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.

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

  1. Another great way to restore balance is to have your baby do his or her “comfort sucking” on the less productive breast. The presence of the baby and her gentle comfort suck can help with milk production, even though she extracts only a little milk with it.

  2. My babies always chose my right side while continuing extending nursing. I try to nurse on the less preferred side first and let them fully empty it first. Then the next meal I offer the fuller one. I never really get them even any better suggestions?

  3. it’s now 3 months since my little one arrived and as soon as after 3 weeks i noticed my left side was producing a lot more than the right side..so i started to feed and pump on the right side more often, however, the left side has been so enormous i have to pump it to relief myself. Yet my right side never balances out my left side. My left side gets so big that it hurts a lot and even i cant move my arm at times until i pump it. and it gets full again super fast. My right side remains much smaller. I dont know what to do. It’s very embarrassing in whatever i wear. It’s causing a lot of depression . I cant pump from right side because it doesnt produce enough to pump…it seems like after the baby has her feeding, there is nothing left to pump, nothing comes out.

  4. Hi,
    I have an EBF 5 month old. Just last week I returned to work & have been pumping or coming home to bf. My milk supply was fairly even this whole time, up until a couple of days ago when the right side suddenly dropped its supply quite a bit. I went from pumping 3-4oz to 1-2. I haven’t had this problem before and I don’t know what caused this sudden change or how to resolve it, or if I need to resolve it. To give more context I did have one night where I was very engorged, bf in the night and morning, pumped 9oz later that day around midday. After that is when it seems the supply dropped. 2 days later and the right side is operating at half capacity. Thanks for any help.

    Alli

    • Hi Alli – It’s common to notice differences in supply between breasts. If you’d like to “even things out” you can try to pump or breastfeed more frequently from the lesser producing breast. Also, feel free to reach out to our Lactation Consultant here: http://bit.ly/vZeO9W

  5. I have had a similar experience to Christine and am trying everything listed above to remedy it. So far, not a lot of progress. My big concern is that by offering the less productive breast all the time, my baby might actually not be getting enough to eat. When I pump both sides at the same time, I’ll get 4 ounces out of my strong breast and only 1 ounce out of the weak in the same amount of time!

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