It is normal for one breast to produce more milk and have a faster milk flow than the other breast(1). Women may notice uneven milk supply in breasts within a few days of initiating breastfeeding or expressing milk. Some women may also notice that their babies often prefer feeding from the more milk-producing breast.
Many mothers and babies prefer one-sided feeding from the more milk-producing breast, increasing its milk production further while reducing the production of the other. It is recommended to feed from both breasts if possible to maintain adequate milk production. Read this post to know about the causes and tips to improve uneven milk supply.
Causes Of Uneven Milk Supply In The Breasts
Uneven milk supply or less milk supply in one breast than the other is common and normal in most cases. There is nothing to be concerned about if both the nursing mom and the baby are comfortable.
The following factors may lead to uneven milk supply in some breastfeeding women (1).
- Baby’s preferences: Some babies may prefer to latch and feed on one breast than the other. This may cause more milk supply in the preferred breast than the other one. Physical discomfort from birth injuries, nasal congestion, and ear infections may make babies prefer certain nursing positions, causing them to choose one breast over the other. Some babies may feed on one side after vaccinations for a few days; this can be due to pain at the injection site. The size and shape of the nipple (inverted or flat nipple) may vary in some cases, and the baby may tend to feed from the breast where they can latch easily.
- Nursing mom’s preferences: Some mothers may unknowingly prefer feeding from one breast more often or more time than the other side. This can be due to comfortable feeding positions or other reasons. One-sided breastfeeding may make your breasts look lopsided due to uneven milk production.
- Insufficient glandular tissue: The amount of glandular tissue (milk-making tissues) and the milk ducts or lactiferous duct (tubes that carry milk from the glandular tissue) may vary in each breast. Most women may have asymmetrical breast size and shape due to various factors, including fat deposits. Uneven breast size due to fat deposits may not impact the amount of milk supply.
- Letdown differences: Less forceful letdown can also be associated with less milk supply in one breast. The letdown reflex causes breast milk flow. When the baby sucks, nerves are stimulated, leading to the release of prolactin and oxytocin hormones that help in milk production and flow(2).
- Breast trauma and breast surgeries: Milk supply can be affected by injury and surgery of the breast tissue. This can be due to damage or removal of milk-producing tissues.
Babies may often demand more feeding when they are fed from the less-producing breast. It is always recommended to look for the reasons and make necessary nursing changes to overcome this issue. Seeking help from a certified lactation consultant can be beneficial.
Does Unequal Milk Production Affect The Baby?
Many nursing mothers can adequately feed their babies from one side alone. Uneven milk supply may not affect the baby’s nutritional needs since they can be fed from both breasts, and milk production increases with increasing demand. Frequent feeding may help the baby to get adequate nutrition in such cases.
You can check for signs that indicate the baby is well-fed, such as weight gain, adequate soiled diapers per day, good activeness, and timely achievement of developmental milestones (3). You may seek help from a lactation professional if there is a concern.
Tips To Achieve Equal Milk Production In Both Breasts
Uneven milk supply due to fewer milk-making tissues cannot be changed. Changing mom’s and baby’s preferences may help to maintain a good milk supply in both breasts. The following tips may help to enhance and even milk supply in both breasts.
- Always begin to feed on the slow side: Babies vigorously begin to feed when they are hungry, and their sucking reflex may help enhance the milk supply in the less milk-producing breast. Feeding the slow side and shifting to the other side can help moms to maintain even milk supply.
- Nurse more frequently from the low-producing side: Frequent feeding helps to enhance milk production. The sucking reflex stimulates more milk production in the low-producing breast. However, never neglect to feed on high-producing breasts since this may lead to engorgement and
- Avoid one-sided breastfeeding: You may feed on both breasts from the initial days of breastfeeding to avoid uneven milk production. Try beginning to feed on alternate breasts on each feeding section. One-sided breastfeeding is usually recommended for moms who have any conditions preventing milk supply from the other breast.
- Try massage with hands: Massaging the low-producing breast with hands may enhance milk flow. You may do massages from the base towards the nipple.
- Express milk: You may use breast pumps to express milk from the less productive breast after a feeding session to increase milk production. Milk supply is directly related to the demand, so pumps can be helpful in case the baby refuses to feed on one side.
- Change baby’s preferences: Encourage your baby to feed on the less preferred side by changing nursing positions. Try to feed on the less preferred side when they are too hungry or tired to avoid refusals. Identifying and managing physical discomforts may help to reduce your baby’s aversion towards one breast.
These tips can help breastfeeding moms enhance milk supply in both breasts and often avoid lopsidedness. In most cases, lopsidedness (uneven breasts) improves when the baby starts to wean on solids.
Uneven milk supply is not a cause of concern if your baby can meet its nutritional needs. A lactation professional can help nursing moms learn the correct feeding positions and techniques to encourage feeding from both breasts. It can help improve the milk production and supply of the low milk-producing breast.