Baby Only Nurses From One Breast: Is It Normal?

Babies can be finicky creatures, and one truly baffling way they may show this during breastfeeding is when they strongly prefer nursing on one breast over the other. As a mom, you may be sitting there scratching your head and spinning strange theories -- maybe the milk in one breast tastes better than the other? You might also be worried since the more you indulge your baby's preference, the more lopsided your boobs become as one boob becomes solely responsible for pumping out all the milk!

Is it normal for a baby to always nurse off of just one breast?


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Turns out ... yes!

"It is very common for a mom or baby to be more comfortable to nurse from one side or another," says Kimi Suh, MD, a family medicine physician at Loyola University Health System.

Sometimes one breast produces more milk than the other, so that's the breast the baby favors. Even if your breasts start out producing about the same amount of milk, your own actions may set the wheels in motion for baby favoring one over the other.

"Babies, mine included, often have a side that seems more comfortable for them," explains Jenna LoGiudice, RN, a certified nurse midwife and professor at Fairfield University. "For myself and my patients, it's usually the side that we have a more comfortable position to hold them in that they begin to favor. Over time, that is the side we most likely start off on at each nursing session, and inevitably that breast becomes the better producer of milk."

From there, it can become a vicious cycle. The way to correct this problem? "Start off nursing on the side baby doesn't seem to prefer so that they suck the most actively on this side first," says LoGiudice. "Going to this side second only perpetuates the issue because the baby is already somewhat full and will have a lazier suck."

If your baby fusses or cries when placed first on the unfavored side, try to wait it out at least three to five minutes, alternating between holding the baby upright looking over your shoulder and then back down to the breast.

"If the baby is uninterested at this breast, smile at him or her and remain calm," LoGiudice adds. "As soon as you tense up, so does baby, and he or she is much less likely to latch -- it's incredible how they feed off of our emotions. You can also squeeze out a bit of milk onto the nipple to entice the baby to latch."

If attempts fail, go to the other side to breastfeed and then use a pump on the other side. "I often take a hands-free nursing bra and pump on that side while my daughter is nursing on her preferred side," says LoGiudice. And next time, remember to start again on that unfavored side; sooner or later, baby might warm up to it.

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If neither of these issues is the case, one other rare possibility is that your baby has a condition called torticollis. "This is a condition is similar to a stiff neck," explains Margie Kay, a lactation consultant at Mercy Medical Center. "Usually this can occur when baby is in utero and has found a position where the head is 'wedged' or turned so that after birth, baby prefers to turn to one side and may become fussy or unhappy when trying to turn to the opposite side." If you suspect this may be the case, check with a pediatrician, who will refer you to a physical therapist who can stretch and tone the neck muscles and resolve the issue. 

Whatever the reason, even if baby can never be convinced to nurse much off the less-favored breast, don't worry -- your boobs won't remain lopsided forever. "If breasts become uneven during nursing, they should return to their normal size after nursing is done," says Dr. Suh. In other words, your boobs will be back in shape in no time!

Did your baby prefer nursing on one breast over the other?


Image © Andria Patino/Corbis

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