Breastfeeding From One Side at Each Feeding

Reasons, Concerns, and Tips for Success

Young mother breastfeeds her baby, holding him in her arms and smiling from happiness
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There are different ways to breastfeed. Many moms switch sides and nurse on both breasts at every feeding. But, some moms choose to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding. Here are some of the reasons you may decide to breastfeed from only one side along with when it's a concern and tips for success.

Reasons to Breastfeed From Only One Side

There are some situations when you may want to nurse from only one side, or perhaps when you don't really have a choice. Here are some of the reasons you may breastfeed from one side.

  • You have an overabundant supply of breast milk. When your breasts are super milk-making machines, and you have too much breast milk, breastfeeding on one side at each feeding - or even the same side for a few feedings in a row - can help to slow down the production of breast milk in the opposite side.
  • Your baby is showing signs of colic. In some cases, especially if you have an abundant milk supply, breastfeeding on both breasts can lead to symptoms of colic. You may notice your child is fussy, gassy, gaining weight quickly, and having green bowel movements. By breastfeeding on one breast at each feeding, you may help to ease these symptoms.
  • Your child has a breast preference. Some babies will only nurse on one breast and completely refuse the other one. It's called a breast preference. In most cases, a baby can get enough breast milk from just one breast, so it isn't necessarily an issue. However, sometimes refusing to breastfeed on one side could be a sign a problem. So, talk to your doctor. If there isn't an underlying health problem, and your baby is growing at a consistent pace, you can choose to accept that she prefers one side.
  • One of your breasts needs a rest. If you have very sore nipples, a breast infection, a nipple blister, or a skin issue such as eczema or dermatitis on one side, it may be too painful to nurse. You might choose to breastfeed only on the healthy breast so that the painful one can have time to heal.
  • You only have one functioning breast. If you've had breast cancer treatments, a mastectomy, or breast surgery that only affects one breast, you can still breastfeed from the unaffected side. As long as you have one breast that can produce breast milk, you can nurse from just that breast. It is indeed possible to make enough breast milk for your child with only one functioning breast, but it's important to have your milk supply, and your baby's weight monitored just to be sure. And remember, even if you are unable to make a full supply of breast milk, you can still continue to breastfeed along with supplementation.

Tips for Breastfeeding on Only One Side

Choosing to breastfeed from one side at each feeding has its advantages. It may be helpful in certain situations 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.

  1. Alternate the breast you use to start each feeding. If you can breastfeed from both breasts but decide to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, you should alternate the breast you start each feeding on. If your first feeding of the day is on the right breast, the second feeding should begin on the left side, and so on. By alternating sides in this way, 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 side 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.
  2. Let your baby breastfeed as long as he wants. When you breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, you should 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. When your baby breastfeeds 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, letting your baby breastfeed longer helps to empty the breast more completely and signal your body to make more breast milk.
  1. 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 overfull and painfully engorged. You are more likely to experience this type of breast engorgement during the first few weeks when your milk supply is adjusting to your baby's needs. Other common breastfeeding issues such as plugged milk ducts and mastitis can also pop as the other breast becomes overfull. If you experience breast engorgement on one side while you're nursing on the other, you can relieve the pressure and discomfort. Use a breast pump or a hand expression technique to remove a little bit of breast milk from the overfull breast until it's time to breastfeed from that side. And, don't worry. The engorgement will get better as the days go on. As you continue to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, your body will get used to it.
  2. Get ready for uneven breasts. It makes sense that if you're only breastfeeding from one side at each feeding, your breasts will look uneven. The breast that you nursed from last will be smaller, and the other breast will be bigger 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. But, if the thought of lopsided breasts bothers you, you may want to nurse on both breasts at each feeding to try to keep your breasts more balanced.
  1. Don't forget to pump. If you're breastfeeding from only one breast because the other breast needs to heal or rest, you should be sure to continue to pump or hand express breast milk from the other side to keep it making breast milk. The supply of breast milk in the other breast will go down if it doesn't get regular stimulation.

When to Call the Doctor

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, certain health conditions can change the flavor of your breast milk. It could mean there's a health 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, you should 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. 

A Word From Verywell

How you choose to breastfeed your child is up to you. Some moms have more of a choice than others depending on their situation. But, as long as your baby is getting enough breast milk and growing at a steady rate, there is no right or wrong way to breastfeed.

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding when you're building up your milk supply, the recommendation is to breastfeed your newborn from both breasts at each feeding if you can. The more stimulation that you can give both breasts in the early stages of breastfeeding, the better. Then, after about four to six weeks when you establish a healthy milk supply, you can do whatever works best and is most comfortable and convenient for you and your child.

If you have any questions or need more information about breastfeeding and alternating breasts, talk to your doctor or a local breastfeeding group. When you know more about your choices, you can make a better decision for you and your child.

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Article Sources
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