Breastfeeding can be challenging for some mothers to get the hang of, whether it be due to inverted or flat nipples, very large breasts, hormonal imbalances that cause low milk supply, or breast hypoplasia (insufficient breast tissue – which is not the same as small breasts).
Lactation consultant and former La Leche League leader Kim Norton shares some advice.
Concern 1: I’m scared I’ll suffocate my baby
Many mothers with very large breasts raise concerns about suffocating their baby.
It is very important that these mothers ensure they are properly awake when feeding their baby and don’t fall asleep in a chair or bed with baby at the breast.
Alternative feeding positions such the football hold or sitting baby forwards on your lap facing the breast help with latching and suffocation concerns. If using the classic breastfeeding position, moving baby’s legs further around your side takes their nose off the breast, and you can also hold the breast away from their nose.
Pillows – to support mom, baby and breasts – and a footstool are helpful for many moms from a comfort perspective.
Concern 2: We're not comfortable
For a mother with very large breasts, it can help to roll up a towel and place it under your breasts to lift them up, and to hold back the top of the breast with your hand to make positioning easier and stop it flopping down over baby.
Concern 3: What if my nipples are too big?
This concern is frequently raised. Women are told to ensure baby takes the nipple into their mouth and also as much of the areola as will fit – but your nipple might be so big that baby’s mouth can barely fit any areola in.
Since the ducts are a little behind the nipple, that is the area that baby must be pressing to stimulate the milk flow. But this refers to mothers with average-sized areolas, and there are always going to be mothers with bigger and smaller areolas. Cupping the hands in a C-shape around the nipple helps with latching. It will take a bit of trial and error to find the best ways to hold and support your breast and baby while feeding.
Concern 4: Do I need a breast reduction?
For those considering a breast reduction and wanting to breastfeed, seek out evidence-based information from organisations like La Leche League or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in making your decision.
It is possible to breastfeed after a breast reduction, but it is usually not possible to exclusively breastfeed. Considerations like the type of surgery, how long ago it took place, changes in breasts during pregnancy and whether any other children have been breastfed can have an impact.
The early days of breastfeeding are often the biggest challenge, but things get easier with practice. Joining a support group and getting tips from other mothers and trained leaders during pregnancy and once baby arrives is invaluable.
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Have you struggled to breastfeed with large breasts? Send your comments to us and we'll publish them anonymously: firstname.lastname@example.org.