The areola is the circular area of skin surrounding the nipple – it can vary in size from woman to woman. This is usually darker in color than the rest of the breast – it is typically red, pink or brown, and it usually darkens during pregnancy. When a baby latches, it’s important that they get a mouthful of the areola and nipple. The areola impacts how well your baby latches.
- Areolas come in different shapes and sizes
- Areolas play a part in how your baby latches – for an average sized areola, most of it will be in your baby’s mouth. With smaller or larger areolas, this may vary.
- An average sized areola is about 4 cm, though it can change shape and color throughout a woman’s life, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Areolas are the pigmented area around the nipple and they usually look darker than other parts of the breast because they have more blood vessels. Breastfeeding can be a little bit tricky for some, but if you know how to position your baby correctly and use the proper latch technique, you should be able to get through this!
How is the Areola Assist with Breastfeeding
When a baby breastfeeds, they need to essentially “squeeze” the areola while they are nursing. This helps to compress the milk ducts and draw out milk. This is why you can’t just have your baby nursing on your nipple. Not only will this be painful for you, but it will result in inefficient milk transfer.
Areola Changes with Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
As your breasts change due to pregnancy, the coloration of their areola will changes as well. Usually, they become darker and more pigmented! This is because the hormone, estrogen, increases during pregnancy which helps to increase blood flow to the nipples.
When you are breastfeeding, it may lighten up some and change size
Areola Size and Breastfeeding
Although a woman’s areolas can be quite different from one another, it’s not uncommon for them to range in size from one breast to the other! A baby can breastfeed on any size of areola, however, it may look different from the pictures you see in textbooks.
With a small areola, it will probably be all inside your baby’s mouth. If you can see any of the areola, you may want to readjust your positioning and relatch.
An average size areola is about 4cmm. When nursing, most of it should be in your baby’s mouth, though it may not all be.
With a large areola, there may be a good portion of it that’s not in your baby’s mouth. Working a lactation consultant to determine if the latch is working – and paying attention to your body’s pain signals – will help.
If you have large, bulbous areolas and are struggling with milk supply, it can be a sign of hypoplastic breasts.
Why is the Areola so Important When Breastfeeding
The milk ducts are just below the surface of the skin and they need to be stimulated in order for your body to begin producing milk. When a baby latches, they will compress these milk ducts which sends a signal that triggers your body to start producing milk. This is why it’s important your baby gets a good latch because if they do not, you may not produce as much milk as you would be able to with a proper latch.
The areola is also what helps to protect the nipple during breastfeeding. Just like the pigmentation around the nipple darkens during pregnancy, it will become lighter after pregnancy and childbirth. This helps to protect against infection after childbirth.