What Is Switch Nursing?

Switch nursing is a breastfeeding technique that involves alternating breasts multiple times during a feeding. When you use this breastfeeding method, your baby breastfeeds for a few minutes on one breast, switches over to the other breast for a few minutes, then switches back to the first breast again, and so on.

There are situations when switch nursing can come in handy, but it has its downsides, too. Here's what you need to know about this breastfeeding technique.

When to Use Switch Nursing

If your baby is latching on and breastfeeding well, you do not need to stop them to switch breasts. You can let your child finish breastfeeding on one side, then offer the other breast. However, switching breasts multiple times during a feeding may be helpful if:

  • Your baby is sleepy at the breast
  • Your little one is gaining weight slowly
  • Your breast milk supply is low

Sleepy Baby

Switching breasts frequently during a feeding may help to keep a sleepy baby sucking longer. Each time your baby slows down, stops sucking, and starts to fall asleep, you can try to wake them up a little and switch sides.

The movement of changing sides, plus the change in the flow of breast milk from one breast to the other, may encourage your baby to keep breastfeeding.

Slow Weight Gain

If your baby isn't gaining the expected amount of weight, switch nursing may help to increase the amount of breast milk that they get at each feeding. By switching back and forth between breasts, it could encourage your baby to suck for a longer period while stimulating the let-down of breast milk from your breasts to occur multiple times.

Low Milk Supply

If you have a low breast milk supply, you can use switch nursing to try to boost it up. The extra stimulation to both breasts from changing sides a few times throughout a feeding can lead to an increase in the supply of breast milk.

If you have a low breast milk supply, a sleepy newborn, or a baby who's gaining weight slowly, be sure to keep in close contact with your child's healthcare provider. The pediatrician can make sure your baby is healthy, getting enough breast milk, and gaining weight. You can also monitor your child at home by keeping track of their wet and dirty diapers and watching for signs of dehydration.

When to Stop Switch Nursing

Switch nursing may work well during the first few days of breastfeeding or when your child is going through a growth spurt, but it's not meant to be used over an extended period of time. Once your breast milk supply goes up, your baby is more alert, and breastfeeding is going well, you do not need to change sides more than once a feeding.

You should be able to breastfeed your child on one side until that breast is emptied before switching to the other side for the remainder of the feeding. Some newborns will even be happy and satisfied with just a single breast at each feeding. Just remember to alternate breasts when you begin feeding so that you can keep both breasts stimulated and making breast milk.

Downsides to Switch Nursing

Switch nursing may not work well for:

  • A premature baby
  • A baby who has an illness
  • A baby who has a sucking issue

In these cases, talk to your doctor and your baby's doctor about the best feeding methods for your child.

Another issue with switch nursing is that a baby may not breastfeed long enough on either breast to get to the hindmilk. Hindmilk is the high fat, high-calorie milk that mixes into the breast milk a few minutes into a feeding.

A baby who's only breastfeeding for a few minutes on one side may only get foremilk on that side. Then, when they switch over to the other breast, they get foremilk again.

So, while a child may get more breast milk from switch nursing, they may not be getting the fat and calories that they would be getting if they were breastfeeding longer on the same breast.

Where to Find Breastfeeding Help

If, at any time, you're worried that your little one isn't getting enough breast milk or that they are too sleepy for most feedings, notify your baby's doctor. The doctor will check your child's weight and health. 

You can also talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group to learn about other techniques or get answers to any questions you may have about building and maintaining a healthy supply of breast milk for your baby.

 

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2 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. Riordan J, Wambach K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation. 4th edition. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Learning.

  2. Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession. 8th edition. Elsevier Health Sciences.

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