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 breast, then you may find one breast is much larger than the other one.
Different sized breasts do not always cause a problem, but if this miss-match in size is causing you 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.
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.
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, which means 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.
An excellent 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, stimulating the let-down simultaneously on both sides.
You can then unlatch your baby when the milk lets down, take him off, and bring 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 swaps to the smaller side, he will initially access some milk. As the flow starts to slow towards the end of the let-down, he’ll need 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 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 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 possible 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.
Another reason why your baby may not be feeding well on the smaller side is that the let-down 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 times like these. They get absolutely covered in milk and they cough and splutter.
If this happens at every feed, it can be a negative experience for some babies. For this problem, look at the information on 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 over time and begin to empty the breast more effectively.
A pump will help to maintain your supply, and of course, you can give the expressed milk to your baby.
You may need to do some extra pumping sessions after feeding or in between the feeds. Whatever you can do, practically, can be a great way to keep your supply boosted.
If you are doing a lot of extra pumping on the smaller side, don’t forget the larger side, as you may get uncomfortably full, as I mentioned earlier.
Use hand expression to keep yourself comfortable, remembering that your comfort is of the utmost importance 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 in size between breasts. The chances are that you are the only one to notice this, but you could use breast pads to create a more even appearance.
I do want to stress, however, that babies can get all the milk that they need from one side because breasts work independently.
Many women in various 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
Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022
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