breastfeedingI have always struggled to get my babies feeding equally on both sides, talking with other mothers leads me to believe it’s a pretty common problem. Most if not all women have a different flow, different letdown timing, different nipple shape or a feeling of one side being more comfortable to feed from than the other. Sometimes, the baby prefers to be held on one side more so than the other.  All of these things lead to a preference for one breast and sometimes a rejection of one breast.

All 3 of my children have shown a preference for my right breast. The left breast has an inverted nipple and a slower flow. Getting milk from it is hard work and less rewarding so it doesn’t surprise me that they have all weaned from the left waaaaaaaay before the right.

My eldest son weened form the left when I was pregnant with my middle son.  My middle son wouldn’t feed from it full stop. He never latched on. I tried and tried then gave up. I fed him for 3 years from my right breast only. My baby, now 18 months, was tricky to get on to the left right from birth. I got him feeding from it with the help of a nipple shield to draw the nipple out, but now he tells me “no” when I offer it to him.

Are there any problems with feeding with just one operational breast? Well, not really. My boys were all pudgy, happy, exclusively breastfed babies and were not interested in other foods until well beyond 7 months. The principle of supply= demand applies to one breast just as it does to two.

Many mothers try really, really hard to get the baby feeding from both breasts. They try to force the baby to feed from the least preferred side, they express on that side after feeding and in the end feel they have to give up breastfeeding because the whole ordeal is too stressful for both them and their baby. They may even be told by a health professional or family member that they can’t possibly satisfy a baby’s hunger feeding from just one breast. Let me tell you that one lactating breast will feed a baby just as good as two. A mother can successfully breastfeed multiples right?

The only problem with feeding from one breast is aesthetics. Yep, you’ll have one big breast and one not so big breast. This is noticeable to you, your significant other and anyone who looks really, really closely at your chest. If this worries you, socks are a low tech solution and I’m pretty sure there are some nice latex bra stuffers out there too.  Once you stop feeding they will go back to being the same size and shape as each other.

There are some things you can do to try to get your baby feeding on both sides when they show a preference for one over the other. Here is my action plan. If it doesn’t work out and is causing you stress, remember you can feed from one breast just as effectively as two.

  • Offer the least preferred breast first. If baby gets upset and frustrated, swap to the other side and try to switch back once baby settles. If you feel like you have a slow let down on the least preferred side, start feeding on the preferred side then swap sides when you feel  you’ve had a let down.
  • Finish a feeding session on the least preferred side. Once a baby’s hunger has been satisfied they are often happy to continue holding the breast in the mouth. Even if baby is not sucking, the nipple stimulation will tell your breast to make more milk in that breast.
  • Offer extra feeds from the least preferred side. These could be comfort feeds, night feeds or top up feeds. Whenever you can get your baby feeding, try to get them feeding form the least preferred side. Be careful not to ignore the preferred side though, you want to avoid losing supply or getting clogged ducts due to insufficient feeding.
  • Investigate issues such as a flat or inverted nipples with a lactation consultant who can give you specific advice on dealing with your particular problem.
  • If you have a young baby, check the latch on the least preferred side. Baby may need a little more help getting a good latch to provide a satisfying flow. It can be a good idea to ask a lactation consultant, midwife or child health nurse to check the latch for you, though you are the best judge. If it feels wrong, it probably is.
  • If baby won’t have extra feeds from the least preferred side, you can try to build up the supply on that side by expressing it either by hand or with a pump after a feed.

Do you have any tips or stories? Please share!!