THE MYTH-BUSTING SERIES BY HEATHER LIN,
LA LECHE LEAGUE LEADER
PHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN SMEETS, SMEETS STUDIO
“I had a perfectly timed routine," I explained.
"Three minutes to get there and back, two minutes to rinse the pump parts, and 10 minutes on the actual pump. It was rushed, but it worked,” I added, as a room full of new mothers listened intently.
“And how much would you pump?” How many millilitres in one session?” Asked one anxious mama.
“About 200 ml in total,” I answered.
An awed hush fell over the room.
Molly, my La Leche League colleague, shifted in her seat on the floor. “Well,” she said conclusively, “That certainly debunks any myth that small breasts have small milk storage capacity!”
I am a 34A and a mother of two breastfed babies. I was a 32A in my teenage youth.
I could go for a run without wearing a bra (theoretically, as I am more of the “wear athletic clothes without being athletic” type.) And yet, behold the bounty that has regularly poured forth from my life-giving breasts.
A combined total of over 240 ml in 10 minutes of pumping, proudly threatening to overflow the bottle.
Humans love seeing correlation where there is not necessarily any. It is part of how our minds make sense of a sometimes chaotic world. It feels natural to assume that small breasts might produce less milk, whereas ample breasts would simply flow endlessly with it. As it turns out, this notion is a misconception and is factually incorrect.
Milk storage capacity is unrelated to breast size.
Studies have found that breast storage capacity can range from around 75 ml to 380 ml (Kent et al., 2006) or more. This range of storage capacity was found in mothers whose breasts varied in size, so a woman with large breasts could have a small capacity, whilst a woman with smaller breasts could be able to hold a larger volume of milk.
What does this mean, then?
First off, it means that any disparaging comments relating a mother’s storage capacity to the size of her breasts can go right out the window. A mother likely will not have an idea of her storage capacity until her baby begins feeding, and even then, it is not really necessary to know.
Second, these findings support a notion that is well understood in the breastfeeding support community: that milk production works according to the laws of supply and demand.
The more milk that is removed, the more milk the breasts will produce.
A mother who has a smaller storage capacity might offer both breasts to her baby before her baby is satisfied, whereas a mother with a larger storage capacity might only offer one. A mother with smaller storage capacity might nurse more frequently than her counterpart with larger capacity.
Regardless of frequency of nursing, both mothers are producing the amount their babies require.
This explains why some mothers can effortlessly pump out entire bottles of milk, whereas others rejoice if they get to the 3-digit mark. Pumping output can vary for a host of reasons, and breast storage capacity can be one of them.
So while storage capacity can affect the frequency with which a baby nurses;
But it does not affect a mother’s ability to produce the milk her baby requires.
Not all Dwayne Johnson The Rock-sized milk making cells are housed in ample breasts.
Size doesn’t matter, people.