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.

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

  1. Hi, I have two months baby, initially both breasts were full but now only one breast is filled. I had lumps in left breast and I pumped all the milk and its production came down. I’m feeding my baby more on the left one. How long will it take to restore the production. Please help

    • Hi Chetana – It sounds like you’re doing a great job! The best way to restore balance your breatmilk production is to make sure that you’re initially feeding and pumping on your smaller side. You can also try pumping in between feedings, as frequently as possible. Our Lactation Consultant will also be happy to help: bitly.com/askthelc. Have a great day!

  2. I am nursing twins and recently had to start supplementing with formula to help them gain weight faster. I have been nursing every 3 hours and supplementing with 1 oz of formula. I also pump 3x a day. My left side makes about half of what the right side does. I’m worried that this has been the cause of the weight gain issues. I nurse them both at the same time and alternate breasts each time. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Kate – Our Lactation Consultant should be able to help provide additional tips on how to even out your supply: bitly.com/askthelc. It sounds like you’re doing a great job, keep up the good work!

    • Kate,
      Im having the same issue! My twins are gaining fine, but whichever one is on my left, smaller side stays hungry and cranky and nurses for way too long. I only get 1/3 from that side vs the other when i pump. Did you figure out anything that works for you? It’s so hard to find advise tailored to twin breastfeeding!

  3. Hello mamas, if your breast milk supply is reduced and you want to lactate your baby then drink healthy nursing tea. It was a great help to me when my breast milk supply was almost dried.

  4. My right nipple is flat and it got hurt during the first 2 weeks, baby is almost 4 weeks now and has a hard time nursing on the right breast, which is smaller than the left one. On 2 feedings today she started getting fussy after 30 min on the flat nipple, like she was still hungry , so I gave her the other breast just to nurse another 30 min, after that she threw up what i believe was the excess she ate. Any suggestion? Thank you!

    • Hi Nat – Your little one should stop feeding when she is hungry, but we recommend that you reach out to your baby’s health care provider for more information about why this might be happening. Have a great day!

  5. My baby is a week old, and one breast is constantly tender and engorged. I’ve been trying to start her on the other side every time to increase production – how often should I nurse to help this engorgement though? I don’t want to increase production in that breast but I need some relief!

    • Hi Kayla – Our Lactation Consultant would be happy to help provide some solutions for you: bitly.com/askthelc.

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