One sided breastfeeding
Is baby refusing one breast?
Most women do notice a difference between their two breasts when it comes to the flow of milk, volume of milk pumped and size between the two breasts. This is normal, no two sides of a person's body are exactly the same. If these differences don’t bother you or baby, you don’t need to worry about them.
It’s perfectly okay to continue to let baby feed from only one side while you pump the other side, or even let it dry up…this is a personal decision.
Is breast preference normal?
Breast preference is a very common breastfeeding problem; newborns
especially have periods of preferring one breast. Usually baby will just start to pull away or fuss at the one breast.
If baby is refusing one breast…will he be getting in enough milk?
The more baby drinks from one side the more that breast will produce, so yes it is possible to breastfeed from one breast…but most moms would not want to do this as it might cause them to look a little lopsided, until they wean that is. Read the suggestions below on how to avoid and remedy this.
As long as mom is breastfeeding on demand baby should be drinking enough.
So what causes one sided nursing?
- Single side breastfeeding can be caused by breast engorgement on one side. The stiffness of the breast causes baby to struggle when trying to latch on.
- Differences in the nipple (one is maybe easier to latch onto) A mole or even hair can bother baby on one side. Different nipple variations.
- Flow differences between the two breasts, baby might prefer the breast with an easier flow, faster or slower flow.
- Forgetting to switch from one breast to the next will cause low milk supply in the breast that was neglected. This is why it is so important to switch breasts with each feeding. Read more on how breast milk production works.
Remember that pumping does not stimulate supply as sufficiently as a baby would.
- If you have mastitis in one breast, baby might not want to drink from it because it will taste different (saltier because of increased sodium content). Also breast milk can taste different (usually saltier) in one breast if it has a lower supply than the other…this is why it's best to keep up your milk supply by pumping so that you can keep trying baby on that breast.
- Maybe baby is refusing one breast because he is just more comfortable on one side.
- Breast surgery on one side can cause a lower milk supply which can be the cause of baby refusing one breast.
- Baby might have a sore inside his mouth, a blocked nostril or ear infection that causes pain when he breastfeeds from one side.
- A mother sometimes feels more comfortable breastfeeding from one side…if this is you…you can read more on different breastfeeding positions to find a position that is comfortable for breastfeeding on the other side.
- Sometimes birth trauma can cause baby to have a stiff neck on one side, making it more difficult to breastfeed from one of your breasts.
- One breast might have a darker color breast milk, this is usually because of a broken capillary and might cause a different taste…just keep trying, after your breast has healed baby should start drinking from it again.
- As a last result and if the problem persists even after pumping, you should see your doctor, there is a small chance that you might have breast cancer. Low supply and refusal to drink have been found to happen when the ducts are filled with cancerous cells. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- One sided nursing can also be caused through previous breast cancer treatment on one side... read more on breastfeeding and cancer
What can I do?
- Pump the emptier breast for at least 10 minutes after every feeding or until the breast is empty. (with a good breast pump, electric is best) and store the milk from the side baby is refusing, this will keep your supply up.
The stored milk might be necessary if baby is only drinking from one side. If you are worried about nipple confusion you can use alternative feeding methods.
Also if you stop pumping from the side baby doesn’t like, you could risk becoming a little lopsided. (the breast that contains more milk will look larger than the other) Don’t worry too much about this, your breast will return to their normal size after weaning from breastfeeding.
- You can also add a 10 minute pumping on the emptier breast in-between feedings to increase milk supply on that side.
- Try offering the least desired breast first with every feeding.
- Try offering the least desired breast when baby is half asleep so that he doesn’t realize which breast he is breastfeeding from.
- Trick baby into drinking from that breast by placing him in the same position as with the other breast. Usually from cradle hold to football hold.
- If the breast milk problem was caused through skipping feeds on that side because you forgot which breast you fed from last you can just start feeding more often from that breast…making sure that you don’t neglect the other breast, (express just enough to relieve pressure) because not doing this could cause engorgement.
- Try different breastfeeding positions, especially the lying down positions, which seem to work for some moms in getting babies drinking from the other side.
- Offer the least preferred breast by breastfeeding while walking or in a sling. The motion might encourage a feeding on that side.
- Massage your emptier breast (breast with less milk) this will not only increase milk supply, but also helps with a more even milk let down on that side.
- Never force baby to breastfeed from the undesired breast, you might cause a complete nursing strike.
- If your one nipple is a little different and seems to be causing a problem you can use a nipple shield.
- If baby seems to choke more on the one breast when feeding it is probably a sign of a very forceful letdown…you can first pump a bit of milk to decrease the flow before offering the breast to baby.
- Once baby is full you can use your less preferred breast for comfort feeding …the sucking and stimulation will help increase your supply
Have patience and perseverance…most babies who are refusing one breast will usually take that breast over time when they become more experienced at breastfeeding.
- Breast strike (not only refusing one breast, but both)
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