Sometimes our ideas about breastfeeding come from photos or the movies: a mom peacefully nursing her baby like everything is perfect. But moms know that breastfeeding can easy AND not exactly a walk in the park. There are a lot of challenges that come with nursing a baby. The first few weeks are especially more tasking, but it does get better, though.
Milk supply is a constant worry for new moms who are just starting out, as well as for moms who would like to continue breastfeeding as long as possible for the health of their baby. For example, when Rufa Mae Quinto gave birth, she didn’t have milk at the onset, prompting friends such as Mariel Rodriguez to share breast milk for her daughter Alexandria Athena.
Rufa Mae is famous for having cup C breasts, so people reacted: how come she didn’t have milk? Don’t breasts grow larger when you’re pregnant or lactating to be able to produce more milk?
It is true that during pregnancy, a woman’s breasts become bigger (thanks to pregnancy hormones!), in preparation for breastfeeding when the baby comes. Some women already produce milk nearing their due date. While the breasts produce milk continuously, nursing does not happen in an instant. There are several factors that could affect a mom and baby’s breastfeeding experience.
First, having large breasts does not equal more breast milk. Large breasts does not necessarily mean better milk supply either. According to a study on breast size and milk production, supply does not depend on size, but rather on “the amount of epithelial tissue in the breast that is capable of making milk.” The human breast could contain more fat tissue than actually milk-making tissues.
According to International Board Certified Lactation consultant (IBCLC) Anne Smith, fatty tissue is what gives the breast its rounded shape and protects the internal structures from injury. “The amount of fatty tissue and the size of the breast are not related to the ability to produce milk. Small-breasted women are just as capable of producing adequate milk as the more amply endowed women, while large-busted women usually have more fat tissue in breasts,” she writes on Breastfeeding Basics.
Women with large breasts may have more “storage milk capacity” than smaller-busted women. It only means that women with large breasts have “more room” to store milk in their breast, so when they nurse, their baby gets more milk per feeding and would not need to nurse often. Women with small breasts might need to nurse more often because they offer less milk to their baby per feeding.
However, although larger breasts often have greater storage capacity than small ones, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will nurse more or less often just because of the size of your breasts. Every nursing mom and child is different, so it’s really a case to case basis.
Breastfeeding follows the law of supply and demand. When you breastfeed your baby directly onto your breast, the suckling action tells your body to produce more milk because your baby needs it. The amount of milk you produce largely depends on how much your baby nurses. The more the baby feeds, the more milk your breasts make. That’s why breastfeeding immediately after birth is crucial. This is also why lactation consultants advise mothers to feed their baby directly as often as possible.
It’s a myth that large-busted women would have more milk and that they would have it easy nursing their baby. Here are some of the issues a big-busted nursing woman could encounter:
1. Women with large breasts often struggle with latching. Imagine a big breast and the small mouth of newborns. You have to pay attention to latching your little one.
2. It could be tricky finding a breastfeeding position that works. Experiment with different positions. Setting up a nursing station in your bedroom could help, too.
3. Women with large breasts are also more prone to having clogged milk ducts because they have more tissue that could become engorged. Smith advises large-busted women to massage their breast while feeding to make sure milk ducts are emptied adequately. Pumping after feeding is also advisable if you feel your breasts still contain a lot of milk that you need to express.
4. Finding a good and comfortable nursing bra that fits all of that breast tissue. It's a trial and error thing, but keep at it and you'll soon find one that is right for you.
5. Breastfeeding in public is also a challenge as positioning a baby could be tricky under a nursing cover. There could also be a lot of skin exposed -- and that's okay. But if you're not comfortable with that, know where the nursing station is located when going to malls or other places so you have more room to position your baby properly.
For more information about breastfeeding, click here.
This story originally appeared on Smartparenting.com.ph.
* Minor edits have been made by the Femalenetwork.com editors.