Breastfeeding: Breast Size and Shape

What's Normal?

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Women with all different breast sizes and shapes can breastfeed successfully. Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Breast Size and Shape: What's Normal?

Women come in all different shapes and sizes, and so do breasts. The breasts can be large, small, round, oval, wide, narrow, symmetrical, uneven, full, or droopy. And, all of these types of breasts are normal.

Breastfeeding and Breast Size

The size of your breasts is based upon the amount of fatty tissue that is contained within them. Women with smaller breasts have less fatty tissue, and women with larger breasts have more fatty tissue.

But, fatty tissue doesn't makes breast milk. Your breasts also contain glandular tissue, and that's what produces the breast milk. Unlike fat, the amount of milk-making tissue in your breasts is not necessarily related to the size of your breasts. Therefore, women with all different breast sizes are fully capable of producing a healthy supply of breast milk for their babies.

Common Concerns About Breast Size and Shape

Most women are able to breastfeed with any breast size and shape that they have. But, there are a few common concerns and true breast issues that could interfere with breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor during your pregnancy and have an examination of your breasts. Your doctor will be able to address your concerns and help to ease your fears. After your baby is born, you can work with your doctor to deal with any issues that you have identified. Here are some of the most common breastfeeding concerns involving breast size and shape:

Hypoplastic Breasts: Occurring in only a small percentage of women, hypoplastic breasts can prevent successful breastfeeding. Hypoplastic breasts are often spaced widely apart and they may appear very small and thin, or long and tubular. The areola may be very large and the breasts may be uneven. Women with hypoplastic breasts have underdeveloped glandular (milk-making) breast tissue and may not be able to produce a full supply of breast milk.

Small Breasts: Women with small breasts often worry that they will not be able to make enough milk for their baby. As long as the small breast size is not related to hypoplastic breasts, there shouldn't be an issue. While you may have to breastfeed more often due to the amount of breast milk that your smaller breasts can hold, you can still successfully produce enough milk for your child.

Large Breasts: Breastfeeding with large breasts can be awkward. It can be difficult to latch the baby on, and you may be concerned that your breasts will block your baby's nose. It is important to find a comfortable position and get help right from the beginning.

Breast Implants: Many women with breast implants are able to breastfeed without any problems. It all depends upon the way the surgery was performed. Talk to your doctor and your surgeon about the procedure. If the area near the nipple and the areola was not affected, your chances of breastfeeding successfully are much greater.

Breast Reduction: Breast reduction surgery is more likely to interfere with breastfeeding.

The removal of breast tissue along with the reshaping of the breast, can cause damage to the glandular tissue, the nerves, and the milk ducts. If you have had a breast reduction, you will need to closely monitor the amount of breast milk that you are able to make. There is also a good possibility that you will need to supplement your baby.

Other Breast or Chest Surgeries: Any time the skin around the breast is cut, there is a chance it could affect breastfeeding. The milk ducts, nerves and milk-making breast tissue can be damaged during surgery especially around the nipple and areola. If you have had any type of breast or chest surgery, tell your doctor. You will have to monitor your milk supply and your baby.   

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Cruz, N. I., & Korchin, L. Breastfeeding After Augmentation Mammaplasty With Saline Implants. Annals of Plastic Surgery. 2010. 64(5): 530-533.

Huggins, K., Petok, E., and Mireles, O. Markers of Lactation Insufficiency. Current Issues in Clinical Lactation. Jones & Bartlett. Boston, Mass. 2000: 25-35.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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