Nipple Madness: What Normal?

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

The media obsesses over women’s nipples. My news feed fills with reports on nip slips --- affectionately referred to as wardrobe malfunctions, even when clothing has nothing to do with their exposure.

But what's the big deal? Aren't all nipples the same? And how do you know if you have normal nipples?

I pondered this question for years. What were those weird little bumps on my areola? Were they pimples? And when it came time to breastfeed my babies, I had all sort of problems. Nurses told me mine were flat, making it hard for my son to latch on. What was wrong with my nipples?

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One of my biggest nipple surprises came after my cosmetic breast lift. The plastic surgeon said he would reduce my enlarged areola (again, typical or not?) as part of the procedure. When I took a good look at my newly sized and lifted boobs I noticed the areolae were perfectly symmetrical. Like they'd been cut from a circular mold. Gone were the rough edges between where my breast skin joined them. I almost wish they'd given me a choice of more unusual shapes, like stars or hearts.

Here's what I've learned about nipples over the years:

1) They come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be innies, outies, puffy, lay flat, or be different from one another. You'll find many variations on "normal" at this nipple gallery. Some people don't like them poking through shirts while others prefer their protuberance. If you prefer less padding in your bras, there are numerous products you can use to keep them under control.

normal nipples

Wacoal No Peek Bra Pads via HerRoom
 normal nipples
Wild Child Star Nippies via Bristols Six

2) A multitude of colors exist. They can be pink, beige, light or dark brown, and all shades in between. Spikes in hormones during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause also change their color. It's all good.

3) Some people have more than two. Around six percent of the population have polymastia or "extra" nipples. They often look like moles and aren't a cause for concern.

4) They stretch out. Areolae change size during pregnancy and as you age.

5) Hair grows on them. Doesn't matter if you are male or female. If it bothers you, pluck it or talk to your dermatologist about permanent hair removal, like electrolysis.

6) They point in all directions. They can rest low, high on the breast, or off to the side. It's okay, somehow all locations are good.

7) Sensitivity differs. Despite rumors of nipple orgasms, not all women find nipple play sexy. On the flip side, more than half of all young men appreciate a partner giving their male nipples some attention. Who knew?

8) Those little bumps are called Montgomery Glands. I always wanted perfectly smooth nipples. But then I learned the Montgomery glands keep the area lubricated and prepare your breasts for breastfeeding during pregnancy. I appreciate them more now, even tho my nursing days are long gone.

9) Nipple surgeries are common. Want to correct something you don't like about your nipples? You can have surgery to reduce their size, bring them out, or turn areola platters into teacups (or silver dollars).

Nipples look pretty funny and odd on their own. Makes me wonder why Facebook and other social media platforms spend so much time policing their appearance. What's strange, to me, is a lingerie photo where they've gone missing. But that hasn't always been the norm, either.


Victoria's Secret Peek-a-boo Triangle Bra, circa 2015
Victoria's Secret Catalog 1979

What about you? Ever wonder what's normal when it comes to men and women's nipples? Should their appearance be less newsworthy?

Featured image copyright The Breast Life.

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