Is your baby refusing one breast suddenly?
No two breasts are exactly the same. When it comes to the flow of milk, the volume expressed and size difference; this is normal; no two sides of a person's body are the same. Most of the time, the difference in breast size is not obvious to others.
It is perfectly okay to continue to let your baby feed from only one side, while you pump the other, or even let it dry up; this is a personal decision.
Is Breast Preference Normal?
Breast preference is a common breastfeeding problem(1); newborns, especially, sometimes have periods of preferring one breast. Usually, a baby will start to pull away or fuss at the one breast.
If Baby is Refusing One Breast, will he be Getting in Enough Milk?
Unless you have low milk supply issues, If you breastfeed on demand, your baby will receive all they need from just one breast. Twins and even triplets only have two breasts to share, and many mothers have successfully breastfed multiples.
The more your baby drinks from one side, the more that breast will produce, so yes it is possible to breastfeed from one breast alone; most mothers 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.
So what Causes One Sided Nursing Preference?
Why does my one breast have a higher supply/faster flow?
- Breast engorgement on one side may cause single-side-breastfeeding. The stiffness of the breast may cause latching difficulty.
- Differences in the nipple (one is maybe easier to latch onto) A mole or even hair can bother a baby on one side.
- Flow differences between the two breasts; your baby might prefer the one breast with a more relaxed or faster flow of milk.
- Forgetting to switch from one breast to the next will cause low milk supply in the breast that was neglected. Learn more about how breast milk production works.
- If you have mastitis in one breast, your baby might not want to drink from it, due to the taste difference. Plugged ducts, stasis, and mastitis will increase the sodium levels in your milk and make the milk unpalatable. Breast massage is a great way to reduce the salt in your breast milk.
- Breast milk may taste different (usually saltier) in one breast if it has a lower supply than the other. To remedy this, you can increase your milk supply on that side, by pumping.
- One breast might have a darker color breast milk, this is usually due to a broken capillary and might cause a different taste; keep trying, after your breast has healed, your baby should start drinking from it again. Learn more about blood in breast milk here.
- Maybe your baby won't latch on one side because he/she is more comfortable on the other side. Most babies show a side preference and will nurse more efficiently from that side. A mother may also consciously or unintentionally nurse from one side more often because she feels more comfy on that side.
- Breast surgery on one side can cause a lower milk supply, which can be the cause of your baby refusing one breast.
- The baby might have a sore inside his/her mouth. A blocked nostril or ear infection that causes pain during breastfeeding on only one side.
- Sometimes birth trauma can cause a stiff neck on one side, making it more difficult to lay on one side. There may be other undetected birth injuries which may affect whether your baby prefers one breast. You could get a chiropractor to do a physical exam to rule out any injuries that your baby may have.
- Low supply and refusal to drink have been found to occur when the ducts are filled with cancerous cells. One sided nursing can also be due to previous breast cancer treatment on one breast. Learn more about breastfeeding and cancer.
What Can I Do?
If there is a noticeable difference in breast size, some mothers may wish to even things out a little, here we will discuss how.
Remember, neglecting the breast that your baby loves should be avoided too, as this could make you more susceptible to plugged ducts and breast infections.
- Pump the emptier breast for at least 10 minutes after every feeding, or until the breast seems empty. Use a quality breast pump, electric is best; this will keep your supply up. Adding a 10-minute pumping session on the emptier breast in-between feedings will also increase the milk supply on that side.
- Try to breastfeed twice as much from the rejected breast. For example, if you usually breastfeed from one breast per feeding, breastfeed from the rejected breast for two consecutive feedings. If the larger breast becomes overfull, you can express enough milk to reduce any engorgement. After trying this, you should notice a more balanced production of breast milk within 4 days. If the problem is resolved, great, but know that some mothers have to proceed to use this method for as long as they continue to breastfeed.
- Try offering the least desired breast first with every feeding. A baby will usually nurse more from the first breast offered. Alternatively, if you allow your baby to start on the preferred breast, you can switch sides when the let-down begins while attempting not to change the position of their body. An example of this would be to start out breastfeeding in the cradle hold and then slide your baby over to the football hold.
- Try offering the least desired breast when your baby is half asleep so that he/she is tricked into nursing on the other side.
- Try different breastfeeding positions, especially the lying down position and the laid back position, your baby might prefer one over the other.
- Laid back breastfeeding can help if the flow of milk is too fast. This will prevent choking and discomfort during a let-down.
- Breast compressions on the less preferred side will encourage a let-down.
- Massage your emptier breast; this will not only increase milk supply but helps to avoid clogged ducts. Breast massage before, during and after breastfeeding sessions are recommended to increase supply in the smaller breast.
- If your baby seems to choke more on the one breast when feeding, it is probably a sign of a forceful letdown; you can first pump a bit of milk to decrease the flow, before offering the breast to your baby. A let-down that is too fast or too slow can be rectified.
- Never force your 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. Also, here is a page about breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples.
- Sometimes offering the smaller breast while swaying, walking or bouncing may encourage nursing from that side.
- Once your baby is satiated, you can use the less preferred breast to comfort feed. The sucking and stimulation will help increase your supply.
- Nurse in a quiet, dim-lit room to limit distractions.
- Breastfeeding your baby in a warm bath could relax him/her and encourage them to breastfeed from the other side.
- If all else fails, pumping the rejected side will keep the milk flowing, once your baby accepts that side again, your milk supply will increase naturally. If you are not worried about being lopsided, you can allow the other breast to dry up. Most babies who are refusing one breast will usually take that breast over time, especially when they become more experienced at breastfeeding.
- Try to visit your local la leche league, they can asses the situation and advise accordingly; their services are free.
If it's not bothering you, it's really okay to do nothing about the lopsidedness. Your breasts should even out again after weaning.
Baby Refusing Breast/Negative Association with My Right Breast.
Don't give up!
"This is more than I usually like to share about myself, but maybe someone else is going through or will go through the same issue.
I've always had a problem with oversupply. After four plugged ducts in three weeks, I came very close to planning my exit from breastfeeding.
Finally, after two months, my supply leveled out. After four months, I stopped leaking. My baby was happy and I was happy. I came to love breastfeeding - especially staring down at my daughter as she happily ate.
Then on Sunday, my right breast was engorged and my daughter refused to eat from it. I brought her to my breast, struggling to get her to latch on - sometimes I tried to force her, but she would pull away.
This was a big mistake! I essentially created a negative association with my right breast. I couldn't even hold her in my right arm near my breast. She would arch her back very far away, yell, grunt, cry and shake her head.
She is five months old. I read online about letting babies feed exclusively from one preferred breast, but I'm not willing to go that route.
Each refusal was so discouraging and sad. But when I realized that she had a classically conditioned response to my right breast, I knew that I had to change that conditioning and coax her back.
I spent Monday doing a lot of skin-to-skin time with her, offering my right breast and watching as she pulled away. By the evening I got her to sit by my right breast. On Tuesday, we did more skin-to-skin time and instead of being in my lap, I placed her on top of me while I laid down. As she did in the moments after birth, she eventually bobbed her head around looking for my nipple.
She found my right nipple and happily ate. After feeding her laying down several times, I started trying to sit up while she was latched. She would realize she was on my right breast and pull away.
Eventually, she would eat briefly even after I sat up. The most crucial thing was to create a relaxed, loving, and even playful set of feelings around returning to the breast.
She would look at me and I would look at her and smile. I would play with her hand, which was reaching out towards my face. I would make noises that made her smile.
This morning, when my husband brought her to me for her first breakfast, I took off my shirt, she sat in my lap, and she turned her head towards my breast. She fed from my right breast without any prompting!
Just a few days ago I was almost hopeless about this. Incrementally, I think it's very possible to retrain. So best of luck to all the parents of babies out there, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding."
Pump the Refused Breas
"When my son was born he outright refused one side. I think he found it too difficult to get milk out.
I was determined to get him to use both, so I pumped as often as I could and froze all the milk, as I wasn't bottle feeding yet. So glad I did - I kept offering the one he didn't like first until eventually, he started to take milk from it. At first just a little but then it got better to the point where he would have a whole feed from the one he hadn't liked.
It caused lots of problems with midwives not wanting me to leave the hospital when he was first born but finally, they let me go home.
So glad I kept pumping until he would take it, it is a little smaller still and supply isn't as much as the other one but at least there's only one cup size on the difference. It would have been weird if one was loads bigger than the other!"
Left Boob Preference
by Lesslie Chacon
"My son is a month old today and I've been breastfeeding since he was born. He prefers my left boob more than my right and now my left boob is bigger than my right.
He can't latch on, it's a struggle for the both of us. At first, he did great with both breast but now he only wants to feed out of the left.
Is there any advice I could get to even them out? How to make my right the same size?"
Breastfeeding from one side
Reply by Tracy
My little girl did the same, and I breastfed her for two years from my left breast. I also had one breast bigger than the other, but as soon as we weaned, the bigger breast shrunk back to its partner's size (won't say original because they were bigger than before.) I think my little girl preferred the left breast because it had more milk.
The only thing I could imagine would get the other breast to the same size would be to pump it. Power pumping on one side should help. I wouldn't recommend herbs if you don't want both breasts to produce more milk."
One Sided Breast Feeding Preference
"Thank you so much for this article it has put my mind at ease and made things a lot clearer and given me the boost I needed to carry on breastfeeding. I was so close to giving up - its been a struggle"
Breastfeeding from Only One Breast - Keep Going!
"I just wanted to say this article was very helpful and I wished I'd seen it earlier.
From the start, my little boy has preferred one breast. I have one nipple a different shape and size and think he latched on quicker to the other. A health visitor also told me they often prefer the left breast as it's nearer the heart and they hear the heart beat more strongly.
I struggled to feed from two breasts until he was six months trying to keep both breasts going, pumping from one side three times a day. A freezer full of milk! All I seemed to be doing was sterilizing, pumping and feeding with no other time for anything else. It was very stressful and time-consuming and looking back I wished I'd just given up on the one breast earlier. People just said he would go to it if I kept the milk going, but he never has.
At six months I gave up worrying about the rejected breast, and at nine months it's almost dried up, he sometimes goes on for a couple of sucks, but I don't worry anymore.
I am lopsided which is a worry for me, but I ware scarfs and different tops to feel more comfortable. I'm told my breasts will return to normal size when he finishes breast feeding. My little boy is healthy and happy, and I'm a much less stressed happy mummy having relaxed about feeding from one side.
When and if I have another baby I will hopefully feed from both sides. Looking back maybe more skin to skin contact in the hospital would have been helpful. Also, I think the fact I got it in my head it was a "bad" breast didn't help as I believe being tense must have been communicated to him, which probably contributed to his dislike of the breast.
For anyone else in this situation keep going with trying both breasts but from experience I wanted to share that you really can feed a baby from one side - Good luck!"
Breastfeeding from One Breast for over a Year
"My 2 year old is still breastfeeding on the breast he's preferred since he was 8 months. However, recently the breast not being used, pumped or anything has been a bit painful. When squeezed a yellowish/oily liquid could be seen. Why is this happening? Could it be because I never pumped it out?"
"Hello! That sticky, thick, yellow liquid you are seeing is colostrum. It is the "pre-milk" that the breast makes when not making breast milk. It is what your baby eats in the first few days of life until your milk "comes in". It is full of antibodies and concentrated calories. It is not harmful to your baby at this age, nor a sign of anything bad. It just means that breast has probably "dried up". Many moms feed their babies from just one breast, and at this age, that is especially okay. Don't worry mama, it is completely natural!"
Right Side Only
"My daughter has been breastfeeding from my right breast only for almost a year; I want to start feeding her from my left, am I still able to produce milk from my left side breast?"
Re: Yes, you can.
"Hi, in theory, yes. You can start to produce milk from that breast again if you stimulate it enough - by pumping and breastfeeding as much as possible. Breast compression while feeding will help to drain more milk from the breast. You will start to produce colostrum first and then the mature milk will kick in soon after that. The more milk you remove from that breast, the more milk it will produce.
I breastfed my little girl for about a year and a half on one breast. I decided to do this because the other breast was not producing much milk."