Tips for Breastfeeding When Only 1 Breast 'Works'

breastfeeding one side
Nature has a funny way of throwing moms curveballs every time they turn around. Take breastfeeding. Most moms have two breasts, and after giving birth, they use them both to feed their babies. But what if you're not most moms? Is it possible to breastfeed from just one breast? Turns out, the answer is yes! Called "unilateral breastfeeding," there are a number of reasons a mom might decide to feed baby from just one side.



Why it happens:

There are myriad reasons a mom might decide or be forced to decide to breastfeed from just one breast, says Deedee Franke, a registered nurse and certified lactation consultant at Mercy Medical Center. Among them:

1. A breast reduction or augmentation that has affected the milk ducts on one side.

2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or multiple sclerosis -- diseases which can affect milk production.

3. Breast hypoplasia, or insufficient glandular development of the breast, that affects breast milk ducts.

4. A history of breast injury or surgery (such as mastectomy).

5. Radiation to the breast (common with breast cancer survivors).

6. Baby's preference -- "Sometimes a mom will favor one breast due to more comfort," Franke explains. "Some babies will favor the faster flowing breast and then the mom will put the baby on her favorite breast more."

How to do it:

1. Breastfeed often. "To increase breast milk production early on, feeds should be on demand and every two to three hours (about 8 to 12 times per day)," says pediatrician Dr. Jennifer A. Gardner, CEO and founder of the Healthy Kids Company

2. Watch to see that baby is getting enough to eat. Steady weight gain is a good sign, but Gardner says you don't need to pull out the scale to see if baby isn't getting enough while nursing:

"Signs a baby is still hungry or not getting enough milk include: fussiness or crying when removed from the breast, baby regularly feeds for 45 minutes or longer, breast remains hard after feed, urine is dark (the color of apple juice or darker), or the baby has reduced urine output (less than 6 heavy diapers a day)," she explains.

3. Avoid supplementing with formula (if possible). "Breast milk is made by the supply and demand principle," Franke explains. "The more milk is removed from a breast, more the milk is made. Early supplementation can cause an inadequate milk supply if done for the wrong reason, which occurs often. It also undermines a fragile mom confidence in her own ability to make milk." If your pediatrician suggests formula supplementation, a breast pump can be used to increase your milk production while baby is drinking from the bottle.

4. Don't give up. It may be hard, but it's not impossible to successfully breastfeed from one side. "Babies can absolutely breastfeed exclusively from one breast," Dr. Gardner says, "After all, twins (and larger sets of multiples) were fed this way before bottle feeding existed."

Have you ever considered breastfeeding from just one side? 

How to Breastfeed from Just One Side

Image via Vladimir Godnik/fstop/Corbis and

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