Elastic Nipples: Signs, Impacts & More Comfortable Pumping

The process of becoming a mother is a life-changing journey that starts as soon as you find out you are pregnant. It can seem like everything in your life moves at a fast pace.

While most changes will be very rewarding, others are unexpected or may even leave you feeling worried.

A woman’s body undergoes a lot of change during pregnancy, and you may continue to experience surprises while breastfeeding. For example, when pumping, you may discover that you have elastic nipples.

What are elastic nipples? Elastic nipples are simply nipples that stretch more than the average nipple when pumping. Elastic nipples usually mean you may have a more challenging time finding a flange that fits properly. You may not even notice you have elastic nipples unless you’re using a breast pump.

Read on to learn more about elastic nipples and whether they’re normal or not.

What Is Meant by the Term Elastic Nipples?

The term elastic nipples means that the nipples stretch more than normal when pumping. Typically, elastic nipples stretch more than three times the length of a normal-sized nipple.

This term only refers to what happens to the nipples when pumping, and it only refers to how much a nipple can stretch.

The nipple stretches naturally when breastfeeding, but some women’s nipples stretch more when pumping.

Are Elastic Nipples Good or Bad?

Elastic nipples aren’t good or bad. They’re only an issue if it affects your pumping experience.

For women with elastic nipples, the flange might be pulling the nipples too far down, blocking milk flow. If your nipples can completely empty milk from the breasts, elastic nipples aren’t an issue. 

Are Elastic Nipples Normal?

All skin has some elasticity, and it’s normal for nipples to stretch during breastfeeding and pumping to accommodate the baby’s mouth or the flange.

However, some nipples may stretch beyond the typical amount. This isn’t common, but it is not necessarily abnormal or cause for concern.

Elastic nipples sometimes stretch to the edge of the flange as opposed to about halfway into the flange for most women.

While it’s not normal for women to have elastic nipples, most women don’t realize they have them unless they use a breast pump.

Elastic Nipples vs. Normal Nipples

Elastic nipples stretch more than three times the length of normal nipples when pumping with a flange. Normal nipples typically stretch two to three times their length when directly nursing or pumping.

If your nipples stretch to more than 20 to 36 mm in length, you may have elastic nipples.

What Causes Elastic Nipples?

Elastic nipples are caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth. These hormones relax the skin and make the nipple more flexible for feeding your baby comfortably.

Every woman’s body is different, so while some have elastic nipples, others have inverted or flat nipples.

How Common Are Elastic Nipples?

Nipples naturally stretch often during nursing and pumping, but it’s not common for nipples to stretch all the way into the flange.

Some mothers don’t even realize they have elastic nipples unless they start pumping. Elastic nipples can cause discomfort during pumping.

Can Elastic Nipples Affect Milk Supply?

Yes, elastic nipples can affect the amount of milk expressed when pumping. Elastic nipples can result in a more painful pumping experience and make it challenging to find the proper flange size.

Without getting the proper flange size, you might not be able to get enough suction to stimulate letdown.

As a result of the lack of suction to stimulate the letdown reflex, your body might produce less milk.

Milk Duct Dysmorphia

Milk duct dysmorphia is when too much nipple tissue gets sucked into the tunnel of a standard flange. This issue can restrict the milk ducts in your nipple and reduce milk flow.

Instead of stimulating letdown reflex, milk duct dysmorphia decreases supply and makes pumping more painful.

How Can I Tell if I Have Elastic Nipples?

You can tell if you have elastic nipples if your nipples stretch more than two to three times their size during pumping with a 2-4 mm flange.

Use a ruler to measure the exact height and weight of your nipple, and then pump with a 2-4 mm flange. Then measure the length of your nipples after pumping.

How Far Down the Flange Should Nipples Go?

When pumping, your nipples should go halfway down the flange under normal conditions. With elastic nipples, the nipples go fully down the flange.

Pumping should be a comfortable experience, and your nipples shouldn’t be sliding against the flange at all.

As you use a breast pump to produce milk, the areola and nipple shouldn’t be dragged into the flange.

What Flange Size Is Best for Elastic Nipples?

There’s no flange size that works best for elastic nipples, just as long as you’re comfortable.

Measure the correct flange size based on the length and width of your nipples, and use a sizing chart to find the right product for you. You should also choose a flange that’s specific to your pump.

Breast Pump Vacuum Strength and Elastic Nipples

You may want to use a lower pump-suction setting if you have elastic nipples.

Pumping with elastic nipples can be painful, so lowering the vacuum strength on your pump can help ease the discomfort. Avoid using the maximum setting to prevent putting too much pressure on your milk ducts.

A woman using a breast pump while wearing a striped nursing shirt.

How To Pump Comfortably With Elastic Nipples

You can pump comfortably with elastic nipples by:

  • Choosing the right size flange based on your nipple size
  • Using breast cushion inserts in your flange
  • Lowering the pump suction setting to a more comfortable strength
  • Applying coconut oil to your breasts
  • Staying hydrated throughout the day

Best Pump for Elastic Nipples

The best pump for elastic nipples depends on your comfort level and desired milk production.

Choose a breast pump that has adjustable suction settings to allow you to customize your experience. Some breast pumps also have a massage setting to stimulate production before pumping.

Does Pumping Permanently Change Nipples?

No, pumping doesn’t permanently change your nipples. When you’ve completely weaned your baby, your nipples will return to normal.

However, pumping can damage your nipples if you use your pump incorrectly. Pumping can lead to sore, cracked nipples and can bruise your nipple tissue.

Make sure you’re comfortable when pumping and avoid using the highest suction setting to prevent permanent nipple damage.

How To Tell if You Have Elastic Nipples When Breastfeeding

Elastic nipples are only an issue when pumping, so it’s not noticeable when breastfeeding unless you have flat or inverted nipples.

Every mother’s nipples stretch when breastfeeding to accommodate the baby’s mouth and produce the proper latch for drawing out milk.

On the other hand, elastic nipples stretch more than three times the length of their nipple during pumping.

Do Elastic Nipples Affect Breastfeeding?

No, elastic nipples don’t directly affect breastfeeding as much as they affect pumping. If your nipples are more flexible than usual, they can affect your baby’s latch, which could influence milk supply.

However, elastic nipples are more noticeable when pumping than when breastfeeding.

Long Nipples After Breastfeeding

Some women experience longer nipples after breastfeeding because of their babies’ latch. As the baby draws milk out of the breast, the nipples get larger.

This elongation of the nipples becomes even more noticeable among women who have flat or inverted nipples.

Do Nipples Go Back to Normal After Breastfeeding?

Yes, nipples go back to normal after breastfeeding. Nipples get darker and more flexible to accommodate your baby’s mouth during breastfeeding.

Once you’ve completely weaned your baby, your nipples will go back to normal, including their color and shape.

Conclusion

Elastic nipples are usually not an issue unless you’re having trouble finding the proper flange size for your pump. Work with a lactation consultant to ease your discomfort while pumping.