How Breast Size and Shape Affects Breastfeeding

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

Often women wonder if the size or shape of their breasts will affect their ability to breastfeed, but in most cases women are able to breastfeed successfully regardless of their breast size or shape. Here's what you need to know about breast size, breast shape, and breastfeeding.

Breast Size and Breastfeeding

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 those with larger breasts have more fatty tissue. But, fatty tissue doesn't make breast milk. Instead, it's your breasts' glandular tissue that 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. People with all different breast sizes are fully capable of producing a healthy supply of breast milk for their babies.

Your breast milk supply is not determined by the size or shape of your breasts but instead by how much and how often your baby feeds.

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.

If you're concerned that you're not producing enough milk, pay attention to your baby's wet diapers and bowel movements. Generally, small infrequent bowel movements or less than six wet diapers a day, are cause for concern. Contact your baby's doctor or a lactation consultant right away.

Large Breasts

Breastfeeding with large breasts can be awkward at first, but you should have no issue breastfeeding your baby. It's important to find a comfortable position and get help from the beginning, though, especially if your baby is having trouble latching on.

Some women also worry that their breasts will block your baby's nose, but this is usually not a cause for concern. If your baby's nose gets blocked while nursing, they will open their mouth and let go of the breast so they can breathe. If you are concerned, use your finger to press down on your breast near your baby's nose. Just be careful not to break their latch.

Breast Shape and Breastfeeding

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 ask for 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 or a lactation consultant to deal with any issues that you have identified. Here are some common breastfeeding concerns involving breast shape:

  • Nipple size and shape: Women have different sizes and shapes of nipples—some are flat, some are round, some are pointy, some are large, and some are small. But, regardless of the shape and size, a woman's nipple size and shape should not prevent them from breastfeeding. That said, women with flat nipples, inverted nipples, or very large nipples may have trouble getting their baby to latch on at first. But with the help of a lactation consultant, this issue is often easily resolved.
  • Engorged breasts: Most women experience some level of breast engorgement during the first few weeks after giving birth. Breast engorgement also can occur if you miss feedings or if your baby is not eating as much due to an illness. When breasts are engorged, they can become hard, swollen, and even painful because of the excess milk in the breasts. It also can be difficult to get your baby to latch on to the breast, so you may need to express some milk initially before feeding your baby.
  • Hypoplastic Breasts: Women with hypoplastic breasts have underdeveloped glandular (milk-making) breast tissue and may not be able to produce a full supply of breast milk. Occurring in only a small percentage of women, hypoplastic breasts are often spaced widely apart and may appear very small and thin or long and tubular and can prevent successful breastfeeding.

Breast Surgery and Breastfeeding

If you have had breast reconstruction, implants, or a breast reduction, you may be wondering if you will be able to breastfeed your baby. While every situation is unique and largely dependent on the type of surgery you had and how it impacted your breast tissue, some women are still able to breastfeed successfully. Talk to your doctor about your specific situation to determine the odds of breastfeeding your baby.

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 you underwent. If the area near the nipple and the areola were not affected and you have an adequate supply of glandular tissue, your chances of breastfeeding successfully are much greater.

Breast Reduction

Breast reduction surgery is more likely to interfere with breastfeeding than having implants, but does not completely eliminate the possibility. The removal of breast tissue along with the reshaping of the breast sometimes can cause damage to the glandular tissue, the nerves, and the milk ducts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the amount of milk a mother makes will depend largely on the number of connected ducts as well as how well the nerves enabling lactation function.

If you have had a breast reduction of if you are a transgender person who had breast or chest surgery, you may be able to breastfeed (or chestfeed), but you will need to closely monitor the amount of milk that you are able to make and supplement if necessary. Make sure you ask your doctor about the possibility of breastfeeding or chestfeeding.

Other Breast or Chest Surgeries

If you have had a mastectomy or another type of breast or chest surgery, your chances of breastfeeding may be impacted. 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.  

Breast Changes After Breastfeeding

A woman's breasts change in size and shape during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weaning. For some women, these changes are minimal while other women may experience dramatic changes.

In the first weeks postpartum as your milk supply comes in, you may experience some pain and swelling, but this discomfort should resolve in a few days to a week, especially if you're breastfeeding. Also, if you're exclusively breastfeeding, your breasts are likely to remain on the larger side as they hold your baby's milk supply. Other changes you may notice include:

  • Areola may become darker and larger
  • Breasts may feel larger or heavier
  • Breast shape may change

Once you begin the weaning process, your breasts will go through changes again. Because your baby is nursing less frequently, your breasts will start to feel softer and less full. Then, about six months after your baby is fully weaned, your breasts may return to normal or may appear slightly different. This process varies from woman to woman.

For instance, at the conclusion of breastfeeding some women's breasts will remain larger while others will appear smaller. Some women may even notice stretch marks or feel that their breasts are somewhat saggy.

If you are concerned about the changes you may experience, talk to your doctor for advice. Most women can rest assured, though, that breastfeeding has a minimal impact on a breast's aesthetics. Typically, age and weight changes impact breast shape and size more than breastfeeding.

What to Do if You're Concerned

It's completely normal to have concerns about your breast size and shape, especially if you are a first-time mom hoping to breastfeed. Many women worry that their breasts are too small to produce enough milk for their baby. In fact, concerns over not producing enough milk are one of the most common reasons why women quit breastfeeding.

But breast size and shape is rarely the reason behind breastfeeding difficulties.

Instead, women are more likely to have challenges with breastfeeding due to other circumstances such as a stressful day, a difficult delivery, or hormonal issues.

If you are experiencing challenges with breastfeeding or if you have concerns about your milk supply or your baby's latch be sure to schedule some time to work with a lactation consultant or talk to your doctor. With a little help and direction, most breastfeeding challenges can be corrected.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes to breastfeeding, most people are not limited by the size or shape of their breasts. While there may be a few challenges that need to be addressed like finding comfortable nursing positions or helping your baby develop a good latch, almost anyone who wants to breastfeed can do so.

If you are concerned about the size or shape of your breasts, or if you had a breast surgery of some sort, be sure to talk with your doctor. Together, you can determine what is best for you and your baby.

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Article Sources
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