professionals ease your mind a little bit.

Current research shows that the occasional use of alcohol does not appear to be harmful to breastfed babies (1-2 drinks) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that no more than 0.5 g alcohol per kg of body weight – SAY WHAT? 

Here's the breakdown -  a woman weighting about 60 kg (132 lbs) can have approximately 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine (two 4 oz glasses) or 2 beers (two 12 oz beers). They recommend that nursing should take place 2 or more hours after the alcohol intake to “minimize its concentration in the ingested milk”. But when it comes to pumping and dumping breast milk, let's use our judgement and consider all the facts: 

  • Less than 2% of the alcohol you drink actually reaches your blood and milk and alcohol peaks in your system ½ - 1 hour after ingestion (of course variables include whether you've eaten or not, your body weight, percentage of body fat, etc.).
  • There is nothing that shows it speeds the elimination of the alcohol from the breastmilk. 
  • Alcohol does not hydrate you, in fact it does the opposite so it will not increase your milk supply
  • Alcohol can also slow the milk ejection reflex or “let down” process so it may take longer to let down during your post alcoholic beverage nursing session.
  • Alcohol does not accumulate in breastmilk.


What does that look like to the breastfeeding mother at a holiday party? 

One option might be to nurse your baby before the alcoholic beverage and, if it makes you feel comfortable, wait two hours after the beverage to nurse the baby again.

Fairly simple, right? 

With all the information out there, and guidelines available, the bottom line is use your best judgment: if you don't feel able to drive, you should not breastfeed your baby. 

We hope this eases your mind a little to enjoy a beverage or two at your festivities this holiday season. 

Happy Holidays and Cheers!

Our contributor today is the lovely Alison Vanderburgh; CLC, and birth & postpartum doula. She is mom to son, Luke, 4, as well as two step-daughters. Her passion for breastfeeding education and support was ignited when her son was born and she hasn’t looked back! It is her goal: 

to support mothers and partners through this incredibly life changing time.  To help mom bring her baby earth side in a peaceful, loving, supportive manner.  To help support mom transitioning to a new normal in the postpartum period and facilitate feeding assistance and education when needed.  I am honored to be chosen by you and consider this time very sacred.

You can reach her at or 207.446.0276.