Breast milk storage capacity

Did you know that differently sized breasts carry different volumes of breast milk? Think of it this way, a 1L bottle contains less fluid than a 2L bottle. In the same way a mother with larger breasts may be able to contain more breast milk than a mother with smaller breasts. The question however, that should be asked is: “Does this mean if I have small breasts a produce less breast milk?”. The answer is no, just because I have a smaller container it does not mean that I cannot refill it to reach the same volume than that of a larger container.  So, in a nut shell a mother with small breasts can produce the same amount of breast milk than a mother with larger breasts. Let us explore this idea further.

Storage capacity


1.      Affect of different sized breasts on breast milk production

In Riodan and Wambach (2016:94) we learn that breast milk production is dependent on how much breast milk is removed from the breast. In saying this we realise that breast milk production is often driven by the baby and not as much by hormones. The more breast milk removed from the breast, the more breast milk will be produced.

With the knowledge that all mothers have differently sized breasts, one size does not fit all. It is here where breast milk storage capacity comes into play. Small breasted women can produce as much breast milk as large-breasted women however may not have the same storage capacity. It is for this reason that small breasted women may need to feed/remove breast milk more often than a mother with larger breasts. Let us use the comparison of bottles again if I try to put 2L of water into a 1L bottle, will the water not over flow?

Milk overflow


2.      How having smaller breasts means more frequent feeding

A smaller breasted women’s breast will therefore feel fuller faster. This becomes problematic because if the breasts become to full, a signal is released to produce less breast milk (1). With less breast milk that will then be produced, a mother might experience breast milk insufficiency later in her breastfeeding journey. Smaller breasted women therefore need to practice “frequent feeding/ expression” routinely. This means that she will have to work harder to “keep her breasts soft”. A smaller breasted breastfeeding mother is also the mother that will most likely need to express some breast milk even after she has breastfed her baby.


3.      Summary

In summary, small breasted women may have to feed more often than mothers who are large breasted as they have a smaller breast storage capacity when compared to larger breasted mothers however they can produce the same volume of breast milk. In mothers that are large breasted conversely, longer periods between feeding times can be present without affecting breast milk supply.

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  1. Wambach, K. & Riodan, J.   Breastfeeding and human lactation.  5th ed.  United States of America:  James and Bartlett Learning.





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