A bad latch can contribute to a number of other breastfeeding issues for both mother and baby. Because the nipple plays a huge role in the latching process, moms with small or flat nipples may wonder, can a baby latch if you have small nipples.
Well, you can breath a sigh of relief. Lactation Consultant Lindsay Kempenich Greenfield tells Romper that small nipples don't cause breastfeeding problems because babies aren't "nipple feeding" — they're breastfeeding. If your baby's able to get his mouth around the nipple and latch around the areola, he shouldn't have any issues breastfeeding, according to La Leche League International. Small nipples could, however, be confused with flat or inverted nipple issues.
If you aren't sure what your nipple status may be, there's a quick way to tell if you have flat or inverted nipples, according to What to Expect. Place a finger on either side of your areola and lightly squeeze – if your nipples stay in a resting position instead of popping out, they're flat, and if they retract inward, they're inverted. That being said, lactation consultant and registered nurse Tera Kelley Hamann tells Romper that nipples are only flat or inverted if they stay that way after stimulation, so you may want to stimulate the nipple before trying the test.
Additionally, most types of flat or inverted nipples don't cause problems with breastfeeding, but there's always a chance you'll have some latch difficulties, according to the aforementioned LLLI article. For moms experiencing potential difficulty from small, inverted, or flat nipples, here are some tips to help with latch.
1. Use Breast Shells
According to Breastfeeding Basics, breast shells are two pieces of plastic, a dome and a base, that fit together with a space for the nipple to protrude. They can be worn under a bra to help draw out flat or inverted nipples, even during pregnancy. Hamann shares a reminder, however, that shields often cause a whole new set of problems and "should only be used with good lactation support and education."
2. Pump It Up
The stimulation of a breast pump can be a great option to draw out your nipples just before a nursing session, according to the aforementioned What to Expect article.
3. Utilize The Hoffman Technique
The aforementioned LLLI article suggested the Hoffman Technique to help loosen the adhesions at the base of the nipple, both during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To use it, you can place a thumb on either side of the nipple (not the areola) and press against your breast while pulling your thumbs apart.
4. Try Nipple Stimulation & Hand Expression
Another option to help with small inverted or flat nipples is to roll the nipple between your thumb and index finger for a couple minutes and place a cold cloth to it to help it become erect, according to the aforementioned LLLI article. You could also try hand expression, or the process of massaging the breast to stimulate production, to get things started before latching your baby.
5. Pull Back On The Breast During Latch
According to Baby Center, a quick fix could include simply pulling back on your breast as your baby is latching. Sometimes this allows your nipple to protrude outward just enough that it works.
6. Wear Nipple Shields
If nothing else works, a nipple shield is an option during breastfeeding. According to Baby Gooroo, you should place the nipple shield in warm water and stretch it onto your breast drawing out the nipple. Then, you can hold the nipple shield in place while bringing your baby to your breast to latch. You should one use this at the start of your feeding and then remove it once your baby is latched and feeding well.
7. See A Lactation Consultant
A lactation consultant is often the best resource to go to first, but if you've tried all of the options above, it's definitely time to reach out to a lactation consultant. Along with small nipples or flat and inverted issues, there could be an underlying issue that's affecting a strong latch. A professional in breastfeeding can often help you solve the problem in no time in my experience.