Should You Alternate Breasts While You're Breastfeeding?

Mother breastfeeding baby.

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The decision to offer one breast or both breasts at each feeding is a matter of preference. As long as your baby is getting enough breast milk and growing at a healthy, consistent pace, it doesn't matter if you nurse from one breast or both breasts at each feeding. You should choose the method that is the easiest, most comfortable, and most convenient for you and your baby.

What Professionals Recommend

In the first few weeks after your baby is born, it's better to breastfeed from both sides at each feeding. Breastfeeding on both sides will help to stimulate the production of breast milk while you're establishing your milk supply.

It can also prevent some common problems of breastfeeding such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis. After about four to six weeks, when your milk supply is well established and your baby is gaining weight well, you can then choose the feeding method that works the best for you and your child.

As your baby grows, follow their lead. Let them breastfeed on one side for as long as they want. Then, when they stop breastfeeding,​ remove them from your breast, burp them, change their diaper, and offer the other side. If they want to nurse more, let them. If they only need to nurse on one breast to feel satisfied, that's OK, too.

Alternating Breasts at Each Feeding

There are definitely benefits to offering both breasts at each feeding. Besides helping to build up a healthy supply of breast milk, alternating breasts in the same feeding can keep a sleepy baby nursing longer, provide more breast milk at each feeding to a newborn who needs to gain weight, and maybe even help to keep your breasts from becoming too uneven.

Offering Only One Breast at Each Feeding

Once you've established your milk supply and your baby is growing well, it may be more convenient to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding. If you have an overabundant milk supply, breastfeeding on only one side at each feeding can help reduce the milk supply in the opposite breast. Breastfeeding from only one breast per feeding may also reduce gassiness, fussiness, and symptoms of colic in your baby.

Sometimes you might not have a choice. If you have an issue on one breast and it needs a rest to heal, you have only one breast that makes breast milk, or your baby develops a breast preference and will only breastfeed from one side, you may not be able to switch breasts during each feeding, or at all. 

Even if you can only breastfeed from one side, it's still possible to make a healthy supply of breast milk for your child. You can continue to breastfeed your baby from just one breast for as long as you wish to do so.

A Word From Verywell

As long as your baby is breastfeeding well and gaining weight, you don't have to worry about whether or not you're switching breasts at each feeding. But if you feel that your child isn't breastfeeding well or not getting enough breast milk, seek help. Whenever you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, reach out to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a breastfeeding support group for information and assistance.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Prime DK, Garbin CP, Hartmann PE, Kent JC. Simultaneous breast expression in breastfeeding women is more efficacious than sequential breast expression. Breastfeed Med. 2012;7(6):442-7. doi:10.1089/bfm.2011.0139

  2. United States Department of Health & Human Services. Common breastfeeding challenges. Updated August 27, 2018.

  3. United States Department of Health & Human Services. Preparing to breastfeed. Updated August 27, 2018.

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books, 2011.

  • Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2015.

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.