no, not all nipples are created equally. some protrude reeeaaaalllly far out. my friend calls hers "hot dog" nipples. some are little nubs. some are flat but come out when aroused. some are inverted. now, i am not an expert on nipples (except for the two that i have), but i do know that your nipples can have an impact on your breastfeeding experience (most particularly in the beginning). if you are blessed with the hot dog nipple, you go, girl. your baby will have a much better chance of figuring out what to "latch" onto since it's poking him/her in the eye. if, however, your nipples are smaller/shorter/flatter or even inverted, you may have looked at the "nipple" on a bottle and wondered why on earth they looked like that. you may also have wondered what all those breastfeeding books mean about "tickling" your baby's lips with your nipple to get him/her to open wide. what? every time i tried this tickling technique, i felt like i was flopping a saggy water balloon on their tiny mouths. they did not open wide, nor were they very amused.
some tips for the non-hot-dog bunch:
1. if you are still pregnant and are getting ready to breastfeed, go ahead and get used to playing with your nipples now. do what you can to make them stand at attention as often as you can. pull on them. do whatever (if it feels good) to get them used to being "out there" more frequently. NOTE OF CAUTION: Nipple stimulation is one of the common techniques used to get labor started, so you might want to talk to your midwife/OB/lactation consultant if you are not yet ready to have your baby!
2. if you have already had your baby and are now trying to breastfeed him/her with your nipples, don't worry. it can be done. you are not "defective" or "abnormal." your baby may have a hard time latching on at first. you may get very sore nipples in the beginning. i know all the books say that if your nipples hurt, you are not positioning your baby correctly, but I think that, if your nipples are not hot dogs, your nipple is not going back in his/her mouth as far and it gets sore. (and by sore, I mean holy crapola this is worse than natural childbirth.) i know this will make you want to quit nursing. but i promise you, if you stick with it and wince through the pain, it will diminish eventually. your baby will get used to your nipples and your nipples will get used to your baby. (but just in case, ask a lactation consultant to watch you nurse to make sure it really isn't the positioning that's causing the problem.)
3. you may find that one nipple protrudes more than the other. that also is normal. and if this is so, you may have a harder time with one nipple instead of the other. that's okay. there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a preferred nipple and nursing on one side more than the other. (i always thought of twins who, essentially, would have one boob each with no problem.) i, for example, always favored my left for nursing because my left nipple stuck out further. my right nub of a nipple would always hurt more in the first weeks, and it would be such an annoyance to nurse on that side, that there were sometimes whole days that would go by where i would not nurse on that side. at first your boob will get confused. just pump it out and it will figure it out. you also can open the bra on the side where you're not nursing, tuck a towel or cloth diaper under your boob, and let it run out while your baby nurses on the other side.