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.

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

  1. I think my problem is the same but opposite. My boy prefers the smaller side. I feel like the smaller side doesn’t re-inflate … The larger side has issues with engorgement and clogged ducts and in my opinion has a more forceful letdown. I’ve been trying to feed evenly from both.. I want them to be even and produce enough milk for feeding.. Help :-(

    • Hi Lyss,

      Sorry that you’re having trouble with uneven supply. First off, know that how full your breast feels is not an accurate indicator of your supply. Here’s more information: http://bit.ly/1v9iVGS. Sometimes, a forceful letdown can impact a baby’s ability to feed at the breast. Learn more about forceful letdown and find tips for regulating your supply here: http://bit.ly/1eaJG9U.

      Hope this helps!
      Kathy

  2. I have tried to keep pumping from the breast with lower supply but i have never got anything more than 2 oz. and my daughter just will not nurse from the one with less milk. i’ve tried to pump at the same time everyday, i’ve tried to give her the smaller breast at night hoping she wont notice in her slp, but she does and starts to cry.
    if i continue like this, will i end up being lopsided after i stop breastfeeding?

    • Hi Ronny,

      First off, know that the average breastfeeding mom can pump between 1 and 3 oz. per session (not per breast, per session). So pumping 2 oz. from one breast is great! If your little one prefers to feed from one breast over the other, this does not typically impact your breast size after breastfeeding. It’s common for moms to worry about one-sided breastfeeding and whether their breasts will return to the same size after weaning, because the breast used more often can become noticeably larger. But, after weaning your breasts should be about the same size as they were before you became pregnant.

      Hope this helps! Keep up the fantastic work.
      Kathy

        • Hi Liz,

          This is based on our recommendation for moms to pump for at least 10-15 minutes, but no more than 20-30 minutes per session. The length of pumping sessions can vary and each mom is different. If you have any further questions, our Lactation Consultant would be happy to help you, please feel free to reach out here: http://bit.ly/AsktheLC

          Kathy

  3. I’m still trying to get my almost 2 week old back to birthweight she lost a little over 1 lbs – this is my 3rd and did not have success with my first 2 breast feeding – we are having to supplement to keep up with her appitite – and she sleeps longer – so sometimes I will pump in between to keep up my supply to hope rule out formula – one side pumps about 1oz while the other is Bearly 1/2 of a .5 oz – how would I boost my left side? Also how long does it take for your breast to refill?

    • Hi Kshauers,

      First – congratulations on your new baby!

      You can find additional tips for uneven supply here: http://bit.ly/17c9sXU. This is a very common concern for breastfeeding moms, and it is completely normal to experience. If you have further questions or are still having trouble after trying some of the tips above, please feel free to reach out to our Lactation Consultant for advice here: http://bit.ly/AsktheLC

      Hope this helps! Keep up the great work.
      Kathy

  4. I have the opposite problem – my daughter prefers my left side which is small and feels soft, but she latches perfectly and eats herbfill on that side. The right side is always full and engorged. This started once I had a bout of mastitis on the right. Any tips on how to make the right breast empty and go down? She eats off that side but can’t empty it. I’m afraid if I pump out the rest my body will think it needs to keep producing that amount!

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      You may want to try hand-expressing or pumping for a few minutes on your right breast before offering it to your baby to nurse. This can help relieve some pressure and make it easier for her to latch. You can find additional tips for finding supply balance here: http://bit.ly/xibDUF. Our Lactation Consultant would also be happy to help you, please feel free to reach out for tips here: http://bit.ly/AsktheLC

      Keep up the great work!
      Kathy

  5. I alternate which side he starts on and he spends the same amount of time at each, however, when I pump, the left breast gets 5oz (!) and the right about 2oz. It’s great for building a frozen stash, but the larger one tends to get plugged ducts more often and is uncomfortable in-between feedings.

    I also wonder is he taking in this much at each feeding? He has been gaining almost 10oz a week.

    • Hi Allie,

      The amount of milk you can pump is not necessarily an accurate indicator of how much milk your baby is eating at each session. The only way to truly tell how much milk your baby is taking in at each feeding is to weigh your baby before and after you nurse (your doctor may be able to help you, or a Lactation Consultant may have a scale to use, too). You can find a Lactation Professional near you by searching here: http://bit.ly/WYNEtM

      Hope this helps!
      Kathy

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