Areola Size and Nipple Latch

The areola is a part of the breast. It’s the circular or oval area that surrounds the nipple, and it’s usually red, pink or brown in color. But, how big should it be? What is normal when it comes to areola size? The size of the areola can vary widely from woman to woman. A normal areola can be small, average, or large. It may even grow a bit and become darker during pregnancy. And while a small areola is just as normal as a large one, it’s important to pay attention to the size of your areola when you’re breastfeeding.

The Size of the Areola

The areola plays a key role in a proper breastfeeding latch. When your partner is breastfeeding, he does not latch on to the nipple alone. Since the milk sinuses and the milk ducts are below the areola, your partner needs to squeeze this area while he’s breastfeeding to pull the breast milk out of your breasts. To do this effectively, your partner must take in at least part, if not all, of your areola. When he latches on correctly, he will have your entire nipple in his mouth plus approximately one inch of the surrounding areola and breast tissue. So, the amount of your areola that your partner needs to latch on to depends on the size of your areola.

An Average Size Areola

The average size of the areola is about one to two inches across (diameter). If you have an average size areola, your partner should have most of your areola in his mouth when he latches on. There should only be a small amount of the areola visible around your partner’s mouth.

A Small Areola

A smaller areola – under one inch across – should fit entirely in your partner’s mouth. When your partner has a good latch, you may not see much, or any, of your areola. If you have a small areola, and you can see most of it when your partner is breastfeeding, then your partner isn’t latching on well.

A Large Areola

If you have a larger areola – more than two inches across – your partner is only going to take a small portion of it in during the latch. When your partner latches on correctly, you will still be able to see a good deal of your areola. The first few times that you latch your partner on, it may be difficult to tell if your partner is latching on to more than just your nipple. It’s also a good idea to learn the signs of a good latch and a poor latch ahead of time, so you know what you’re looking for when the time comes.

Why Is the Size Important?

It’s important to understand how the size of your areola relates to your partner’s latch. When you see diagrams or read the instructions on how to latch on correctly, they are often generalized for women with an average size areola. If your areola is bigger or smaller than what is pictured or described, you may not think your partner is latching on correctly, when he actually is. Or, you may believe that your partner is latching on well when he really isn’t.

Importance of a Breastfeeding Latch

If your partner isn’t taking in enough of your areola when he’s latching on, it could cause some breastfeeding issues. A poor breastfeeding latch can lead to sore nipples and  a low breast milk supply.  A good latch means that your partner will be able to drain the breast milk from your breasts to stimulate your body to make more, and it will help to prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as painful breast engorgement and plugged milk ducts. The way your partner latches on can determine how successful you will be at breastfeeding. When he attaches to your breast correctly, the movements of his jaw and tongue squeeze the milk ducts below the areola to remove the breastmilk from your breast. The consistent removal of your breast milk allows your supply to increase at a faster rate and your partner to feed for longer periods of time.It also signals your body to continue to make more breast milk.

A Proper Breastfeeding Latch

When your partner latches on to your breast, he should have your entire nipple and about an inch of the surrounding areola in his mouth. His tongue should be down, and his lips should be turned out against your breast. You should hear your partner swallowing, and there shouldn’t be any clicking or smacking sounds as he’s sucking.

Pain and the Breastfeeding Latch

You may feel a little bit of nipple tenderness when your partner first latches on, and that’s normal. But, in general, you shouldn’t feel any pain while you’re breastfeeding. Pain is a sign of a problem, and the most common reason for breastfeeding pain is a poor latch.

 

Breastfeeding Latch, Breast Milk Supply, and Breast Problems

A good breastfeeding latch is necessary to build and maintain a healthy supply of breast milk for your partner. If your partner isn’t latching on well and removing the breast milk from your breasts, it could cause your milk supply to go down. A poor latch can also lead to some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as sore nipples, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis (a breast infection).

Two Latch Techniques

The Traditional Latch: When you think of a breastfeeding latch, you’re probably picturing a traditional latch. The traditional latch is the most common latch technique. When you latch your partner on in this way, you attach him to your breast with his mouth centered around your nipple and areola like a bulls-eye. You should be able to see an equal amount of your areola showing all around his mouth.

The Asymmetrical Latch: The asymmetrical latch is a bit different. Instead of a bulls-eye latch, this technique places your partner’s mouth off-center on your breast. He will have more of your areola in his mouth near his chin and less of your areola in his mouth near his nose. So, you’ll see more of your areola near your partner’s upper lip and nose, and less of your areola near his bottom lip and chin. Your nipple will not be straight in your partner’s mouth but tilted high up toward the roof of his mouth. His chin will be pressing into your breast and his nose will be lightly touching your breast or not touching your breast at all.

An asymmetrical latch is thought to be more comfortable than a traditional latch. It is also believed to be more efficient removing breast milk from the breast. Women with very large breasts may prefer an asymmetrical latch. Since this technique lifts the nose off of the breast, it may put you more at ease especially if you’re worried that your partner’s nose might become blocked while breastfeeding.