Breasts come in all shapes and sizes. Each set is unique, but all possess the superpower of being able to make milk to feed a baby.
Myth - large breasts make more milk
Fact - the amount of milk anyone can make is based on glandular tissue, hormone balance, and how often you feed your baby or pump. Larger breasts just mean you have more fatty tissue than someone with smaller breasts, not more milk-making tissue.
Size matters! Nursing with large breasts can pose challenges compared to breasts that are not as prominent. But, just like for any nursing relationship, how well your baby can latch and feed or how often you pump/hand express to remove milk and proper flange fit, will influence your milk supply and this takes practice for all new parents.
Common concerns & challenges
- Larger breasts = heavier breasts. Certain positions for nursing will be helpful for a more comfortable nursing experience. Try positions that let gravity be your friend, not your enemy.
- Do your breasts hang low? It can make positioning your baby a bit more tricky. If your nipple is hard to see because of where your breast hangs, it can feel hard to know if your baby is positioned well for latching.
- “I don’t feel my let-down”. The fact is, not everyone does, no matter what size their breasts are. Listen for the pattern of sucking and swallowing to change from a more rapid suck-suck swallow to a more drawn-out suck-swallow pattern as an indicator of when your milk is flowing faster.
- Large breasts may have larger areolas but not necessarily larger nipples. When your baby latches, they may not take the majority of the areola in their mouth if yours are large, but you still want to make sure they get a large portion of breast tissue in their mouth with the nipple going in last, just under their top lip.
- A bigger chest can make it difficult to snuggle your baby close to your body during positioning for latching. Some positions make this harder than others. Experiment with what works best for you and as your baby grows, the position that works best may change.
- Neck and back pain - You may find using pillows to support you are useful so you can better support your baby. Step one is always for you to get comfy so you can help your baby be in a position that allows them to feel posturally stable and get a deep latch. Positions that allow gravity to help hold your baby to your body and take the weight off your chest are a good place to start.
Getting off to a good start
- Engorgement - Large breasts have more fatty tissue than small breasts which can impact sensitivity and sensation. When your breasts are engorged, it is harder for your baby to latch and milk is not able to flow through the ducts as well. Reverse pressure softening helps move milk back into the ducts enough to soften the areola so your baby can grasp your breast tissue and latch more easily.(1) Gentle massage or stroking your breasts will help your milk move.
- Skin-to-skin contact with your baby helps get breastfeeding off to a good start. Being skin to skin releases the hormone oxytocin which triggers milk to flow. When your baby is on your body, they follow their feeding reflexes, finding their way to your nipple and latch on. When they begin to suck, the hormone prolactin is released which signals more milk to be made. Frequent nursing means the message to make more milk is sent more often to establish your milk supply.
- Gravity is your friend when positioning your baby for latching. Choose a position you will be comfortable in for the whole nursing session that is not causing stress or fatigue to your back, neck, shoulder, arm, or wrist. Pillows are great at supporting you as needed.
- Keep dry and avoid rashes from leaking milk and your sweat collecting under your breast. Wear cotton or wool to reduce moisture. Lift and dry under your breasts with a cotton cloth to stay dry and comfortable.
Favorite nursing positions
- Laidback - put your feet up and lean back. Place your baby on the front of your body and give them a moment to bob their head, root, and latch on. This position keeps your baby’s body well connected to yours by way of gravity which also reduces the feeling of heaviness from your chest to be uncomfortable.
- Koala - straddle your baby’s legs over your leg. Their hands can hold your breast which gives them further support for their neck and shoulders. You can experiment with leaning back a little to find what works best for your baby to latch in this position.
- Football - In the first few weeks, this position is very popular. It allows you to tuck your baby into your body as they come from under your breast to latch. With your baby’s legs away from your belly, people who have had a cesarean birth may like this position best. As your baby grows, it may become harder to make this position work.
- Side-lying - being able to rest your breast on the bed makes this position a winner and is perfect for naps and nighttime nursing. Put a pillow behind your back for support and a hand on your baby’s back to keep them facing you, belly to belly, tucked in close to your body. No need to move your baby to switch sides, just roll forward so your other breast (upper breast) is now available to them.
More tips & tricks
- Breast sling - use a scarf, muslin cloth, or ace bandage tied around your neck, going around your breast to help hold it up. This eliminates the need to hold your breast during nursing.
- Bra hack - cut a hole in your bra large enough for your breast to pop through but small enough that you still feel the bra is giving you some support. A hole that is too small or a bra that does not fit well can cause plugged ducts for some people. No part of your hacked bra should be restrictive.
- Roll up a hand towel or material and prop it under your breast to give your boob a lift. This helps nipples that point downward by elevating your breast and helps the nipple point forward rather than down.
- Nurse in front of a mirror - this gives you a perspective you can’t see when your breasts are large and block your view. It can help you see how to adjust how you hold your baby for better positioning your baby at your chest.
- Wear your baby in a sling - Helpful for going out and about in the world and being able to nurse on the go at any age.
You don’t have to go it alone. If you are having a hard time, reach out to your IBCLC for support with the challenges of nursing with larger breasts. They will listen to what is most challenging for you and help develop a care plan in line with your goals.