Types of Nipples and Their Influence on Breastfeeding

Types of Nipples and Their Influence on Breastfeeding

Last update: 06 June, 2018

There are five different types of nipples, each with their own particularities and anatomy. Of course, we must be clear that there are no advantages or disadvantages of having one type of nipple or another.

Simply put, each woman should know her own body and learn to care for her nipples during breastfeeding.

The 5 types of nipples and their characteristics

1. The common nipple

The common nipple is so-called because it predominates in most women. In a normal state, this type of nipple stands out a few millimeters from the areola.

When stimulated by tactile manipulation, by different temperatures, by a state of mind or by breastfeeding, its size easily increases.

2. The flat nipple

This type of nipple protrudes so discreetly that it seems to form a flat surface in relation to the areola.

However, it reacts in the same way as a common nipple in the face of any stimulation or breastfeeding. Its peculiar aspect is that it tends to be shorter or to stand out less.

3. Swollen nipples

The appearance of swollen nipples is very similar to that of flat nipples because they don’t protrude from the areola as usual.

However, swollen nipples quickly retract after reacting to any stimulation. In general, women with swollen nipples have problems during breastfeeding.

Types of Nipples and Their Influence on Breastfeeding

4. Inverted nipples

Inverted nipples look similar to dimples because they’re sunken. In general, they can easily be removed via a surgical intervention.

Remember that the success of breastfeeding will depend, in part, on the state of the mother’s nipples.

Currently, three degrees of nipple inversion are known, and there are treatments for them:

  • In the first degree, there is no relevant obstruction in the milk ducts. This is the best scenario for breastfeeding, since the expectant mother will be able to breastfeed her baby normally after having the nipples fixed.
  • In the second degree of inversion, there are slight obstructions in the breasts’ milk ducts. In these cases, breastfeeding may be possible, but the woman will have difficulties and may feel pain when offering breast milk.
  • Unfortunately, in the third degree of inversion, the breast milk ducts are totally restricted and breastfeeding is impossible.

The “common” nipple is so-called because it predominates in most women around the world. In a normal state, this type of nipple stands out from the areola by a few millimeters.

5. Unilateral nipples

Women with unilateral nipples have a normal nipple and an inverted nipple.

In general, it’s possible to work around the partial or complete obstruction of the inverted nipple by changing positions while breastfeeding and carefully using the other nipple to supply milk.

How to recognize an inverted nipple?

Many women don’t know they have inverted nipples, since they’re used to the appearance of their own breasts.

However, it’s easy to recognize whether you have an inverted nipple with a simple home method. To begin with, gently press the region of the nipple that is about 3 centimeters from the areola.

If the nipple slightly increases in size or protrudes from the areola, it’s a possible sign of a pseudo-inversion. But if it’s still sunken, you’re probably facing an inverted nipple of the second or third degree.

Nipple types and breastfeeding

Although the types of nipples influence breastfeeding, it’s not the only determining aspect. Women with common nipples may also have problems during breastfeeding or in milk production.

At the time of breastfeeding, each woman will have her difficulties and must find her own solutions, always with the help of her doctor.

Types of Nipples and Their Influence on Breastfeeding

Many babies have difficulty grasping and sucking on flat, swollen or pseudo-inverted nipples. For these cases, there are devices that help the nipples stay protruding.

However, some babies may reject the device, and their mothers should try to recreate the action of the device with their own hands.

On the other hand, common but large nipples can cause gagging due to friction with the baby’s palate. In these cases, the mother’s job will be to very carefully avoid having the baby place the entire nipple in his mouth.

Women with second-degree inverted nipples will have greater problems breastfeeding. The volume of milk can be reduced by obstructions, which can generate a more intense suction and cause pain in the breast.

In the cases of third-level inversion, breastfeeding will be impossible.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.