Uneven breasts and breastfeeding!
One breast is larger than the other – Transcript
For most mothers a small degree of difference between breast size is quite normal. But if you find that your baby has been feeding a lot on one side, maybe even a preference to one 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 that lopsidedness is bothering you, and really causing an issue, then there’s certainly ways of boosting supply on the smaller side to try to get things to be a little bit more equal.
So remember that breasts work independently (how breastfeeding works video) – the more your baby feeds from one side, and therefore empties the breast more, the more emptying, the more your body makes more, on a particular side. So if you’re trying to boost supply on the smaller side, one thing you can try is to allow your baby to feed a few more extra sessions on that smaller side, and alternate in this way.
It would also be really important (though)to hand express to comfort, on the side that isn’t being fed on, because your supply and demand will go slightly out of kilter – and if you feel uncomfortably full there’s always the possibility of getting a blocked duct, and blocked ducts can lead to mastitis. So if you feel uncomfortably full, use your hand alone, just a bit of hand expression, just to get a small amount of milk off -to keep you comfortable.
And it might be that your baby has (in a way) caused the situation by not wanting to feed on the smaller side because the flow is slower, perhaps – this is definitely a potential reason. So your baby has, in effect, caused less and less emptying to happen on that side and your body has therefore made less and less milk. And he’s happier with the flow from the other side.
So a really good technique that you can use with your baby is to start off him on the preferred side. He’ll do the fast sucks to call that milk down. Then the beauty is that the letdown happens simultaneously on both sides. So if you are really wanting him to be on the little side, unlatch him when the milk lets down, ‘whisk’ him off and bring him on to the small side, and he will be often happy to stay there. because that milk is already let down. He doesn’t have to work so hard.
And of course when your baby comes to that smaller side, and gets some milk that’s all well and good, but as soon as that flow starts to slow at the end of a let-down, he has to work hard again to call another let down. You may have, potentially, up to five or six or more letdowns on that side, if he was to stay on there and work hard. So many babies will start to fuss at that point and come off the breast.
So breast compressions are a really useful tool to keep your baby with a good reason for staying there. In effect you will be causing 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 positions on that particular side. It might just be that your baby is not happy with the positions that you are trying, and a new one will make all the difference. And remember that babies can feed potentially all the way around the clock face.
So especially as your baby gets bigger, and changing shape, certainly positions that didn’t work well earlier on may work well now, and may help him to drain the breast better as well. Another tip is to offer your baby the smaller breast, maybe just when he’s about to wake up (not really quite with it) or just about to go to sleep, because often their instinctive reflexes kick in – and babies will feed better in those circumstances.
Sometimes one of the reasons why your baby hasn’t been feeding well on the smaller side is because the letdown is actually fast, and faster than the other side. There can be quite a variation there. So some babies actually start refusing the breast in this situation. They get absolutely covered in milk and they cough and splutter – and that, happening time and time again can cause some babies not to want to be there.
So have a look at the video about how to deal with a fast flow, because that can be the opposite situation to babies feeling that the flow is too slow. And just remember that with a lot of patience and keep offering that breast, most babies will start to feed better, in time, and do a whole lot more empty of the breast.
But if you do find that your baby is STILL refusing, please know that it IS possible to boost your supply on that side by mechanical means, and that is by using a pump. So a pump will help to keep your supply up and of course that milk can then be given to your baby as well.
So it might be that you do some extra pumping sessions after feeding or straight after or in between the feeds – whatever you can fit in really. But this can certainly be a good way to keep that supply up. But if you are doing a lot of extra pumping on that smaller side, please don’t allow yourself to forget the larger side, because it is possible that you could get uncomfortably full, as I mentioned earlier on – and hand expression to keep yourself comfortable is paramount on that other side. 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.
If despite all of your efforts you’re still finding that there is a marked difference, it may be that you notice this more than anybody else. Some women have used breast pads just to try to even things out a little bit, from the appearance point of view.
And I really do want to stress that babies can get all of the milk that they need from one side only, because breasts work independently. It’s a really good thing to know this because many women in various different circumstances have been able to go on with their breastfeeding goals for many many weeks and months, nursing from one side – as long as you allow your baby to feed as often and as frequently as he needs.
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Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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