Breastfeeding With Small Breasts

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 will 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 a myth, and it's just not true. Women with small breasts can absolutely breastfeed and produce a healthy breast milk supply for their child.

Small Breasts and Breast Milk Supply

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.

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.

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. 

To be sure your baby is getting enough breast milk, breastfeed often. Newborns eat very frequently, about every one to three hours and at least eight to 12 times a day. It's important to breastfeed on demand instead of following a clock or a schedule. When you feed your baby on demand, even if it's every hour, it will help to ensure they are getting enough milk. 

Changes in Breast Size

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, the production of breast milk is adjusting to your baby needs, so your breasts may become larger, swollen, and engorged with breast milk. But even if you don't notice a change in the size of your breasts during pregnancy or the first few weeks after your baby is born, you can still breastfeed.

Talk to your doctor or midwife about your breasts and your breastfeeding concerns while you're pregnant. They can examine you and help you to feel more comfortable and confident about your ability to breastfeed.

How to Breastfeed With Small Breasts

It is generally easier to latch your baby on when you have small breasts, so you can breastfeed in any position that makes you feel comfortable. The natural, laid-back nursing position is an excellent choice in the beginning when you and your baby are first learning to breastfeed together. These strategies may also help.

  • Breastfeeding hold: Holding your breast in the V-hold may be more comfortable than the C-hold for women with a smaller bust. Just be sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the latch.
  • Latch: Make sure your baby is latching on correctly.
  • Frequency: Breastfeed at least every two to three hours (eight to twelve times a day). Breastfeed from both breasts at each feeding. Your baby will get more breast milk if they nurse from both sides rather than just one side.
  • Support: Join a breastfeeding support group for advice and encouragement. Contact a lactation consultant if you have any questions or concerns.

Look for signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk (keeping track of your baby's wet diapers helps). Take your child to the pediatrician for all regularly scheduled well-baby visits. The doctor will monitor your baby's growth. If your child is gaining weight well, that's the best sign that you're making enough breast milk.

When to Worry

On rare occasions, small breasts can indicate a breastfeeding 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 very little 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 also cause breastfeeding problems. Breast implants are not usually an issue. However, a 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 benefits of breastfeeding, which include so much more than nutrition.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Your Guide to Breastfeeding. Updated October 8, 2018.

Additional Reading
  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015.

  • Riordan J, 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. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2010;63(10):1688-93. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2009.07.027