Breastfeeding With Small Breasts

Can You Make Enough Breast Milk?

A baby suckling the breast of his mother
Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images

A common worry among women with small breasts is whether or not they'll be able to breastfeed. They may even hear from friends or family that because of their breast size, they won't make enough breast milk. That's just not true. Women with small breasts can absolutely breastfeed and make a healthy breast milk supply.

Breast Size and Making Enough Breast Milk

Your breast size does not determine your ability to breastfeed.

Women with breasts of all different shapes and sizes can breastfeed successfully. The size of the breasts depends on how much fat they contain, not the amount of milk-making tissue. Women with larger breasts have more fat in their breasts, but they do not necessarily have a greater amount of milk-making tissue. So, if your breasts are on the smaller side, it doesn't mean that you don't have enough milk-making cells or that you won't be able to make enough breast milk. Women with small breasts are perfectly capable of producing a full, healthy milk supply for their baby.

Changes in Breast Size as Your Body Prepares to Breastfeed

During pregnancy, your breasts go through changes to prepare for breastfeeding. They often increase in size and fullness, appearing much larger than they did before. Your breasts may also grow during the two weeks after you have your baby. During this time, your milk production is adjusting to your baby, so your breasts may become larger, swollen, and engorged with breast milk.

But, even if you don't notice a big change in the size of your breasts during pregnancy or the first few weeks after your baby is born, you can still breastfeed.

Breast Size and Storage Capacity

While women with small breasts can make enough breast milk, they may not be able to hold as much milk in their breasts as women with large breasts.

Small breasts are like small containers, so they may not have a large storage capacity. All this means is that if you have small breasts, you may have to breastfeed more often, especially as your child grows. 

Tips for Breastfeeding With Small Breasts

  • Join a breastfeeding support group for advice and encouragement.
     
  • Remember that you can always call your doctor or a lactation professional if you have any concerns about the size of your breasts or your milk supply.  

When to Worry About Breastfeeding With Small Breasts

Most of the time, breastfeeding with small breasts isn't an issue. However, on a rare occasion, small breasts could indicate a problem. If the breasts do not show any growth at all during pregnancy or the first week postpartum, it could mean that there is insufficient glandular tissue (hypoplastic breasts)a true low milk supply, or lactation failure.

These conditions are not common, but when they do happen, there is no breast milk or a very low production of breast milk after delivery. Breastfeeding is still possible, although a supplement will be necessary.

Small Breasts and Breast Surgery

Small breasts that result from a breast surgery can be another issue. Breast reduction usually involves a cut near or around the areola. If there is damage to the milk ducts during the surgery, it could affect breastfeeding. Mastectomies, lumpectomies, or any procedure that requires the removal of breast tissue could also limit the amount of functioning breast tissue left to make milk. If you will be breastfeeding after breast surgery, it's important to monitor your baby and your milk supply. And again, even if aren't able to produce a full supply of breast milk, you can still breastfeed. Breastfeeding along with supplementation allows you and your baby to experience the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding that include so much more than just nutrition.

Sources:

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

Thibaudeau S, Sinno H, Williams B. The effects of breast reduction on successful breastfeeding: a systematic review. Journal of plastic, reconstructive & aesthetic surgery. 2010 Oct 31;63(10):1688-93.

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