Breasts come in all different shapes and sizes.
Some mothers might worry that their breast size and shape could affect breastfeeding.
Women with small breasts sometimes worry about whether they will be able to make enough breast milk for their baby.
On the other hand, women with larger breasts might worry that the size and shape of their breasts could present breastfeeding challenges.
When it comes to breastfeeding, then, does breast size matter?
The short answer is no.
Regardless of the size or shape of their breasts, most mothers can make enough milk to breastfeed their babies.
This article answers some common questions about how breast size and shape can affect breastfeeding.
Can breast size determine how much milk you will make?
Milk production is not determined by your breast size.
A women with small breasts can make just as much milk as a woman with large breasts.
Inside a woman’s breasts there are different types of breast tissue: glandular tissue and adipose tissue (fatty tissue).
The size and shape of women’s breasts are determined by the amount of fatty tissue.
A woman with smaller breasts might have little adipose tissue but lots of glandular tissue, just as a woman with larger breasts will have more adipose but could have less milk-making tissue.
A condition called hypoplasia can affect a woman’s ability to produce a full milk supply.
You can read more about this in BellyBelly’s article: Hypoplasia and Breastfeeding – Insufficient Glandular Breast Tissue.
What breast changes happen during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding?
During pregnancy, many mothers notice changes in their breasts and nipples. For many women, one of the first signs of pregnancy is breast tenderness. This is a positive sign that pregnancy hormones are helping prepare breasts for breastfeeding.
Some mothers might also notice some of the following changes in their breasts:
- Areola and nipple darken in color
- Areola gets bigger
- Montgomery glands become more prominent
- Veins on the surface of the breast become more noticeable
- There are changes in size or shape (breasts grow larger).
During pregnancy, glandular (milk-making) tissue grows inside your breasts, and the ratio of glandular to fatty tissue increases.
All these changes help prepare your breasts for breastfeeding. Not all mothers notice all of the changes mentioned above but this doesn’t usually mean there are any problems.
If you don’t notice your breasts change at all during pregnancy, or if you are worried about your ability to breastfeed for any reason, you can speak to the Australian Breastfeeding Association for information and reassurance. You can also seek help from a lactation consultant during your pregnancy, to help prepare for breastfeeding before your baby is born.
Can I breastfeed after breast augmentation?
Many women are still able to breastfeed after having cosmetic surgery on their breasts.
Depending on the surgical technique used during the procedure, having breast implants usually doesn’t affect how much milk your breasts will make after your baby is born.
If you have breast implants and you experience breast engorgement after giving birth, it’s important to relieve this by expressing or breastfeeding and using cold compresses. Implants that are placing pressure on engorged breast tissue can potentially compress milk ducts and slow down the production of breast milk.
To learn more about how to manage engorgement, you can read BellyBelly’s article Engorgement – Relief For Breast Engorgement.
If you have had breast surgery that involved having your nipple relocated on the breast, as in breast reduction surgery, this might have damaged the surrounding nerves. When your baby feeds from your breast, the stimulation of these nerves around the nipple trigger the let down of milk from your breasts. Some women who have had breast reduction surgery are not able to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
There is no way of telling whether this will happen until you try. If you have had any previous breast surgeries prior to breastfeeding, ask your doctor or a lactation consultant for advice.
What if I have flat or inverted nipples?
You might have been told that you can’t breastfeed if you have flat or inverted nipples.
This is untrue.
Babies breastfeed, they don’t nipple feed. There needs to be a good amount of areola – not just your nipple – in your baby’s mouth for him to be able to breastfeed effectively.
A nipple shield might help a baby get a good latch on a breast with a flat or inverted nipple but most mothers with inverted nipples find their nipples becomes everted (the opposite of inverted) after breastfeeding for a short time.
If you are using a nipple shield to help your baby attach to the breast, it’s very important to seek professional advice from a certified lactation consultant. In some cases, prolonged use of nipple shields can result in low milk supply. A lactation consultant can help you to prevent this happening.
Can large breasts store more breast milk?
Breast size can sometimes reflect how much milk you can store in your breasts between feeds. This is referred to as storage capacity. Storage capacity can differ greatly between mothers and also between the breasts of the same mother.
Mothers with either large or small storage capacities can produce plenty of milk for their babies, but the babies might feed quite differently. For example, a baby whose mother has a larger storage capacity might be able to go longer between breastfeeds without impacting his mother’s milk supply. Whereas a mother with a smaller storage capacity will have breasts that fill up more quickly and so she will need to breastfeed her baby more frequently to maintain her milk supply (by keeping her breasts well drained) and to satisfy her baby’s needs.
As an analogy, let’s say your baby needs the equivalent of a jug of breast milk every 24 hours. If you have a ‘shot glass’ storage capacity, you would probably need to feed your baby a lot more often, compared with a mother who has a ‘beer glass’ storage capacity. This is because it takes a lot more shot glasses to fill a jug compared with beer glasses.
How often should I breastfeed my baby?
Because different babies need different volumes of breast milk and because different mothers have different storage capacities, it’s important to feed your baby when your baby needs to be fed.
This means feeding your baby when he is showing feeding cues.
In this way, you can make sure your baby gets the amount of milk he needs.
To learn how to read your baby’s feeding cues, you can read BellyBelly’s article: Baby Hunger Cues | How To Tell If Your Baby Is Hungry.
You can now relax, knowing that you are likely to be able to make plenty of milk for your baby or babies, regardless of your breast size. The key is to feed your baby when your baby needs to be fed.