What to Do When Your Baby Has a Breast Preference

How to Handle a Breast Preference

Mixed race mother nursing newborn baby
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Breastfeeding usually occurs on both breasts. Some children nurse on both breasts during the same feeding, while others will nurse on only one breast per feeding, alternating breasts each time they nurse. Occasionally, however, a child may develop a breast preference choosing to nurse from the same breast at every feeding and refusing to take the other side.

In general, nursing from only one side should still provide your child with enough nutrition.

As long as your baby is getting enough milk and growing well, breastfeeding from the same breast all the time is not typically a problem.

But if you decide to accept your child's preference, it might become an issue for you. When your child is only nursing from one breast, it can cause you some discomfort if the lesser used breast becomes engorged. Your breasts may also become uneven. Lopsidedness typically resolves once your child returns to nursing on both breasts or after you wean your child from breastfeeding.

7 Reasons Why a Breast Preference May Develop

  1. The amount of breast milk available. One breast may provide your child with more breast milk than the other one, leading your child to prefer the side with more milk. You can try to increase the milk supply in the opposite breast by using a breast pump or hand expression between feedings.
  2. The speed of the flow of milk. You may have a faster let-down reflex on the preferred side, making it easier for your baby to get the milk. You can try to stimulate the opposite breast before nursing to help bring about your let-down reflex. Then, once your milk has started to flow, offer your child that breast.
  1. Your child's comfort. Your baby may be positioned more comfortably on the favored side. Pay attention to how you position your child at each breast, particularly on the side of your non-dominant hand where it may feel a little awkward. Try using a nursing pillow or different nursing positions on the side that your baby is refusing.
  1. Difficulty latching. The nipple on one breast may be flat or difficult to latch on to. Use a breast pump to remove a little breast milk from that breast before nursing your child. This will help to soften the breast, get the milk flowing and draw out the nipple for your baby.
  2. Mastitis. A breast infection such as mastitis can change the taste of the breast milk in the breast that is affected. If you notice any of the signs or symptoms of mastitis, talk to your doctor.
  3. Prior breast surgery. If you've had breast surgery on one breast, that side may not produce as much breast milk. Work with your doctor or lactation consultant to try to increase your milk supply in that breast, but keep in mind that it may not be possible. You can also continue to offer that breast to your child, or you may decide to let your child breastfeed from only the one side.
  4. Another breast issue: An underlying breast issue can cause a child to refuse one breast. If your child begins to refuse one breast all of a sudden, see your doctor. The doctor can do an exam and perform tests to check your breast tissue.

    How to Discourage Breast Preference

    1. Begin each feeding by offering the less preferred breast first.
    2. Try to switch over from the favored breast to the opposite breast after your child satisfies their initial hunger.
    3. Use a breast pump to build and maintain your milk supply in the breast that is not nursed from as often.
    4. Do not try to force your child to take the breast they do not want. If your child gets too frustrated, they may go on a nursing strike.
    5. See your doctor to make sure there are no medical issues that might be causing this problem especially if your child stops nursing from one side suddenly.
    6. A lactation consultant or local La Leche group can offer support and advice.
    7. If you child continues to reject one breast, you may be better of choosing to accept their preference.


    American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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