Breastfeeding On Only One Side

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! In celebration of breastfeeding, and raising awareness of the importance of breastfeeding support for a variety of situations and challenges, I’ve chosen to address one-sided nursing. Why? Well, a couple of my children had a strong enough breast preference that they nursed exclusively on one side for a couple of years.

Is that weird? Is that normal? Are they OK? Do they get enough milk? Are you lopsided?

These are a few of the questions I’ve been asked when having this conversation with people, usually with my postpartum doula clients who are concerned about breast preference possibly becoming a problem.

Many women will notice that one breast produces adequate breastmilk while the other is a superproducer. Or they notice the color of milk from each breast is slightly different, or that their babies consistently prefer one breast over the other. Sometimes this is a temporary breast preference and other times it’s ongoing. The reasons for this may have to do with the nursing position (an ear ache, for example, may cause discomfort to the baby when nursing on that side), milk flow, or even the taste of the milk – a lower supply on one side can result in slightly saltier milk, as can a recent bout with mastitis. It may also have to do with the nipple itself – many women, for example, have one nipple that is flatter than the other and this may be more difficult for the baby to latch on to. That latch in turn may lead to a slower letdown of milk or a slower flow and the baby may fuss and pull away, frustrated and looking for the “better booby”.

Fear not, it is perfectly OK and your baby can get all the milk he needs from one breast!

Of course, if you choose to persevere and continue to offer the less-preferred breast to the baby, you certainly can. You might also contact a lactation counselor, La Leche League leader, your child’s pediatrician or local breastfeeding support group for suggestions on how to increase milk supply, improve the latch, use breast shells to draw out a flat or inverted nipple and so on.

Or you may prefer to follow your baby’s lead and simply nurse on only one side. Some women pump the non-preferred side and others allow the non-preferred side to dry up and stop producing milk completely. There is no problem with this for either the mother or the baby – the only consequence may be that you feel slightly lopsided as one side produces all the milk the baby (or toddler) needs and the other side is empty. This is likely to be noticed by no one other than yourself and it is only temporary – once the child weans, both breasts will generally return to more or less their original and more even sizes.

We hear a lot about needing to breastfeed for at least 10 minutes on each side, or making sure baby gets a good mix of foremilk and hindmilk, so when women find themselves deviating from that by exclusively nursing from one breast, it’s natural to wonder if that’s normal and OK. For many women and babies, it certainly is!



This post is part of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County‘s 2015 Breastfeeding Blog Hop! Please check out the other posts below:




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