Uneven breasts and breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding with one breast larger than the other

For most women who are breastfeeding, a small degree of difference between breast size is quite normal.

If you find that your baby has been feeding more on one side, or he has had a distinct preference for one particular side, then it’s possible that you may find one breast is much larger than the other one.

This doesn’t always cause a problem, but if this miss-match in size is causing you some concern, there are strategies which can help to increase your supply on the smaller side to rectify this issue.

Breasts work independently so the more your baby feeds from one side, and therefore the more emptying of the breast that occurs, the more your body will make more milk on that particular side.

So if you’re trying to boost supply on the smaller side, allow your baby to feed a few more extra sessions on that smaller side.

Uneven breasts breastfeeding. Mother suckling her small newborn

While you are in the process of boosting your milk supply on one particular breast, use hand expression in between feeds if you feel uncomfortably full at any point, just taking minimal milk off the breast to keep yourself comfortable.

This is important because if you feel uncomfortably full there is the possibility that you could get a blocked duct, and blocked ducts can lead to mastitis. 

It may be that your baby has caused the situation by not wanting to feed on the smaller side because the flow of milk is slower on that side.

Therefore there has been less and less emptying of the breast on that particular side, and your body has therefore made less and less milk. 

Your baby may be happier with the faster flow from the other side.

A really good technique that you can use with your baby is to start feeding on the preferred side. He’ll do the fast sucks to call the milk down. This will stimulate the letdown simultaneously on both sides. 

You can then unlatch your baby when the milk lets down, take him off and bringing him on to the small side.

He is then more likely to be content to stay on the breast due to the milk already being available and he doesn’t have to work so hard.

When your baby comes to the smaller side, he will initially access some milk, but as soon as the flow starts to slow at the end of a let-down, he will have to work hard again to call another let down.

Potentially, your baby could generate between three to four more let downs on that side, if he stays attached and works hard.

Many babies, however, start to fuss at the point where the flow slows and then come off the breast.

In this situation, breast compressions are a really useful tool to give your baby a good reason for staying there.

In effect you will cause a manual let down of milk, keeping your baby feeling that flow of milk.

It’s also really important at this stage to try different breastfeeding positions on that particular side.

It may be that your baby is not happy with the positions that you are trying, and a new one will make all the difference. 

Remember that babies can feed potentially all the way around the clock face of the breast, so there are hundreds of potential positions!

As your baby gets bigger, and changes shape, size and length, positions that didn’t work well earlier on may work well now, and may also help him to drain the breast better.

Another tip is to offer your baby the smaller breast when he is just about to wake up or just about to go to sleep, because this can encourage instinctive reflexes to kick in for latching.

uneven breasts breastfeeding. Young mother breastfeeding her newborn baby boy

Another reason why your baby may not be feeding well on the smaller side is because the letdown is too fast, and perhaps faster than on the other breast. 

There can be quite a variation there. Some babies start refusing the breast in this situation. They get absolutely covered in milk and they cough and splutter.

If this happens at every feed, time and time again, this can be a negative experience for some babies. So have a look at the information about how to deal with an overactive let-down. 

In all of these scenarios, with a lot of patience and using different strategies most babies will start to feed better in time, and start to empty the breast more effectively.

If you do find that your baby is STILL refusing one breast due to slow flow or reduced milk supply it is possible to boost your supply on that side by using a breast pump.

A pump will help to maintain your supply, and of course the expressed milk can be given to your baby.

You may need to do some extra pumping sessions after feeding or in between the feeds – whatever you can do, practically. 

This can be a great way to keep your supply boosted. If you are doing a lot of extra pumping on the smaller side, it’s important not to forget the larger side, because it is possible that you could get uncomfortably full, as I mentioned earlier on.

Use hand expression to keep yourself comfortable. Always remember that your comfort is important when you’re adjusting your supply.

For the majority of you, using these measures will have a good effect, and you’ll see a difference within a few days (maybe a couple of weeks), but some of you may have to persist with this situation for a lot longer.

Despite all of your efforts you may still find that there is a difference between breasts, but it’s possible that you may notice this more than anybody else. 

Some women use breast pads to create a more even appearance.

I really do want to stress however that babies can get all the milk that they need from one side because breasts work independently.

It’s good thing to know this because many women in various different circumstances have been able to continue breastfeeding for many weeks and months, nursing from one side only, allowing their baby to feed as often and as frequently as needed.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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