The nipple root

What is the nipple root?

The nipple root is extremely important in breastfeeding. It is the tissue just behind the nipple and consists of the skin of the areola, milk ducts, blood vessels, muscles, fibrous tissue, and fat. The nipple root enters the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding and must be soft and stretchy enough to accommodate the baby’s tongue, palate, and upper gum. If it is not, the baby may have latching problems or the nipple can become painful. There are numerous reasons for an abnormal nipple root.

A) Components of the nipple root

The components of the nipple root.

The nipple root is the tissue just behind the nipple. Along with the nipple, it enters the baby’s mouth during breastfeeding and consists of the following:

  • Skin of some or all of the areola
  • Structures under the areola: 
    • Milk ducts
    • Milk tissue (alveoli)
    • Blood vessels
    • Muscles of the areola
    • Fibrous tissue
    • Fat

B) The importance of the nipple root

The nipple root is extremely important in breastfeeding. When a baby latches, the baby forms a teat out of the nipple and the nipple root.
 
With the latch, the baby needs to bring the nipple face far back into the mouth near where the roof of the mouth (palate) changes from hard to soft (the junction of the hard and soft palate). You can feel this area in your own mouth by pushing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. The junction is about two-thirds of the way towards your throat. 
 
The nipple root needs to be soft and stretchy enough to accommodate the baby’s tongue, palate, and upper gum. If not, the baby may be unable to latch or stay latched onto the breast or will keep the nipple too far forward in the mouth causing nipple pain and damage.

C) Examining the nipple root

The nipple root can be examined using the pinch test.

You can’t tell whether your nipple and nipple root are normal just by looking, but you can get some idea of how it will function in the baby's mouth by doing the “pinch test”.