Last week we discussed " What to expect over the first 12 months", and today I'm interviewing Katie James, IBCLC and midwife about her tips for women Breastfeeding with Large Breasts or Nipples.
I hope you find the video useful! Please do send in any topics you'd like us to cover! We love hearing from you :)
When you first start breastfeeding
It can often feel quite daunting, particularly if you’ve had larger breasts for most of your life, and you find your breasts continue to grow throughout pregnancy. This can be quite overwhelming, some women may go up a couple of cup sizes, and some may go up even more. The first thing that’s really important is to get a good supportive bra. You may need to get a different bra in the second trimester, and again in the third trimester and then again after birth. Make sure you’re properly sized. Often with large breasts there is a considerable amount of weight which can get quite sore on your shoulders, so proper support will help, especially through your shoulders.
Women with large breasts can often feel quite self conscious about their breast size, sometimes they may feel they’re above their ideal weight, and may worry about being exposed while they’re breastfeeding. So, wearing the right type of clothes is really important so you can perhaps cover your stomach area and only expose a small amount while you’re breastfeeding. This is probably more important further down the track.
In the first few days can be difficult if you’re feeling sore, or you’ve had a caesarean. Often using an underarm football hold so the baby is underneath your arm can really help with your line of sight so you can see how the nipple enters your baby’s mouth and how your baby is attaching. The other thing we find with larger breasts is that the weight of breasts is quite heavy. When we’re thinking about where the breast is, we may not have a good visual of where the breast is, we might be looking further downwards, which can be quite awkward to see how the baby is attaching as well. So, perhaps rolling up a face washer or small cloth underneath your breast to support it can be really helpful in giving you a better visual so you can see exactly how baby is attaching. What we really don’t want is the baby just attaching to the end of the nipple, as that will cause soreness and will reduce the flow of milk. Despite whatever size breast you have, making sure your baby is attaching nice and deeply is very important, so having a good viewpoint is often essential.
You can also try a more laid back style of feeding, where the Mum will lie further back in a comfortable position on a chair or bed, and the baby will lie on your chest and the baby will probably work their way down to the breast and find their own way there. This has a really nice viewpoint and can be an easier way to nurse when your breasts are on the larger size.
Getting the Right Posture While Breastfeeding
For most women, you can get a sore neck from looking down at your baby all the time. What you need to think about, regardless of breast size, is you really don’t want to be hunching up your shoulders, and constantly looking over to your baby too much as you may end up with sore shoulders, pain in your neck or headaches. It’s a good idea, once baby is attached, to take some deep breathes, and probably three good deep breathes and relax your shoulders and relax into whatever position feels comfortable. In years gone by, we recommended mothers had to sit upright, with their feet on a footstool. If that feels comfortable, great, if it doesn’t feel comfortable then once your baby is attached you can lean back, or stand up and walk around, get into whatever position is comfortable for you.
Tips for Breastfeeding with Large Nipples
Is it possible to have babies with a mouth that is too small for your nipple? We all come in different shapes and sizes. Every breast is absolutely perfect. 96% of women will be able to make enough milk. We all have different shaped nipples, and sometimes nipples will be different from one size to the next. But it is possible, to have a baby that is perhaps born on the smaller size, and a nipple on the larger size and they just don’t equate.
What happens is we will try certain positions; you’ll need to see a lactation consultant, or a midwife with more breastfeeding experience to try specific tips. What might happen is that the baby won’t be able to attach for a couple of weeks until they are a little bigger. You may need to start with hand expressing, and once your milk is in, you start pumping regularly. As the baby grows and recovers from the birth, and is able to gape wider, every day you’ll see changes, you’ll see progress and we’ll keep trying baby at the breast. It’s normally not long that that discrepancy lasts. Very occasionally, often for long nipples, or maybe quite wide nipples we may need to use a nipple shield, but only for specific nipples. The nipple shield sometimes tapers and allows the baby’s mouth to open a bit wider and accept more of the breast tissue into their mouth. This is for very specific situations and you probably need to see a lactation consultant to work out the best solution for your situation, and see you nursing your baby.
Preparing and Getting More Information during Pregnancy
If you have any concerns about the size of your breast, or the size or length of your nipple, don’t be afraid to talk to your midwife during pregnancy about this, and request to see a lactation consultant. There are a number of reasons why this is a great idea:
- We’ll probably be able to reassure you a lot,
- For most women we’ll be able to say it’s fine, you don’t need to worry, and
- We’ll give you a bit of a plan of what to expect straight up.
This helps to avoid the situation where it's day 2 after birth and they bring in the lactation consultant and it can be quite stressful. Talk to your midwife, talk to your GP, and don’t be worried about asking. Getting more information about something will always make you feel better.
Particularly in the early days, some people find it quite easy to breastfeed, but a lot of other people find it quite difficult, for whatever reason. If you’re not sure about something, or it doesn’t feel right, always ask your midwife, or see a lactation consultant. Or even have a lactation consultant come and visit you in your home. It can make such a big difference to your enjoyment of breastfeeding, and outcomes!
Thanks very much to Katie for her advice, and thanks to you for listening/reading! If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss, please contact us!
Have you experienced breastfeeding with large breasts or nipples? What tips would you add for other mothers? Come and Join our Milk and Love Mums group on Facebook and chat with like minded Mums.
About the author
Katie James, IBCLC has helped thousands of women through their breastfeeding challenges during those early newborn days. Katie's extensive knowledge and experience, coupled with her down to earth, practical approach is reassuring and empowering for new mums. Find out more about Katie here.