6 Tips for Breastfeeding on One Side at Each Feeding

This method has pros and cons

Mother breast-feeding baby. Tips for breastfeeding from only one side at each feeding.
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During the first few weeks of breastfeeding when you're building up your breast milk supply, you should breastfeed your newborn from both breasts at each feeding if you can. The more stimulation that you can give both breasts get in the early stages of breastfeeding, the better.

But after about 4 to 6 weeks your milk supply should be well established, so you can pick the nursing style that works best for you and your baby.

Choosing to breastfeed from one side at each feeding has its advantages. It may be helpful if you have an overabundant supply of breast milk, your baby is gaining weight too quickly, or your child is showing signs of colic. And, of course, some moms just find it to be more convenient. But, there are a few things to keep in mind if you're choosing this nursing method.

Here are six tips for breastfeeding on only one side at each feeding.

Alternate the Breast for Each Feeding

If you are able to breastfeed from both breasts but decide to breastfeed from only one side per feeding, you should alternate. If your first feeding of the day is on the right breast, alternate to the left breast for the second one, and so on. By alternating the side you start each feeding on, both breasts will be able to build and maintain a healthy supply. If you don't alternate breasts, you'll eventually stop making breast milk in the breast that you're not using.

If you cannot alternate breasts because you only have one functioning breast after breast surgery or breast cancer treatments, that's OK. You don't have to switch sides at all. Depending on your situation, you may be able to make enough breast milk for your baby while nursing on the same breast all the time.

Let Your Baby Breastfeed as Long as He Wants

When you breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, let your baby nurse for as long as he wants on that breast. You want to be sure that your child is getting as much breast milk as possible from that side. And, when your baby nurses longer, he'll be able to get to that creamier, higher-fat hindmilk at the end of the feeding. Hindmilk helps to fill your child up and keep him satisfied longer between feedings. If you don't breastfeed long enough, your baby will likely be hungry again much sooner.

Plus, if you let your baby breastfeed longer, it will help to empty the breast better and signal your body to make more breast milk.

Try to Prevent Engorgement in Your Other Breast

One of the disadvantages to breastfeeding from only one side at each feeding is that the breast your child is not nursing on can become over full and painfully engorged. You are more likely to experience this type of breast engorgement during the first few weeks when your mature milk is coming in, and your milk supply is adjusting to your baby's needs.

Other common breastfeeding issues such as plugged milk ducts and mastitis can develop in the unused breast as well. If you experience breast engorgement on one side while you're nursing on the other, you can relieve the pressure and discomfort by pumping or hand expressing a little bit of breast milk from the overfull breast until it's time to breastfeed from that side. If you continue to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, your body will get used to the process, and the engorgement will get better as the days go on.

Get Ready for Uneven Breasts

It makes sense that if you're only nursing from one side at each feeding, your breasts will appear uneven. The breast that you nursed from last will be smaller, and the opposite breast will be larger as it fills up with breast milk for the next feeding. Uneven breasts don't usually cause any problems when it comes to breastfeeding. The unevenness may even be helpful since it makes it easier to remember which breast to use for the next feeding.

If the thought of uneven breasts bothers you, you may want to nurse on both breasts at each feeding to try to keep your breasts more balanced.

Don't Forget to Pump 

If you're breastfeeding from only one breast because the other breast needs to heal or rest, be sure to continue to pump or hand express breast milk from the unused breast to keep up the production of breast milk. The supply of breast milk in the other breast will go down if you don't regularly provide it with stimulation. 

Watch Your Baby's Behavior

Some women breastfeed on only one side at each feeding because their child refuses to take the other side. Generally speaking, it's OK to breastfeed from just one breast and continue to use that same breast for every feeding. In fact, for some women, that's the only option if they only have one breast that makes breast milk. And, it's certainly possible to make a full, healthy supply of breast milk with only one breast. 

However, sometimes when a baby won't breastfeed on one side, it could mean there's a problem such as a breast infection or even the possibility of breast cancer in that breast. So if your baby is refusing to nurse on one side, give your doctor a call. It's probably something minor, but it's always better to go in for a breast exam, just in case.  

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Article Sources
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition. Mosby. 2011.
  • Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.