If you think one of your breasts is producing less milk then there are some really simple steps to evening out your supply.
It’s extremely common for one boob to produce more of the goods, while the other one is barely producing half the milk your champion breast is serving up every day.
So this is an extremely common thing, but it may be something you want to fix for several reasons.
First of all, everyone has a favoured boob when it comes to breastfeeding I think.
There’s one side that you just find easier to nurse from, whether it’s because you find it easier to hold your baby that way, it fits better with your favourite chair or because it means you can hold your phone easier to read while nursing. Maybe it’s a combination of all of these!
My personal favourite was the left hand side, because I could hold my hand with my right while my baby’s head was resting in the crook of my right arm.
But when you favour one side more than the other, or baby favours one side more than the other, you will find the neglected side dials back production.
With breastfeeding it’s all about simple supply and demand. If baby is nursing, or you’re pumping with a breast pump, regularly throughout the day then your breasts will keep making milk.
If you start to nurse or pump more frequently and for longer sessions, your breasts will make more milk.
If one breast gets more attention than the other, that one will produce more milk.
By favouring one side so much I found that:
- I was more likely to become engorged on the right side, because I rarely started a feed nursing from that side.
- Milk production was clearly more fruitful from the left hand side.
- Which in turn led me to keep favouring the left hand side. So it can be a bit of a cycle.
I had to remind myself as much as possible to remember the other boob and treat them equally.
We’re going to discuss how to tell if you have a so-called slacker book and simple steps to fix it.
By the way, if you want answers to all of your questions about breastfeeding in a course you can take in your own time with tips and step-by-step troubleshooting help from a lactation consultant then this course is what you need.
I have a review of the Milkology course here if you want to read more about it.
What is a slacker boob and do you need to fix it?
When one breast appears to produce less milk then it is sometimes known as a slacker boob.
There’s no cause for concern when this happens, and many nursing mothers do find that one boob appears to be a little more productive than the other.
Every individual is different when it comes to supply and individual boobs can be a little different too!
However you may want to solve the issue for your own comfort, as the over achieving boob could be more likely to become engorged if it is constantly being asked to step in for every feed.
You may also feel lopsided if one breast is producing more milk than the other, which can impact on your own comfort.
Consider the basics of how breast milk production works. Your baby is born and your hormones kick in to make your body produce milk. Your baby suckles from your breast, which tells your body to make more milk.
The more your baby suckles, the more milk is produced. This is why babies often cluster feed, because they are going through a growth spurt or in the early weeks it’s to stimulate your milk supply to get it going.
So supply is constant, as long as the demand is there. However your boobs need to get equal demand in order to produce equal supply.
Now there’s a difference between your slacker boob being a problem and it just being normal for that breast.
If this is not causing you any discomfort then you really don’t need to worry too much about it.
As long as your baby is healthy, feeding well and growing, and you have no pain in either breast then keep nursing!
However if the production difference is vast, then there are steps you can take to get your slacker boob to catch up with the breast that is producing the most milk.
Do I have a slacker boob?
First of all do you actually have a breast that is producing less milk than the other?
Signs of this include:
- Baby’s preference to nurse from one side – this could also be because the letdown comes easier from one side or the letdown is less intense on one side, so easier for them to feed
- Your breasts appear lopsided
- One breast feels fuller than the other (this one is the one producing the most milk) between feeds
What to do when one breast is producing less milk
First of all decide if you actually need to do anything if one breast is producing less milk.
If it’s only a small amount and it’s not causing issues with feeding your baby then do you need to do anything at all?
If one breast is becoming much more engorged between feeds then this could be a problem. This can lead to clogged milk ducts, which are painful, and mastitis which is an infection in the breast. Neither are pleasant so it’s definitely best to avoid them!
Evening out your supply means that one breast is not doing all of the heavy lifting when it comes to feeding your baby.
Here are some simple steps you can take to improve milk supply when one breast is producing less milk.
Nurse frequently on the side producing less milk
Place your baby to the breast that is producing the least milk more frequently.
What you want to strike here is a balance between increasing demand on the slacker boob, while not ignoring the boob that is producing the most milk.
Say you nurse for 30 minutes during a feed, try nursing from the slacker side for the first 20 minutes and from the more productive side for the final 10 minutes.
If you feel engorged on the productive side after this then try pumping to take the edge off the discomfort or hand expressing some milk.
Start nursing on the side producing less milk
Your baby will nurse more enthusiastically from the breast they first start to feed on.
We often get into patterns and habits as humans and nursing babies is no different. I always started on the left hand side as it just felt more comfortable.
In the middle of the night when you’re sleepy it can be hard to remember you need to give the other breast a try as well.
So try to remind yourself to begin nursing on the side producing
Try different nursing positions
If you have been favouring one side due to comfort then try different positions or chairs in your house to find a position that works better for nursing from the less productive side.
You could try nursing your baby laying down, or try a different type of breastfeeding hold. There are lots of different breastfeeding positions you can try.
Hand express a little milk first
If you think a forceful letdown could be putting your baby off from nursing on one side then try hand expressing a little milk before nursing them.
There’s a great hand expressing guide from La Leche League.
Try breast massage
This can help to stimulate production of milk. Try massaging the breast that is producing less milk during nursing and/or when using a breast pump for the other breast.
Move your hand around the area and try to push as much milk out of your ducts in the breast as possible.
Use a pump
Using a breast pump between breast feeds helps to stimulate the milk supply in the slacker breast.
Power pumping is a technique often used to increase supply in general, so can also be used as a focused method on just one breast. This method works by pumping for 10 minutes, then resting for 10 minutes, then pumping for another 10 minutes. You could try this for 30 to 60 minutes at least once a day.
Try pumping the breast that is producing less milk immediately after nursing your baby. This will help to stimulate the supply on that side in combination with the other methods above.
Drink plenty of fluids
This is always a good idea whether breastfeeding is going smoothly or not, as staying hydrated is key to good milk production.
Carrying a water bottle around with you can make it easier to remember to take regular sips of water.
Always try to have a drink within reach when you settle down to nurse.
Final thoughts on uneven breast milk production
It’s extremely common for one breast to produce more milk than the other.
This is only something that needs fixing if it is causing you problems with discomfort like engorgement on one side.
Focusing on feeding more from the slacker breast is the best solution, as your baby’s attention on that breast will cause it to produce more milk.
A manual or electric pump can also help you to bring the slacker breast up to speed with the other breast.
Remember to avoid over pumping, as you don’t want to then have an issue with over supply!
To avoid excessively uneven breast milk production in the future remember to nurse from each side for equal amounts of time. I used to nurse for around 10 minutes from one side and then switch to the other during a feed.