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Ask the Expert: Nursing on One Breast

ShariCrisoMainA: It's very common, and sometimes even desirable, for babies to nurse on a single breast at a feeding. Depending on this time of day, his hunger level, how full your breasts are, and other factors, your baby may be getting enough to eat from just one side. 

As babies get older, their feedings typically get shorter, which can lead some parents to worry that they're not getting enough nourishment. But generally speaking, this is not the case-baby isjust becoming more efficient in getting the milk out quicker. Along these lines, if your baby pulls away after the first side, he might justbe letting you know that he's full.
If it's always the same breast that your son refuses, it may be that he has a preference for one side. Most women have a "dominant breast" that makes more milk, and the baby can start to prefer this side because the "reward" is greater.

I know many women who nurse exclusively on one breast and still make plenty of milk to feed their babies. In fact, you don't actually need two breasts to breastfeed. One breast can make all the milk you need, which is how some moms feed twins so successfully.

Lastly, there are times when I actually recommend feeding on only one breast. In the first week or two of your baby's life, when your breasts are still full and engorged, it's preferable to stick to one side at a time. This way, you can help ensure that your baby is getting the right amounts of low-fat, low-calorie foremilk and higher-fat, higher-calorie hindmilk.

Shari Criso is a registered nurse, certified nurse midwife, international board certified lactation consultant, and nationally recognized parenting educator. She is also the owner of Birth Boutique, a specialty store and learning center for new and expectant parents based in Denville, NJ. Most importantly, she is a loving wife and proud mother of two amazing daughters, Jade and Talia.
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