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 breast pump 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.

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

  1. Im only able to pump about 1 oz from my R breast (which is larger with a faster let down) and 0.5 oz from L breast which is smaller is size and slower. My baby is 6.5 weeks- is this enough milk? At what point does my milk increase?

  2. I am exclusively pumping, but still have this issue. I am able to get double the milk from my left breast than my right. Since I use a double pump I don’t think it could be preference. Is there something else it could be? How can I fix it?

  3. Hi. I’m 33 and I just had my 1st.son (I have 2girls) 5 weeks ago. I breastfeed my girls w/o problems. This time my right side is producing very little and my left is much fuller. The right side never gets full and the left never feels empty. Soo frustrating for the both of us. He eats ALL day. When I nurse from the weak side I can only do the football hold for him to really get some out. He drinks as fast as he can for maybe 5mins.then he’s frustrated and I have to switch. Sometimes he refuses the weak side. I pump when I can but it takes me about 40 mins just to have half a ounce. PLEASE HELP

    • Hi LaMa,

      Please reach out to our Lactation Consultant for guidance, she would be happy to help with this question. You can get free one-on-one support via email by clicking here: http://bit.ly/AskTheLC

      Thanks for reaching out and keep up the fantastic work!

    • Hi,
      I have the exact same issue with supply, but my son (now 7 weeks) was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie at 4 weeks. That was the reason he never managed to empty a breast and couldn’t stimulate the breast to make more.
      I am now working hard to increase the supply on my right side by regular pumping, power pumping and fenugreek. Plus lots and lots and lots of water! 🙂

  4. Baby prefered my right breast, after trying for some time I started feeding exclusively from the right and pumping on the left. As a 1st time mom I made the mistake of only pumping the left once a day because I would fill up a 5oz bottle in that one sitting which I thought was sufficient for the day. Fast forward one week and my left breast is half the size of my right and I can’t get more than half an ounce to pump out of the left. The right on the other hand is almost always engorged and leaking which is what the left use to be like as well. Baby is growing and thriving, but she’s only 3 weeks old and I’m concerned that I may have let my left breast dry up. I have been trying to have my daughter start on the left to stimulate it and I’ve been pumping every 2 hours for about 30min for the past two days to try and get the milk production back (getting less than 1oz each time). Do you have any suggestions to help even out my breasts and get milk back to the left breast? Thanks!

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