Breastfeeding From One Side at Each Feeding

Reasons, Concerns, and Tips for Success

Mother breastfeeds her baby
Tatyana Tomsickova Photography / Getty Images

There are different ways to breastfeed. Many moms switch sides and nurse on both breasts at every feeding. But some mothers (or some babies) choose to breastfeed from only one side. This 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 may want to nurse from only one side, or even when you don't have a choice. Some breastfeeding mothers experience:

  • 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.
  • A colicky baby: 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.
  • 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 of a problem with the breast, so talk to your doctor. If there isn't an underlying health problem, and your baby is growing at a consistent pace, accept that she prefers one side.
  • Breast soreness or pain: 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 breastfeed only on the healthy breast so that the affected one can have time to heal.
  • 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 it can produce breast milk. It is 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 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 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.

  1. Alternate the breast you use to start each feeding. If you can breastfeed from both breasts, alternate the breast you start each feeding with. If your first feeding of the day is on the right breast, the second feeding should begin on the left, and so on. 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 in the side that you're not using.
  2. Let your baby feed 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 he is 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 him satisfied longer between feedings. 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 occur as the 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. 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.
  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. 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 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

Some women breastfeed on only one side at each feeding because their child refuses to take the other side. Generally speaking, it's fine to breastfeed from just one breast and continue to use that same breast for every feeding. 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 cancer in that breast. So if your baby is refusing to nurse on one side, call your doctor. It's probably something minor, but it's better to have 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. 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, 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. After you have established a healthy milk supply (in four to six weeks), do whatever works best and is most comfortable and convenient for you and your child.

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Article Sources

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