Importance of the nipple root

Why is the nipple root important?

The nipple root is the part of the breast that, along with the nipple, enters the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding. It’s made of the skin of the central areola and all the tissue underneath the areola and behind the nipple. This area has to be flexible so the baby can latch and suck effectively. If there are problems with the root, mothers may develop painful or damaged nipples and the baby may be unable to latch or suck. Even small abnormalities can be a problem for babies who are premature, weak, or sick.

A) Describing the nipple root

The nipple root is the part of the breast that, along with the nipple, enters the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding. It’s made of the part of the areola closest to the nipple (central areola) and all the tissue underneath the central areola and behind the nipple.

1) The function of the nipple root

When the nipple and root are taken into the baby’s mouth, all these structures combine to act as one unit: a teatThe teat needs to stretch and be flexible to accommodate latching and sucking.

2) The nipple root versus the areola 

The nipple root is the structure that babies use to breastfeed. The areola is only the darkened skin around the nipple and does not include the structures behind it.

B) Problems with the nipple root

The nipple root works as a whole, but its parts can cause problems and make the root firm and inflexible. The root’s ability to stretch and be flexible can be decreased if:

  • There is swelling of the skin of the areola or the tissues underneath.
  • The muscles under the areola contract.
  • There is a thick rope of tissue (cord) running from inside the nipple, through the nipple root, back into the breast (inverted nipple).

If the nipple root does not work normally:

Even slight abnormalities of the nipple root can keep a baby from getting enough milk if the baby is:

There may be more than one abnormality of the nipple root. For example, a baby may be able to breastfeed on a slightly inverted nipple but not able to breastfeed if that breast becomes engorged and the nipple root also becomes very firm.

C) Examining the nipple root

To identify problems of the nipple root and to see how the nipple and root will respond to a baby’s latch, the pinch test is used.