Breastfeeding with large breasts

Large breasts work just fine for breastfeeding. The size of a woman's breasts, whether large or small, doesn't reflect their milk-making capacity, nor the ease of breastfeeding. Women with large breasts may suddenly discover a new appreciation for their breasts when they realise they work perfectly well doing what they're designed to do, and that their new baby just loves them! Just like any new mum, positioning and attachment is the key, and if the large-breasted mum pays good attention to this, she'll be fine.

Here are some tips particularly for the large-breasted mum. Try them out and see what works for you:

  • Good positions for feeding include the cradle hold, the football hold and mother lying down to feed.
  • Pillows can be useful to support the baby and the breast in the early days when mother and baby are learning to breastfeed. Many women find, however, that the advantage of having large breasts is that they don't need to use pillows. Larger breasts mean the baby is held lower during a feed, and part or all of the baby's weight can be supported by the mum's lap. You may need to experiment to see what suits you best.
  • The baby's position while feeding is important. If baby is positioned well, her chin will be touching the breast while her nose is clear so that a finger won't be needed to enable baby to breathe.
  • When feeding in public, you can position your pram in front of you for extra privacy.
  • A rolled up cloth nappy or bunny rug under the breast may be helpful for mums whose breasts almost touch their laps when they sit down. The nappy (or bunny rug etc) is placed under the breast for support, lifting it high enough for the baby to latch on to the nipple. Supporting and lifting the breast also helps to keep the breast from covering the baby's nose, enabling baby to breathe and swallow properly.
  • The C-hold can be useful for many mums. This hold means you can support the weight of your breast, lift the nipple slightly so you can see it better, and gently shape the breast to help your baby attach. The C-hold is where you place your palm against the breast, thumb above areola, fingers below. Your hand and fingers need to be right out of the way so that baby can attach to your breast. If you hold too close to the areola, baby may not be able to take enough breast into her mouth. You can use the hand on the same side as the breast baby is feeding from, or try the hand on the side the baby is not feeding from. See which you find most comfortable. Rather than squeezing or pressing your breast, just gently shape it-if you are pressing too hard, blocked ducts may follow. To reduce this possibility you might like to shift your hand periodically during the feed.
  • Try breastfeeding in front of a mirror if you can't see your nipples.
  • When attaching the baby use the hand on the same side as the breast to support your breast - like you would hold a plate. With your other arm hold the baby along his back. This way the nipple is raised to a place where you can see it, and you also have control of the baby. It is wise when attaching your baby this way to remember to keep baby and your breast at the same level. Sometimes we can inadvertently let our breast go and the weight of it can pull some of the breast out of your baby's mouth. This can be uncomfortable and may cause damage to your nipples as baby is not attached properly.

For more information on positioning and attachment, you may find the booklet Breastfeeding: an introduction helpful or the website article Attachment to the breast.

A mother with large breasts may be self-conscious about their size. Some people around the mum may be quick to attribute problems with breastfeeding to breast size (large or small!). Large breasts can be hot, sweaty and heavy, and it can be difficult to find maternity bras that fit well. Having large breasts has advantages as well.

  • Lying down to feed is easy for most large breasted mums;
  • In hot weather, you can lie on your side to feed and your baby can be a small distance from your body;
  • If your baby falls asleep on your lap and you want to put him into a cot, you can stand up, place baby still attached into bed, wait another minute whilst still leaning over the cot to allow baby to settle again, detach baby, and off you go!
  • You may be able to feed with your baby lying on your lap, rather than having to support baby's weight in your arms. 

Feeding your baby in public can seem daunting for a new mum while still learning the art of breastfeeding. You might like to check your local shopping areas for locations of baby feed and change rooms. Some rooms are better fitted out than others, so find out where the best ones are. Follow general tips for breastfeeding in public. A loose fitting top can help make breastfeeding as discreet as possible, and a carefully placed pram can provide a place to rest your feet as well as a little more privacy. It might be difficult to juggle baby and breast when you're used to pillows and cushions, but you will get the hang of it. 

Myths about breastfeeding with large breasts

Large breasts make more milk.
Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, glandular tissue and connective tissue. The size of your breasts reflects how much fatty tissue they have. It is the glandular tissue in your breasts which will be making milk.
Large breasts make breastfeeding difficult/easy.
Not necessarily! Some mothers and babies breastfeed well from the start, some take a little more time and effort, regardless of breast size.
While breastfeeding, you need to use a finger to keep an airway clear for your baby.
If your baby is positioned and attached well, his chin will be touching the breast and nose clear, no matter what the breast size is.

If you are confident and determined, you will succeed at breastfeeding. To gain confidence, find out as much about breastfeeding as you can while pregnant. If you are worried about any aspect of your breasts, you might like to get them checked by a health professional such as a general practitioner or lactation consultant. Find out as much as you can about breastfeeding by talking to other people and reading books such as Breastfeeding…naturally (free with your ABA membership!). Visit your local Australian Breastfeeding Association group and mix with other mums who have breastfed-there may be a mum there who has dealt with any issues you are worried about, and you may get to see other mums breastfeeding their babies. Listen to all suggestions; try the ones you like, and sort out what works for you. Get to know-and respect-your breasts a little bit more. They are about to do what they were perfectly designed to do.

Amanda McAllan BSc, Breastfeeding Counsellor, September 2005

Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed October 2012