Uneven Milk Supply: Should I Be Concerned?

January 12, 2012
Uneven Milk Supply: Should I Be Concerned?

No person is perfectly symmetrical, so it’s no surprise that many breastfeeding moms report uneven milk supply. This is very common, and if you and your baby are comfortable, there’s no reason to try to change it. However, some moms prefer to even things out to relieve discomfort and make feeding more effective for baby. So, let us walk you though some of the causes of uneven milk supply and how to restore balance.

Causes

  • Typical Anatomic Differences. It’s very common for mothers to have different sized breasts and milk ducts. This can lead to variations in supply and breast appearance.
  • Forceful or Weak Letdown. It’s also possible that you may have one breast with a more or less forceful letdown than the other. A forceful letdown could be overwhelming to your little one, causing them to pull away from the breast and prefer the other side. Likewise, a less forceful letdown could be frustrating to a hungry belly. To help your little one nurse on the less forceful side, do breast compressions to increase the flow while feeding.
  • Baby’s Preference. Some babies may, quite simply, just prefer one breast over the other. It may be more comfortable to them, or just easier for them to latch. If your baby refuses one breast, ask your doctor to do a thorough physical exam to check for birth injuries or an ear infection. This discomfort could cause your little one to reject certain nursing positions or breasts.
  • Mother’s Preference. Many moms may unknowingly prefer feeding from one breast and spend significantly more time with baby latched on that side. Some moms may prefer holding their little one with their dominant arm or having that arm free to do other things.
  • Breast Injury or Surgery. If you’ve ever had breast surgery or an injury to your breast tissue, your supply and milk flow could be affected. If you think this is the case, consider reaching out to a Lactation Consultant to help you and your baby nurse comfortably from that side.

Restoring Balance

  • Begin feedings on the less productive smaller side. Babies tend to nurse more vigorously at the beginning of a feeding, so start with the less productive smaller side to help increase milk production.
  • Nurse on the smaller side more often during each feeding. Nursing frequently is key to increasing and maintaining supply, so start pumping from your less productive smaller side more often. However, be sure not to neglect the larger breast. Decreasing the time you spend nursing on that side could lead to engorgement, plugged ducts or mastitis.
  • Pump on the less productive smaller side after feedings. At the end of your normal feedings, continue to pump for a few additional minutes, and store that milk for later use.
  • Pump in between feedings. If you can, try to add  a few extra pumping sessions throughout the day, in between your normal feedings. Consider using a hands-free breastpump so you can multi-task while pumping.
  • Use new tactics to encourage feeding on the less preferred breast. There are ways to begin to change your baby’s preferences. Start by trying new nursing positions on the less productive smaller breast, because a new position could bring added comfort to feeding on that side. Also, try offering the less preferred breast when your baby is drowsy. They may be less aware and more willing to feed on that side.

Most moms will begin to notice changes in 3 to 5 days, but remember to be patient. Adjusting any behavior can take some time, so praise your little one when he or she nurses well and keep trying.

Moms, did you notice differences in breast size and supply? Did you make adjustments in your feeding habits to try to even things out? Share your experiences in the comments below.

98 thoughts on “Uneven Milk Supply: Should I Be Concerned?

  1. Hi,
    I’m experiencing severe unevenness to the point that my left side sometimes gets engorged. I’ve been told to pump or express until comfort. Am I not supposed to drain the left breast? Also, no matter how many pumping sessions I add to my right side to try to even things out it still seems to produce only an ounce, is there something else I can do or is there supposed to be a certain time I’m supposed to be pumping?

    Thanks!

  2. My left breast used to be my rock star. When I woke up after my baby slept for 4 to 5 hours both breasts were engorged but the left more so. I noticed I would always have a blocked duct in the same spot on this left breast that would go away after nursing. (not sure if this could affect things?)

    Recently when I wake up after her 4 to 5 hour sleep my left breast actually feels only slightly hard and the right breast is fully engorged. Im wondering wtf is going on??? Why the sudden decrease in one breast?

    Also my baby wants to nurse literally all day and night since birth, shes 7 weeks old tmrw is this normal??? I could nurse her for 6 hours straight and shell still want to nurse! She has plenty of wet and dirty diapers and is gaining weight and she spits up milk sometimes so I know she’s getting lots during feedings. She just NEVER seems satisfied. I know they have growth spurts but it seems shes been in a growth spurt her entire 7 weeks of life? I’m a ftm and am so confused! I’m determined to EBF and wont give up but needing a little support here please.

    • Hi Sarah – Try nursing on your left breast and completely draining it before moving onto your right breast. This should help even your supply out again. Our Lactation Consultant would be happy to help provide further guidance: https://bitly.com/askthelc. A mother’s body is very in tune with her baby’s needs. For that reason, it’s always best to feed whenever your little one is hungry. Pumping or breastfeeding often is the best way to maintain supply and ensure your baby is getting all the breastmilk he or she needs. We know that this may be exhausting, but over time your little one will demand less breastmilk, especially after introducing solids. Here’s more information on how to manage cluster feeding: http://bit.ly/1r0wXcv. We hope this helps, keep up the good work mama!

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