Nursing From One Side Only: Is It Safe, Reasons & More

Breastfeeding From One Side: Why This Happens & How To Overcome It

Medically Reviewed By
Shruti Kanchan (Lactation Specialist)
View more Lactation Specialist Our Panel of Experts

Most mothers look forward to breastfeeding their babies, and dream of it being a beautiful, life-changing experience. While it surely is that way, the beginning of that journey can be a little rocky, due to issues such as an incorrect latch, an uncomfortable position, or the preference of one nipple over the other by the baby! The latter factor can lead a mom to breastfeed only from one side.

Another influencing aspect could be the mother’s own comfort level – maybe breastfeeding from a particular side feels more comfortable. This can turn into a habit, and the baby also gets used to feeding from one side. Read on for everything you need to know about why this happens, and whether it is advisable.

Video: Breastfeeding from One Side Only – Reasons and What to Do

Is One-Sided Breastfeeding Normal?

Many mothers find it more comfortable and convenient to feed from one breast in comparison to the other. This happens when you may find one position of holding your baby more comfortable than another. We are either left or right handed, and thus we may find it easier to perform various tasks from a preferred side. Therefore, one sided breast feeding is very normal.

Why Mothers Breastfeed from One Breast Only

Why Mothers Breastfeed from One Breast Only

There are various reasons that may make mothers breastfeed from one breast only, such as:

1. Variation or difference in the nipple

Sometimes, your baby may find one nipple easier than the other to latch onto. This could be due to the presence of a mole or some hair on the unpreferred nipple that may be bothering your baby.

2. Breast engorgement

The tightness and stiffness of one nipple may make latching on difficult for your baby, and may be painful for you, too.

3. Difference in milk flow

Sometimes, the flow of breast milk in one breast can be higher than in the other, thus causing your baby to choose the one with easier and better flow.

4. Forgetting to switch over

You may simply forget to switch to the other side during feeding sessions, and the neglected breast can develop a low milk supply.

5. Milk tasting different in one breast

If you tend to feed more from one side, then the other side can have a lower supply, and thus the milk may taste different. You can use a breast pump to improve your milk supply.

6. Mastitis

In case you have mastitis in one of the breasts, the milk may taste different (because of higher sodium content), and thus your baby may refuse that breast.

7. Breast surgery

Breast surgery may affect the milk supply of that breast, and your baby may prefer the other breast for feeding.

8. Comfortable for the baby to feed from one side

Sometimes, your baby may find a more comfortable position when feeding from one breast than the other, and thus would choose that one.

9. Comfortable for you to feed from one side

You may feel comfortable feeding from one breast than the other!

10. Baby’s health conditions

Sometimes, if your baby is ill due to a stuffy nose, ear infection, or a sore inside the mouth, your baby may choose to feed from one side only.

11. Medical conditions

Due to a medical condition such as a stiff neck because of trauma during the birth, your baby may feed more from one breast.

12. Breast cancer treatment

You may prefer to feed from one breast because of surgical treatment on your other breast.

13. Darker-coloured milk in one breast

This may happen due to broken or injured capillaries, and can cause a difference in the taste of the breast milk.

14. Blocked or unopened ducts

Milk supply may be low in one breast due to a blockage, and thus your baby chooses the breast with more milk supply.

What to Do if Your Baby Has a Breast Preference

It’s possible, and normal, that your baby has a breast preference, and chooses that one to feed from, over the other. But, if your baby is less than six weeks old, it is a good idea to keep the milk supply equalised and intact in both the breasts, as the milk is produced on supply-and-demand basis.

You may make use of a breast pump to pump out milk from the neglected breast as your baby feeds from the preferred breast. If you find that cumbersome, you may express milk after your baby has fed from the favourite side.

It is also a good idea to encourage your baby to feed from the less preferred side. But, refrain from doing so if your baby is too hungry or irritable! The best way is to let your baby begin from the preferred side, and then gradually slide him to the less preferred breast.

Will Your Breast Look Lopsided? 

Yes, your breasts can become lopsided if you are nursing only from one side. This will remain as long as the feeding continues to be from one preferred side! But, once the baby is weaned, your size may go back to normal.

Why Your Baby Refuses Another Breast

If you notice that your baby is not feeding from one of your breasts, you need to find the reason behind it. Check if your baby has an ear infection or a stuffy nose. You may also check your milk supply, the latching position, if you have fast or slow let-down of milk. Even the mother’s health condition, such as mastitis, may have the baby refusing to feed from the infected breast.

If the Baby Only Nurses on One Side, Will He Get Enough Milk?

Yes, your baby will get enough milk if you nurse only from one side! This happens because as your baby starts to feed more from one breast, the milk supply in that breast increases. The increased milk supply satiates the baby. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding on demand, and your baby looks content and is gaining weight, you may feed from one breast.

How to Encourage a Baby to Nurse from Both Breasts

You may encourage your baby to nurse from both the breasts through the following ways:

  • Offer the neglected or the less desired breast each time before feeding.
  • Offer the less preferred breast to the baby if he is feeling sleepy.
  • Massage your less preferred breast for good milk supply.
  • Refrain from force feeding on the less desired breast, as it may cause complete aversion.
  • Offer the unpreferred side after your baby has fed from the other breast, for comfort feeding.
  • If the shape of the nipple is the problem, then you may use a nipple shield.
  • Try different feeding positions, such as lying down.

Do your best to encourage your baby to feed from both the breasts, but if he still refuses one breast, you can consult a doctor to find out the reason behind it.

Also Read:

Breastfeeding with Small Breasts
Tips for Breastfeeding with Large Breasts
Supplementing Breastfeeding with Formula

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