Many mothers have a “slacker” breast- one that doesn’t produce as much milk as the other. This can be frustrating for both mom and baby, and often leaves new moms feeling overwhelmed. In this article, we’ll give you tips on how to fix a lopsided breastfeeding situation, teach you why it happens, and help you understand if it’s something you need to worry about!
It’s no secret that breastfeeding is a wonderful way to provide your baby with the best possible nutrition, but what if you’re struggling to produce enough milk from one breast?
It can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging when you feel like one breast just won’t produce enough milk. For some, the difference is physically noticeable, which can add an added layer of frustration on top of the breast not producing the same amount of milk.
Lopsided breastfeeding is a common issue, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey. There are things you can do to increase the milk supply in one breast so that both you and your baby can continue to reap the benefits of breastfeeding.
In this article, we’ll discuss what causes “slacker breasts”, if you need to worry, and what you can do to even them out.
What Causes Lopsided Breastfeeding?
There are lots of reasons why you might have an uneven milk supply, and how to fix it depends on the cause.
Infant Preference: Sometimes a baby will prefer one breast and nurse better/more often on that side. This can be due to tension in the body that makes it more comfortable on one side, the breast having a faster flow, or just habit. If a baby nurses more on one side over the other, it will tell the body that this breast needs to make more milk than the other – and this can result in an uneven supply.
Mother Preference: Sometimes it’s the mom who prefers one side over the other. This can happen if there is nipple damage (or it’s just more painful for one reason or another), comfort, the way she positions the baby, etc.
Anatomical Differences: It’s important to also recognize that breasts are identical. One common phrase I tell moms is that breasts are cousins, not twins. They may be similar, but they aren’t the same. One breast may have a higher milk storage capacity than another due to having more milk ducts/alveoli, one side may have nipples that are easier to latch on to, etc.
Incorrect Flange Size: An incorrectly sized flange can lead to a lot of issues. If you have the wrong size, it can impact output. Sometimes, you will need a different size one each breast. Make sure you grab our free flange nipple ruler!
Breast Surgery or Other Problems: If you have had any kind breast surgery, this kind sometimes lead to damage to the mammary tissue of the breast. If the surgery was just on one side, that may make one side make more milk than the other.
Look at the Total Output
Whenever a mother comes to me and asks about what she can do about a slacker side, the first thing I do is have a discussion on what is normal and realistic.
Often, a mother will produce something like 3 ounces on one side and 1 ounce on the other. While there may be something you can do to impact how much you make one the “slacker side”, it’s important to recognize that you are still producing four ounces!
Looking at the total output, rather than per side, often helps moms feel a lot better.
How common is it to have one breast produce more than the other?
It’s not uncommon to have one breast produce more than the other. In fact, in my experience, it’s considered the norm rather than the exception.
According to Kelly Mom, “All women have one breast that has more working ducts and alveoli than the other.”
Many women don’t even realize one side produces more than the other. It’s often most noticeable with those who pump
What can I do if my baby struggles with lopsided breastfeeding?
Sometimes, the main issue a mom has with lopsided breasts is that her baby has trouble with one of the sides having less milk and maybe a slower letdown.
If your baby is having trouble on one side, here is what I would recommend:
- Do breast compressions while your baby nurses to help with the milk flow
- Hand express to a letdown and then latch your baby
- When your baby starts to get fussy, switch to the breast they have less trouble with. Then, once they’ve gotten their fiill on that side, switch back to t he other breast.
- If the overproducing side is causing a fast letdown, you can try and block some of the milk ducts off with your hand in a “karate” chop position.
- Visit with an infant chiropractor to determine if there is any tension in the body
How can I fix lopsided breastfeeding?
Now, let’s talk about how to fix a slacker breast! In many situations, unless it is causing true issues, it’s not something I would focus on too much.
Sometimes, the techniques we would use to even out supply may result in a decreased supply all around. This is something to keep in mind – if your uneven sides is manageable and more just because you want both sides to produce lots of milk, I might reconsider.
But if you do need help fixing lopsided breastfeeding, here are a few techniques:
- Start out the baby on the side that has the lower side with every feed for several days. I wouldn’t do this for the long term.
- Hand express or pump on that side when your baby feeds. You could do every feed or just a few times a day.
- Power Pump on the underproducing side
- Nurse twice on the underproducing side – so start with that breast, nurse until baby wants to switch, then switch to the other side, and after they are done on that side, switch back (if your baby will allow for it).
- Take your baby to an infant chiropractor for an adjustment
- Address any nipple and breast pain associated with one side
- Work with a lactation professional to determine any underlying cause
- If your baby is suddenly refusing one side, consider illness such as ear infection.
Is it a problem to have an undeproducing breast?
Honestly, unless this is causing low weight gain, significant size difference that is making you feel uncomfortable, or your baby is having issues with a slow or fast letdown from one side, it’s not really a problem to have uneven sides. Most women do, and it’s not a problem that needs to be fixed in most situations.
Lopsided breastfeeding is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. If you’re struggling with an uneven milk supply, I hope that this article has helped you understand why this happens a little bit more. Talk to your care provider about how to get breastfeeding off on the right foot and use these tips to help your baby get the nourishment he needs from both breasts.
Katie Clark is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.