Flat Or Inverted Nipples? Try These 3 Helpful Breastfeeding Tips

Flat Or Inverted Nipples? Try These 3 Helpful Breastfeeding Tips

Breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples may seem like a challenge.

All women have different sized and shaped breasts.

Likewise, all women have different shaped and sized nipples.

Some women with certain nipple types worry they may not be able to breastfeed.

Most mothers, regardless of the breast or nipple shape or size, can breastfeed.

Flat Or Inverted Nipples? Try These 3 Helpful Breastfeeding Tips

Some mothers with nipple variations such as flat or inverted nipples may find it helpful to obtain some tips from a breastfeeding expert.

Breastfeeding experts include: Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) counsellor, La Leche League leader or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant IBCLC.

It’s important to be aware breastfeeding is possible with flat or inverted nipples.

If you’re concerned about flat or inverted nipples, here are 3 tips to help.

#1: Seek Support In Pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you may have already noticed some changes to your breasts, nipples and areolae as they prepare for breastfeeding.

For example, you may have noticed an increase in the size of your breasts (and perhaps your nipples) and perhaps darkening of your nipples/areolae.

You may have even noticed the Montgomery glands around your areolae becoming more prominent.

Another thing you can look at is what type of nipples you have. If your nipples remain flush with your areolae, your nipples retract, or don’t come out when coaxed, you most likely have flat or inverted nipples.

If so, you may find it helpful to speak with breastfeeding expert.

They can provide you with tips about how to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.

This includes  how to optimise positioning and attachment, early skin-to-skin contact.

And the importance of early, frequent and effective milk removal in helping to establish your supply).

If you’re in Australia, consider attending an ABA breastfeeding education class where you can learn all about breastfeeding before your baby is born.

#2: Minimise Breast Engorgement

Some mothers may experience engorgement when their breast milk comes in.

Your milk ducts become too full and this leads to swelling to your areolae.

Hence milk engorgement can lead to flat nipples (or further flattening) and also create extra firmness in your breasts.

These things may make it more difficult for your baby to attach. Again, speaking with an ABA counsellor, midwife or IBCLC can help.

They may suggest some hand expressing and reverse pressure softening before feeds to help your baby latch on more easily.

Of course prevention is better than cure, so trying to prevent your breasts becoming engorged in the first place can help.

Feeding your baby whenever your baby shows cues to feed and optimising positioning and attachment can help reduce the risk of your breasts becoming engorged.

If there are problems with feeding your baby directly from your breasts, hand expressing is the mainstay of milk removal in the early days postnatally.

#3: Seek Tips From A Breastfeeding Expert

If you’re having difficulty getting your baby to attach to your breasts, seek extra tips from a breastfeeding expert. If you have flat or inverted nipples, it may be suggested to try:

  • Drawing your nipples out before breastfeeding, either by expressing by hand or with a breast pump before feeds. This encourages your nipples to protrude so your baby can latch on more easily.
  • Baby-led attachment. This is when a baby uses his own instincts to seek his mother’s breasts on his own accord. Sometimes, this helps a baby to attach and feed better than someone putting him to the breast.
  • A nipple shield. If nothing else seems to work, a nipple shield can be a good solution. It gives a baby with something tangible to attach onto. Before trying a nipple shield, it’s important to seek face-to-face support from a breastfeeding expert.

So, while flat or inverted nipples can make breastfeeding a bit more tricky, there are tips which can help. If you’re concerned, be sure to seek help ASAP.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. Sometimes a nipple shield is the only thing that will work, and that is okay. Do not take the advice to “resist the temptation” to take the nipple shield. When my older daughter was born, I discovered I had flat nipples. We went through so much trauma trying to get her to latch while I pumped around the clock for three weeks. We saw several lactation consultants who all said the same thing as above, but then could never do anything to get her latched. Finally, one of them gave me a nipple shield and she was able to latch. After a few weeks of using the nipple shield, we were able to wean her off of that and went on to nurse until she was 17.5 months. With my second daughter, I tried to get her to latch without the nipple shield, but she couldn’t and we used it within the first two days. It was a much easier process and a much more peaceful nursing experience. So, if it works for you, use it. If your choice is using a nipple shield or not nursing, by all means, use the nipple shield and do not let lactation consultants makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong or are failing in some way.

    1. APL…
      If only I had read this post a few months ago!
      I struggled so hard with BF my daughter due to having flat nipples and her never being able to latch on. The midwives and nurses told me to keep trying and my nipples were cracked open, bleeding and covered in bruises.
      When I did try feeding her with shields she could latch on but I was still in alot of pain throughout the feed.
      I ended up exclusively pumping for 8 weeks before I gave in and started tubule formula. I know there is nothing wrong with it but I felt like such a failure as I couldn’t even feed my own baby. I wish I had used shields from the start until feeding felt comfortable but didn’t feel like I was supposed to do that.
      Im praying I will be able to feed my 2nd and not go through all this again. I would love to here from you if you have any other tips!

      1. None of the numerous lactation consultants I saw had heard of a niplette, but this device can really help to draw out the nipple and make it more prominent. The only reason I already knew about it was because I tried one as a self-conscious teenager. Also hand expressing a little to get the letdown before trying to latch can make it a bit easier for baby. Nipple shields can work well for some people, if not using them for too long. I found them painful, and as I never had a good milk supply, there was also the risk that they would make my supply drop further. 2.5yrs on we’re still going(although we never got the hang of a ‘perfect’ latch!), and I plan to try tandem feeding with the next baby due in a few days. 🙂

  2. I agree with the post above. If you have flat nipples just use a shield if it helps!! I have no idea what this is discouraged when it could prevent so many women from giving up. I struggled for 4 days in hospital with latching issues caused by flat nipples. Despite numerous nurses and lactation consultant helping me in hospital, nipple shields were never mentioned as an option. Once I was at home my sister bought me nipple shields after me (and my baby!) were crying with frustration. He latched immediately and we never looked back. By 12 weeks he was weined off the shields. Without them I would have had to stop breastfeeding.

  3. I’ve just had my 2nd daughter and within two days I started using nipple shields! I knew about these from having to use them with my first daughter, who once these were in use latched on really well and it was 6wks before I had to revert to bottle feeding due to her needing gaviscon infant for gastric reflux (trying to syringe that into her didn’t work so put in bottles was a lot less stressful for her and me) This time around my LO won’t latch on amediatley she gets frantic with her hands and knocks the shield off in the process leaving us both covered in breast milk, as my supply is there plenty, I have flat nipples as soon as she tries to attach to them so I have to use a shield. Shields are not for everyone, or work with with every baby so easily, I’m discovering. So I do a combination of offering the breast first, with a shield on, and then topping up with formular if I can see she hasn’t been satisfied with feeding off both breasts! So far it’s working, but I am on the look out for smaller shields as these ones appear too big for my daughters mouth (she’s a prem baby) so hopefully with smaller shields latching and feeding will improve and baby with be happy. Happy baby = happy mummy .

  4. With all due respect, I doubt this article was objectively written. You have no idea how almost impossible it is to breastfeed with inverted or retracted nipples.

    Retracted nipples may not seem so at first sight until they are pulled in, so judging based on how it looks isn’t always correct.

    You need to talk to people who really have these challenges and hear what they have to say.

  5. My second baby is 18 days old now and just my elder one he is unable to latch. I have the same nipple shape reason and no lactation consultant is advising me to use shield. Alla they say is to try try and try. And the result is frustration of both of us. So should I try these shield without any expert consultation?

  6. I have been struggling myself, My breast are so big and nipples are flat unable to feed my new born bAby. So I started to use my breast pump to help getting nipple in shape but as she latch she as it for like 2 seconds and delatches again and it is a struggle because My nipple goes flat after that a seconds again and my poor baby starts to shout and I feel so bad, nurses and breast feeding consulting has been done but nothing works. I started using the Manuel breast pump and bottle to feed the breast milk but everybody including my husband makes me feel bad about being unable to do it the natural way which they don’t understand how frustrating it is for me. The breast pump works for me but takes up to much time and energy also and its very hard having to pump for hours on end. What should I do?, I feel like me having to get the nipple shield will time but my question is will it be the same effect as bottle because my little one is only 5 day old now and has been on the bottle for 2 days. Please advice. Would it be reasonable to go and but that nipple shield.

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