Breastfeeding with large breasts

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them work just fine for breastfeeding. The size of a woman's breasts, whether large or small, doesn't reflect their milk-making capacity, nor how easy breastfeeding is. Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, glandular tissue and connective tissue. The size of your breasts reflects how much fatty tissue there is. It is the glandular tissue in your breasts which makes milk. Some mothers and babies breastfeed well from the start, some take a little more time and effort, regardless of breast size.

Just like any new mum, positioning and attachment is the key. Although it can be trickier with larger breasts to get the positioning and attachment that works best, practice makes perfect.

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

  • Good positions for the first few feeds include the cradle hold, the football hold and the mother lying down to feed.
  • Pillows can be useful to support the baby and/or the breast in the early days when mother and baby are learning to breastfeed. Some mums find it helps to prop up their breasts with a rolled up cloth nappy or bunny rug under the breast. The nappy (or bunny rug etc) is placed under the breast for support, lifting it high enough for you to be able to more easily see that if your baby is attached correctly. Supporting and lifting the breast also helps to keep the breast from covering the baby's nose, enabling baby to breathe and swallow properly.
  • Some mothers find it helps to put the baby on a pillow for breastfeeds. 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 can be 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 attached well to the breast, 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.
  • If you hold your breast to support it as your baby is attaching, remember to keep baby and your breast at the same level. Sometimes we 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. It is often better to look and see where your breast is naturally, rather than holding it in a different location. Then be careful to bring your baby to the breast (rather than moving your breast towards the baby).
  • It may be helpful to shape your breast with your hand to make it easier for your baby to get a good mouthful of breast tissue in his mouth. If you do this, be sure to shape your breast in a way that makes it easier and not harder for your baby to attach. To help you work out this, think about how you'd hold a sandwich, so you can take a bite. Hold your breast in the same way so the baby can take a good mouthful. For example, if you are holding your baby in a football hold with your right arm, you can shape your breast with your left thumb and fingers. Your thumb would be placed on the inside of your breast and your fingers on the outside.
  • Whenever you are shaping your breast be sure that your hand and fingers are right out of the way of your baby’s mouth. If you hold her too close to the areola, she may not be able to take enough breast tissue into her mouth. You can use either hand — whatever you find the most comfortable. Rather than squeezing or pressing your breast, just gently shape it.
  • Try breastfeeding in front of a mirror if you can't see your nipples.

A mother with large breasts may be self-conscious about their size. Also, some people around the mum may be quick to think that problems with breastfeeding is related to the  size of her breasts (large or small!). Large breasts can be hot, sweaty and heavy. It helps to find a maternity bra that fits well. Here are some more tips:

  • Lying down to feed maybe easier for 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.
  • You may be able to feed with your baby lying on your lap, rather than having to support baby's weight in your arms.

Under Australian federal law, a mother is allowed to breastfeed in public anywhere at any time. However, feeding your baby in public can seem daunting for a new mum while still learning the art of breastfeeding. Some mums find it helps to wear clothing that allows their baby to easily access the breast. For ideas on clothing, please visit the Mothers Direct store. Some mothers find a carefully placed pram helpful to provide a place to rest her feet as well as create a little more privacy. Some mums use a scarf or bunny rug to cover their shoulders, upper chest, etc if they feel self-conscious about these areas. Alternatively, if you would prefer to feed in a more private area, you might like to check your local shopping areas for locations of baby feed and change rooms.

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

Australian Breastfeeding Association Reviewed May 2014