My baby only feeds on one breast

What to do if your baby prefers feeding on one breast –

One sided breastfeeding is not uncommon, particularly for newborns and when babies are almost ready to stop breastfeeding. This has a lot to do with the volume of milk they obtain from one breast and simply developing a preference for one side over the other.

But is one sided feeding a problem and should you be trying to encourage your baby to feed from both breasts? Read on to find out more.

Why does my baby only want one side when they feed?

There is a range of reasons why some babies just prefer to feed on one breast. Sometimes it’s unclear why a baby refuses to accept both breasts and prefers single sided breastfeeding.

Not every reason for refusal applies to every baby, every time.

10 of the most common reasons why babies may prefer one sided breastfeeding:
  1. Their appetite is satisfied by feeding on one breast.
  2. For unknown reasons. Sometimes a baby will prefer one breast to the other and there is no obvious reason.
  3. They are more comfortable feeding on one side. They seem to prefer being positioned on one side than the other.
  4. The refused breast may not be producing as much milk, or the milk may not be flowing as fast as the preferred breast.
  5. Previous breast surgery which has changed the breast function.
  6. Recurrent mastitis and/or blocked milk ducts.
  7. There may be a change to the taste of the mother’s milk due to hormonal influence e.g., pregnancy, starting the oral contraceptive pill. The baby then becomes generally sensitive to breastfeeding and shows a preference for one breast over the other.
  8. Some mothers simply feel more comfortable holding their baby on a particular side. They report feeling ‘awkward’ when feeding on the other breast. This can be influenced by the mother’s dominant arm and hand.  
  9. The baby simply refuses to latch on one side and this eventually has an effect on milk supply.
  10. Breastfeeding on a particular breast causes pain (mastalgia) for the mother. Although there may be no obvious reason for this, the discomfort is enough to not persevere with offering both breasts.

Am I creating a supply problem if my baby only wants to feed from one breast?

The principle of successful breastfeeding is that supply equals demand. If there’s a long break between breastfeeds and only one breast being stimulated, there is a potential for the milk supply to drop in that breast.

In the early newborn period, hormones have a major influence on breast milk supply. Over time, it is the baby’s (effective) sucking and regular feeding which helps to maintain supply.

Follow your baby’s lead and feed them when they’re showing hunger cues.

Help! My baby’s only feeding on one side now

You cannot control your baby’s feeding behaviour. In fact, one of the main differences between breast and bottle feeding is that breastfed babies regulate their own intake of milk. Your role is to offer breastfeeds when your baby is showing hunger cues. Whether they want to suck and how they suck is really up to them.

What you can try to persuade your baby to accept both breasts

  1. Try offering the least favoured breast first, at the start of your baby’s feeds when they are most hungry.
  2. You could start the feed by lying down if you usually sit up. If you usually lie down to breastfeed, try sitting in a chair. Some women start the feed by standing up and gently rocking and soothing their baby until they are latched on. Once the baby is sucking effectively, sit down. Just be careful your baby doesn’t always expect you to stand during feeds – this is exhausting and unsustainable for most mothers, especially as their baby gets heavier.
  3. Start the feed by feeding on the preferred breast and once you’ve let down, gently slide your baby over to the other breast.
  4. Feed your baby in a distraction free space where they stay calm and focused.
  5. Consider waiting a while between feeds so your baby is really hungry and more likely to feed on either breast.
  6. If your baby is aged over six months and eating solids, cut back on the amount of food you’re offering so they’re hungrier for breast milk.
  7. Offer the least favoured breast when your baby is sleepy and wanting to comfort suck.
  8. Only offer the least favoured side and express their preferred breast to maintain your supply. Once your baby is accepting the (previously) rejected breast, re-introduce both breasts with feeds.
  9. Hold and position your baby in a similar way as you do when they’re feeding on the preferred side.
  10. Be calm, reassuring and patient. Your baby’s feeding behaviours will change along with their development and periods of growth.

Will my breasts look lopsided if my baby is only feeding on one side?

The short answer is yes. Lactation tissue generally causes the breasts to expand to look and feel bigger. But this shouldn’t be noticeable to other people.  Once you’ve stopped breastfeeding your breasts should be much the same size. Most women have one breast bigger than the other anyway.  

If you’re still keen to lactate in both breasts and your baby is refusing to feed on both sides, express the breast they’re refusing. You can then offer the expressed breast milk (EBM) from a cup or a bottle.  Doing this will help to equalise the size and shape of your breasts and lactating breast tissue.

For more information

Check with your Child Health Nurse or a lactation consultant to see if there’s anything else you can try.

Make sure your baby is growing and developing well. One sided feeding can impact on weight gain if a baby isn’t getting sufficient milk feeding on one side.

Enrol in our Guide to Feeding Success course [here].

Written for Nourish Baby by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse.


Breastfeeding while pregnant | Pregnancy Birth and Baby (pregnancybirthbaby. 

One sided breastfeeding | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Tags: Babies, Feeding

What to do if your baby is refusing one breast

It's not unusual for a baby to prefer one breast over the other, but it can be frustrating. If your baby is refusing one breast, encourage them to nurse from the less-preferred breast by always offering that breast first, when they're hungriest. You can also try offering it when your baby is just waking up and still sleepy. If they still refuse, you can successfully nurse from only one breast and pump on the other side.

Why is my baby refusing one breast?

Infants, especially newborns, may have periods of preferring one breast to the other. You may notice your baby fussing, pulling away, or simply refusing to nurse from one of your breasts.

A newborn may reject one breast because it's harder to latch on to for some reason. The rejected breast may be more engorged or have a difference in the nipple, for example.

An older baby may reject one breast because it has a low milk supply or a slower flow or letdown than the other breast. Your baby's breast preference can make the milk supply situation worse: You can end up with a low milk supply in one breast if your baby nurses more often from the other one.

Sometimes a baby will be more comfortable being held on one side than the other. If your baby seems to suddenly prefer one side, it may be because something hurts them. Maybe they have an ear infection in one ear, or maybe the side that they were just immunized on is tender, for example.

If your newborn is refusing to nurse on one side, ask their doctor to check for birth injuries. Some babies will have an injury that goes unnoticed at birth, but causes them discomfort in certain nursing positions.

If you've had surgery (or have another physical difference) in one breast, you may have a lower flow of milk in that breast. It's not common, but having cancer in a breast can also result in low milk flow. If you think that one of your breasts isn't producing as much milk as the other, talk with your healthcare provider.

What can I do if my baby only nurses on one side?

Try to gently and persistently encourage your baby to nurse at the less-preferred breast by always offering that breast first, when they're hungriest. Or, it may work better to offer that breast when your baby is partly full and sleepy.

You can also try offering the less-preferred breast when your baby is just waking up and perhaps still sleepy enough to take it. Experiment with different positions, and perhaps rock or sway your baby while nursing.

Another strategy is to start your baby on the preferred breast and then slide them over to the other breast without changing the position of their body.

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If your baby seems to want a faster flow from the less-preferred side, try doing breast compressions to speed the flow of breast milk.

If the less-preferred breast is engorged and your baby is having trouble latching on, try hand expressing or pumping just enough milk to soften the breast and make your areola compressible.

How can I avoid engorgement on one side?

If you're consistently nursing from one breast, you'll want to pump or hand express milk from the other side to avoid engorgement and keep up production. You may need to use the expressed milk to supplement your baby's feedings – though you may find one breast produces all the milk your baby needs.

Engorgement happens when a breast becomes overfilled with milk. You'll know you're getting engorged if your breast feels uncomfortably full, swollen, warm, throbbing, or painful. Your nipples may become flattened. If the swelling is severe, your breast may be so full that the skin looks shiny.

Do I need to switch breasts while breastfeeding?

If your baby is getting enough milk and their breast preference poses no real adversity for you, there's no harm in letting your baby nurse from one side only. (For example, you may want to keep nursing on one side while you pump on the other.) There are plenty of women who have nursed successfully from one breast only.

If you end up nursing on one side only, that breast may be larger than the other. But once your baby is weaned, your breasts will go back to more or less the same pre-nursing size.

What to do if the baby takes only one breast - "Healthy baby's online cabinet"

Ksenofontova Olga Leonidovna

Deputy chief physician of MBU "EKPC"

First of all, you need to understand the question - did the baby always prefer the same breast, or had there been no problems with alternating breasts before? If a child initially has a tendency to breastfeed with one breast, it is possible that he has problems with the cervical spine and neck muscles. On the other side and at the other breast, it is simply uncomfortable or painful for him to lie. This problem will be solved by a neurologist or pediatrician during examination, and this is usually detected almost once - in the first weeks of feeding. Then, for the duration of treatment, you should choose comfortable positions for feeding at both breasts - it can be from under the arm, hanging over the baby, in a cross cradle, and so on, the main thing is that the position of the child’s body is convenient for his muscles. nine0003

If the child does not have physical health problems, the reason for the refusal of one breast may be in the formation of the refusal as such. The baby may be sucking on a pacifier and developing nipple tangles, or selectively rejecting one breast in any position because it contains too much milk. And then, at the beginning of feeding, it pours too much from it, which makes the baby refuse it in favor of another breast - softer and with less pressure. Perhaps the reason for the refusal is the psychological discomfort of the baby - it is inconvenient for the mother to reproach the child with one of the breasts. She is not so comfortable putting the baby to her chest, and he catches this on a subconscious level, refusing the “unloved” breast. Sometimes the refusal of one breast is a kind of “demonstration of strength” by the baby and a way to control the mother, a kind of whim of the baby. Sometimes the breasts can be somewhat different from one another - it is easier and easier for the baby to get milk from one breast than from the other. And then the child can refuse a more “complex” breast in favor of a simpler one. nine0003

First of all, do not panic and be nervous. With a strong nervousness of the mother, the baby may refuse the breast completely, feeling her physical and emotional stress. At the same time, the mother’s milk in a state of stress is “clamped” by oxytocin in the chest and it becomes more difficult for the baby to get it. Pull yourself together and calm down. But you need to correct breast rejection at its earliest stages, until the baby has switched to breast rejection altogether or you yourself have come to terms with the fact that you will feed from one breast for the rest of the time. First of all, you need to understand for yourself that you are the mother of this baby and you are the leader in your couple, you are the main one and you will need to decide which breast and which of the feedings you will give to the baby. Feeding on demand implies not only the requirements of the baby itself, but also the requirement of the mother - if she has chest discomfort or a feeling of breast fullness, if she needs to feed in this situation with her left or right breast. It is extremely important to understand this for yourself and follow this rule. You need to be completely confident in yourself and in the correctness of all your actions. However, in such a delicate situation as the beginning or already completed refusal of the breast, you should not go too far either, insist on your opinion and breastfeeding with a certain breast should be extremely delicate, since violence in terms of breastfeeding can turn the situation in the opposite direction to you. nine0003

How to start the process of dealing with the rejection of one breast? First of all - change the program - that is, feed the baby with the unloved breast in an unusual position for him or use non-standard places for feeding him, sometimes you can feed the child with the unloved breast on a walk, in the kitchen with the noise of working appliances, in the car while traveling on business . Do the same when feeding for falling asleep: always start feeding by offering the baby his favorite breast, and when the baby starts to fall asleep, quickly change the breast to the one that he does not take well. Offer the same breast at night. When the baby wakes up for feeding, half-asleep children are usually more willing to agree to an unloved breast, if only to cling to their favorite milk faster again. Can be used to persuade you to take an unloved breast sources of white noise hair dryer, noise or splashing of water, sounds of nature or light music. Usually, breast rejection does not last long, and if you quickly eliminate the cause of discomfort and cope with your tension within yourself, then the child will quickly again be evenly applied to one and the other breast.

If you let the situation take its course, you can get a categorical rejection of the breast because there will actually be less milk in it due to its low stimulation. Then the baby will be capricious and offended by the lack of milk when trying to suck, and over time will refuse one breast altogether. Then you will have to feed with one breast, which entails a chain of new problems, for example, the formation of different breast sizes. nine0003

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Why a baby takes only one breast: a doctor's explanation


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Many breastfeeding mothers note that babies take one breast more often than the other. Usually this symptom is explained by the fact that one of the mammary glands produces more milk, it comes out easier, it is more convenient for the child to grab the nipple. However, it is not a matter of taste or improper attachment, because the child has no complaints about the other breast. But this may be one of the signs of a birth injury: a displacement of the bones of the base of the skull and a turn of the cervical vertebrae, manifested by torticollis. nine0003

The baby takes one breast because it is easier for him to turn to that side. For example, it is easier for a child to turn his head to the right side. Then, if you feed him in front of you, it is easier for him to take the left breast. And vice versa.

For a woman, feeding predominantly on one breast undoubtedly leads to uneven loading and the appearance or increase in breast asymmetry after the end of breastfeeding, which in itself is a serious reason to pay attention to this symptom. nine0003

Cranioposturologist, osteopath

Signs of torticollis

You can easily see them yourself:

  • the baby prefers to turn and tilt the head in one direction. Usually the head is tilted to one side and simultaneously deployed to the other. Especially clearly this symptom is noticeable in a dream, when the child involuntarily puts his head in the most convenient position for him.

  • the baby's neck is short, it seems that the head sits directly on the shoulders - the so-called puppet neck syndrome. It appears due to strong muscle tension. This is a kind of protective reaction to the existing birth trauma. nine0003

To check for torticollis, lay the child on their back with the head exactly in the center. If she turns a little or leans to the side, there should be no doubt - the child has mechanical disorders and they need to be treated, the sooner the better.

Why torticollis appears

Problem in the joint between the first cervical vertebra and the occipital bone. There, subluxation occurs - from slight to significant - and, as a result, the head assumes an incorrect position. nine0003

Most often, subluxation occurs due to birth trauma. The neck muscles of the child during childbirth were too stretched and twisted, the vertebrae were also displaced, the intervertebral ligaments were stretched. The neck reflexively tightens to limit the mobility of the cervical region, relieving it of pain when moving. When the child grows up, the neck becomes short and plump, muscle tension does not go anywhere.

Causes of torticollis

  • difficult, too fast or too long labor

  • administration of oxytocin or epidural anesthesia

  • if the child was squeezed out

  • torticollis often occurs during caesarean section.

However, it may be present even if everything went perfectly in your opinion. Mom and baby can have a completely different birth scenario. The most common discrepancy is that the mother says: “I gave birth quickly, easily, in 3 hours.” And for a baby, this means a rapid birth, one of the reasons for significant injuries. nine0003

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How to treat torticollis

Birth trauma and its consequences require treatment. Having cured torticollis, you will, of course, ensure that the child will still take both breasts well. But the main thing is to eliminate the risk of scoliosis in the future. If this symptom is left unattended, over time, all parts of the body will shift slightly. The incorrect position of the bones will determine the deterioration of blood flow in the brain. In a favorable case, the child can develop normally, but he will lack the intensity of arterial blood flow through the cerebral vessels in order to develop more actively and correctly.

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