Should You Alternate Breasts While You're Breastfeeding?

Changing Sides: One Breast or Both Breasts at Each Feeding?

Mother breastfeeding baby. Should You Breastfeed From One Side or Both?
Should you alternate breasts in the same breastfeeding?. Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Should You Offer One Breast or Both Breasts Each Time You Breastfeed?

The decision to offer one breast or both breasts at each feeding is a matter of preference. As long as your baby is getting enough breast milk and growing at a healthy, consistent pace, it really doesn't matter if you nurse from one breast or both breasts at each feeding. You should go ahead and choose the method that is the easiest, most comfortable, and most convenient for you and your baby.

What Is Recommended?

In the first few weeks after your baby is born, it is better to offer both breasts at each feeding. Breastfeeding on both sides helps to stimulate the production of breast milk and prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis. Once your milk supply is well established, and your baby is gaining weight well, you can determine which feeding method works best for you and your baby.

As you baby gets older, it is recommended that you follow your baby's lead. Let your baby nurse on one side for as long as she wants. Once she stops nursing, you can remove her from your breast, burp her, change her diaper, and offer her the other side. If she wants to nurse more, let her. If your child only needs to nurse on one breast to feel satisfied, that's OK, too.

Alternating Breasts At Each Feeding

There are definitely benefits to offering both breasts at each feeding.

 Besides helping to build up a healthy milk supply, alternating breasts in the same feeding can keep a sleepy baby nursing longer, provide more breast milk at each feeding to a baby who needs to gain weight, and help to keep your breasts from becoming too uneven.

See Also: Breastfeeding From Both Sides At Each Feeding

Offering Only One Breast At Each Feeding

Once your milk supply is established and your baby is growing well, it may be more convenient to nurse from only one side at each feeding.  If you have an overabundant milk supply, breastfeeding on only side at each feeding helps to reduce the milk supply in the opposite breast.  Nursing on only one breast per feeding may also reduce gassiness, fussiness, and symptoms of colic in your baby.

Then, there are times when you might not have a choice but to nurse from only one side.  If you have an issue on one breast, and it needs a rest to heal, you have only one functioning breast or your baby develops a breast preference and will only nurse from one side, you may not be able to switch breasts during each feeding, or at all.  But, even with only one breast, it's possible to make a healthy supply of breast milk for your child, and you can continue to breastfeed for as long as you and your child wish to do so. 

See Also: Breastfeeding From Only One Side At Each Feeding

If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding and alternating breasts, talk to your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group for more information and assistance.   

Sources:

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 Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

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