Is one of your breasts is not producing milk or as much milk as the other? What should you do? Will it limit your ability to satisfy your growing baby? There are tips to fix uneven milk supply that actually work.
For starters, take a deep breath and relax. It’s common for breastfeeding mothers to experience uneven milk supply at some point. As a new or expecting mother, you may imagine your milk flowing from your nipples with ease. When one breast seems to outperform the other, it may come as a shock. With a bit of information, you can check for potential problems and take action to improve milk supply for your more sluggish side.
One Breast Is Not Producing Milk? Causes of Uneven Supply + Solutions
Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. Your baby establishes the demand by suckling at your nipples and consuming the milk released. The more they breastfeed, the higher the demand. The higher the demand, the more milk your body will create. When demand is lower on one side, your body may decide to deliver more milk from the side that seems more in demand.
There is no single cause for uneven breast milk supply, but it often comes down to one or more of the following:
* Anatomy – You may have larger milk ducts in one breast. Perhaps the tissue that makes and distributes milk is stronger or more plentiful in one breast. Maybe one of your nipples has a structural problem that makes it more difficult for your baby to latch and stay latched. If this is the cause of your problem, you may have to accept that one of your breasts will always produce more milk than the other. That shouldn’t impact your ability to provide adequate milk supply for your baby.
* Breast Injuries – If it’s not just how your breasts are made, perhaps the problem is a previous surgery, nipple piercing scars, or injury to one of your breasts. You can talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to determine how past breast trauma may impact the breastfeeding process. In some cases, there’s nothing you can do now but accept the limitation of one breast. You can still produce enough milk to keep your baby satisfied and thriving.
* Uneven Feeding – If you always start breastfeeding on the same breast, your baby may place more demand on the first breast. That’s especially true if your baby doesn’t always deplete milk from the second breast. The simple solution is to rotate the starting breast so that the demand is even. You can also use a breast pump to make sure that both breasts are completely empty after each feeding.
* Positioning – There are a variety of breastfeeding positions that you may choose, and many mothers have a preferred position that they use regularly. That usually doesn’t create a problem, but in some cases, it may leave one nipple more accessible than the other. Check your positions to make sure that your baby can reach both nipples easily. Perhaps you’re using one breast more than the other due to positioning, but you haven’t realized it in the past.
* Letdown Speed – All breasts deliver milk in the same fashion, but they aren’t all exactly the same. If one of your breasts has a faster letdown than the other, your baby may choose the breast that matches his preferred sucking speed. You can slow the flow on the overactive side by clamping your hand around the areola while the baby feeds. Another option is to relax back and place the baby on top of you belly-to-belly, allowing them to draw the milk up out of the breast while gravity holds it back some.
* Baby Preference – Babies may prefer one breast over the other for reasons all their own. You can check with your doctor to make sure your little one doesn’t have an ear infection or other problem that causes them to prefer a position more suitable to one side. In most cases, you will never know why your baby prefers one breast. Use your breast pump or hand to express more milk from the neglected side if you want to achieve a more even production.
If none of these options seems like the cause of your uneven supply, try to work with your breast rather than worrying about the problem. Start by checking with a lactation consultant or doctor with experience troubleshooting breastfeeding problems. They can help you identify physical issues with your breasts, problems with your baby’s latch or general preferences of you or the baby.
Tips for Maximum Production:
If no clear issues are uncovered there, follow these tips to ensure maximum production of both breasts:
* Allow your baby to start each breastfeeding session on your underactive side. Babies are more aggressive when first placed at the breast because they’re hungry and eager to release the milk. Starting with your sluggish side delivers maximum demand to help stimulate greater supply on that side.
* Make sure the sluggish breast is emptied completely after each feeding. You may even add a pumping session each day just to increase signals of high demand from that side.
* Breastfeed exclusively if possible. That ensures that your baby comes to the breast ready to feed and familiar with your nipples. Nipple confusion or frequent bottle supplementation could impact how your baby breastfeeds.
* Allow your baby to breastfeed on demand as much as possible. That allows nature to take its course as your baby presents the right demand for her needs. That places more demand on your time, but you can use slings and positions that free up your hands to multitask as needed. Try to enjoy the breastfeeding experience because it often translates to amazing bonding time with your little one. They grow so fast!
Has Milk Production Suddenly Stopped or Changed on One Side?
If you start your breastfeeding adventure with even milk supply but one side slows down suddenly, there are some additional causes that you may consider. It can still be that your breastfeeding position has changed or your baby now prefers one breast over the other for her own reasons. It could also be that a new problem has emerged for the sluggish breast.
Start by checking for signs of clogged or blocked milk ducts on the slow breast. Blocks occur when milk collects in a duct due to poor drainage. Think of the way water flows through the small holes of kitchen strainer. If a creamy or hard substance blocks some of those holes, the water will collect inside the strainer rather than running out freely.
From the outside of the strainer, you simply notice a slower flow of water or a complete stop to that flow. Your milk ducts can work the same way when one or more ducts fail to drain properly due to a clog.
In many cases, the only signs of a clogged milk duct are reduced milk flow from the nipple and a small bump on the breast. You may notice that your baby is fussy when feeding on that breast, and that’s due to the slower flow of milk. If the clog doesn’t clear, it could lead to a complete block of milk flow.
Milk duct clogs are often quickly cleared with simple techniques like the following:
* Gently massaging the breast before and after feedings. You can also massage the breast between feedings if you feel it’s helping.
* Warm the breast before feeding. Placing a heating pad over the breast for a few minutes or applying a heat pack can help ease the clog so that milk flows through a bit better. Some women also use cold packs between feedings to help with pain and reduce inflammation. Make sure that the breast is empty when doing that because cold applications can cause the duct to restrict, trapping in milk to worsen the clog.
* Make sure the breast is completely emptied at each feeding and perhaps add a pumping session to your schedule. The less milk left to rest in the ducts, the less likely you are to aggravate a clog.
* Limit pressure on the breast from bras and compression clothing. Allow your breasts to hang loose as much as possible because restriction and pressure can lead to more clogging.
* Experiment with different breastfeeding positions. Try positions that allow your baby’s chin to massage against the bump. Rotating positions can also stimulate the ducts from different angles to help clear the clog.
If you see a bump that is swollen, red or otherwise inflamed, you may have an infection that isn’t associated with a typical milk duct clog. Mastitis is a common breast inflammation with possible infection that is sometimes caused by milk duct clogs, especially if your breast is also engorged with unreleased milk. See your doctor to diagnose and treat the problem promptly.
If your breast milk has completely stopped from one breast, it’s time to meet with a professional. Try a lactation consultant for the mechanics of breastfeeding and a knowledgeable doctor to check for problems within the breast tissue. All of the tips listed here may help you, but it’s important to rule out deeper problems that may impact your supply on one that side.
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