Help! Breastfeeding Is Making Me Lopsided
Let's face it: Anyone who says breastfeeding is easy is lying. Sometimes it feels like you could use an extra set of arms or a lactation counselor at your beck and call. There can be constant worry about if you're doing it right.
Just to make things interesting, you've noticed your sweet baby will only nurse on one side and one side only. Now things are, ahem, getting a bit uneven when you look in the mirror. Turns out, this can be a pretty common occurrence with breastfeeding. But why? And how do you fix it?
Some babies prefer one side over the other
Sometimes this preference is for comfort, explained Sondra Rodocker, I.B.C.L.C., a doula, lactation specialist and owner of Arkansas Family Doulas and Arkansas Breastfeeding Clinic. Some babies might have some tension on one side of their body from delivery. It might just be more comfortable for them to nurse on the side where it isn't as tight.
It's perfectly normal, Rodocker reassured. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong. As babies grow and become experts at tummy time and getting around, you may see a change in that."
Christie Collbran, a certified lactation counselor, birth doula and founder of Buddha Belly Doulas in Tampa, Florida, explained other reasons your little one has a favorite boob. Some reasons have to do with your breasts themselves. Normal breast variations, such as inverted, flat or differently sized and shaped nipples, could cause your baby to have difficulty latching.
One breast might have a more forceful flow of milk that can be off-putting, and cause your baby to prefer the breast with the slower flow.
In other cases, it may not be your breasts, but your baby. Collbran explained there may be something causing discomfort when your baby is positioned on one side, such as an ear infection or a sore spot after getting their immunizations. Finally, Collbran said, "some babies just feel more comfortable being held on one side and therefore nurse more efficiently or more frequently on that side."
Nursing only on one side can cause lopsidedness
"In the early days of your breastfeeding relationship, your body is still working out how much milk to make for your baby," Collbran explained. Luckily, milk flow becomes more regulated as you continue to nurse.
If you go too long without nursing on one or both sides, however, you might experience engorgement and pain. "It's not good to let the breasts get too full," Collbran said, but how engorgement looks and feels can differ from person to person.
Your body has a remarkable ability to adapt in many cases. Rodocker said if your baby has a strong preference from the beginning and only nurses on one side, your body can see it as normal—as what your baby needs.
"Less stimulation to the other breast sends the signal to the brain that there's not a demand to make milk for that breast," Rodocker said. "It will continue to make milk where the demand is."
Dealing with lopsided breasts
If uneven breasts have got you down, look at it this way: It may not be talked about often, but it's completely normal. Collbran explained just as people sometimes have different-sized feet, there can be size differences in breasts even prior to breastfeeding. Using nursing pads can help even out the appearance. But keep in mind, Collbran added, usually, that size difference is more noticeable to you than to others.
"We're each unique and aren't meant to look one way," Rodocker reminded. "Kind of how your milk is made specifically for your baby—your body is yours and should be celebrated."
But if the lopsidedness is bothering you, there are some ways to help even things out according to experts.
- Start out nursing on the smaller breast for each feeding for several days. "Your baby usually feeds more eagerly on the first breast offered," Collbran said.
- Try other nursing positions as you encourage your baby to nurse on the non-preferred side. The football hold, laid-back nursing, or side-lying could help switch it up.
- Pump the smaller side for five to 10 minutes after feeding and consider adding an extra pumping session for the smaller side only in between feeds, Collbran advised. If your productive breast feels full, express just enough milk on that side to relieve the pressure.
- Try not to stress. "Each person will usually always have a 'slacker boob,' and we all have unbalanced breasts anyways," Rodocker concluded.
As with everything when it comes to our health or that of our babies, don't hesitate to reach out to a lactation specialist or your healthcare provider if you need some extra support to guide you.