Breastfeeding From One Side at Each Feeding

Mother breastfeeding her baby on bed
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There are different ways you can breastfeed. You can switch sides and nurse on both breasts at every feeding or breastfeed from only one side. It's down to your (and your baby's) preference. Breastfeeding from only one side is usually not a concern, especially if you have an established milk supply.

Reasons to Breastfeed From Only One Side

There are some situations when you might want to (or have to) feed your baby from only one side per feeding.

  • You have an overabundant breast milk supply. If 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 slow down the production of breast milk in the opposite side.
  • Your baby is colicky. In some cases (especially if you have an abundant milk supply), breastfeeding on both breasts can lead to symptoms of colic. If you notice that your child is fussy, gassy, gaining weight quickly, and having green bowel movements, breastfeeding on one breast at each feeding may help ease these symptoms.
  • Your baby has a breast preference. Some babies will only nurse on one breast and completely refuse the other one. If your baby shows a preference, don't worry—most babies can get enough breast milk from just one breast.
    In some cases, a baby will not breastfeed on one because there is a problem with the breast. If your baby is refusing to nurse on one side, talk to your doctor. If they can rule out an underlying health problem and your baby is growing at a consistent pace, it's probably fine that they have a preference.
  • Your breasts are sore. If you have sore nipples, a breast infection, a nipple blister, or a skin issue (such as eczema or dermatitis) on one side, nursing might be too painful. If this happens, breastfeeding only from your healthy breast can give the affected one time to heal.
  • You only have one functioning breast. If you have had treatment for breast cancer, a mastectomy, or breast surgery on only one breast, it's still possible to breastfeed from the unaffected side as long it is producing breast milk. You can make enough breast milk to feed your baby with only one functioning breast, but it's still a good idea to have your milk supply and your baby's weight monitored. If you are unable to make a full supply of breast milk, you can still breastfeed with supplementation.

Tips for Breastfeeding on Only One Side

Choosing to breastfeed from one side at each feeding has its advantages. It can be helpful in certain situations and some people just find it to be more convenient. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind if you're choosing this nursing method.

Alternate Your Starting Breast

If you can breastfeed from both breasts, alternate the breast you start each feeding with. For example, if your first feeding of the day is on the right breast, the second feeding should begin on the left. This will allow both breasts to build and maintain a healthy supply.

If you don't alternate breasts, you'll eventually stop making breast milk on the side that you're not using.

Let Your Baby Feed As Long As They Want

When you breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, let your baby nurse for as long as they want on that breast. You want to be sure that they are getting as much breast milk as possible from that side.

Longer feedings allow your baby to get to the creamier, higher-fat hindmilk at the end of the feeding. Hindmilk helps to fill your child up and keep them satisfied longer between feedings.

Letting your baby breastfeed longer also helps to empty the breast more completely and signal your body to make more breast milk.

Prevent Breast Engorgement

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 occur as the breast becomes overfull.

If you experience breast engorgement on one side while 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.

The engorgement will get better with time. As you continue to breastfeed from only one side at each feeding, your body will get used to it.

Cope With Uneven Breasts

If you're only breastfeeding from one side at each feeding, it makes sense that 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 problems. The unevenness can even be helpful because it makes it easier to remember which breast to use for the next feeding.

However, if the thought of lopsided breasts is bothersome, you can nurse on both breasts at each feeding to try to keep your breasts more balanced.

Keep Pumping

If you're breastfeeding from only one breast because the other breast needs to heal or rest, you should continue to pump or hand express breast milk from that side to keep it making breast milk. The supply of breast milk will go down in that breast if it doesn't get regular stimulation.

When to Call the Doctor

You might breastfeed on just one side for every feeding because your child simply refuses to take the other side. It's possible to make a full, healthy supply of breast milk with only one breast, it's usually OK to breastfeed from just only one breast, and you can usually continue to use the same breast for every feeding.

However, certain health conditions can change the flavor of your breast milk. If your baby won't nurse from one side, it could actually be a sign of a health problem (such as a breast infection or even cancer in that breast).

It's best to call your doctor if your baby won't nurse from one breast. While it might be something minor, having a breast exam is the only way to know for sure.

A Word From Verywell

How you choose to breastfeed your child is up to you, though some people will have more of a choice than others. 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 a milk supply), breastfeed your newborn from both breasts at each feeding if you can. The more stimulation that you can give to both breasts in the early stages of breastfeeding, the better. After you have established a healthy milk supply (in about four to six weeks), do whatever is most comfortable and convenient for you and your child.

7 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. International Breastfeeding Centre. One sided feedings or two?

  2. Little, SE. Managing common breastfeeding problems in the community. British Med J. 2014; 348. doi:10.1136/bmj.g2954

  3. Nemours KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: supply and demand.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Breastfeeding after breast or nipple surgery.

  5. Nemours KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: how much and how often.

  6. USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support. Plugged ducts, mastitis, and thrush.

  7. Yoshida M, Shinohara H, Sugiyama T, Kumagai M, Muto H, Kodama H. Taste of milk from inflamed breasts of breastfeeding mothers with mastitis evaluated using a taste sensor. Breastfeed Med. 2014;9(2):92-97. doi:10.1089/bfm.2013.0084

Additional Reading
  • Eidelman AI, Schanler RJ, Johnston M et al. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3552

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

  • Riordan J, Wambach K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning.

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.