Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 1

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 1Breastfeeding may have you feeling a little off balance if your baby has a distinct breast preference. Preferring one side over another is common although some babies feel more strongly about it than others. While completely normal, you may be able to subdue your baby’s breast preference during breastfeeding to help prevent plugged ducts and lopsidedness.

First we should note that there is no nutritional problem with your baby having a breast preference. In fact, it may actually benefit your baby because she will likely nurse through to the fattier hind milk that is important for your baby’s growth and development. However, if breast preference causes pain or an infection in your less frequently used breast, or if a lopsided appearance bothers you, you may want to work to even things up a bit.

Today we’re exploring reasons your baby may have a breast preference while breastfeeding and later this week we’ll offer suggestions to keep your breasts more balanced and encourage your baby to nurse on both sides.

Reasons for Breast Preference

As you are discovering, your baby is an intricate being and perhaps rather opinionated. Her likes and dislikes may emerge in small ways at first including breast preference. After all, she spends quite a bit of time breastfeeding so she’s bound to exert some control of the situation eventually.

Milk Supply or Let Downs

Breast preference can be the result of the difference in milk supply or let downs between your breasts. Just like your hands, feet, eyes and ears differ slightly, the same anatomical asymmetry exists in your breasts. The internal mechanisms that help produce breast milk vary from side to side, which can cause milk supply to be higher or lower or let downs to be faster or slower. Most babies will prefer the side with more milk unless engorgement makes it too difficult for the baby to latch. Some babies prefer a slower let down that won’t overwhelm them with too much milk at once. (Mothers who have had breast surgery may experience lower milk supply in that breast.)

Nipple Differences

The means of suckling breast milk – your nipples – may also be a factor. You’ve probably noticed that your nipples differ in shape and size. Chances are your baby notices too and this may be a reason for her breast preference. Nipple differences change the way a baby latches and is able to secure milk. The easier it is for her to latch, the more she’ll enjoy that breast.

Breast Milk Flavor

The flavor of your breast milk can be altered in breasts individually if you have mastitis (an infected plugged duct) or if a capillary bursts on one side and blood leaks into your milk supply. These situations can cause milk to taste saltier, which your baby may not enjoy.

Preferred Positions

On the other hand, breast preference may have nothing to do with your body at all. Rather, it may have something to do with your baby. Babies come to enjoy being held a certain way, whether due to the mother’s holding style or simply a natural preference. Nursing in a more comfortable position for your baby may lead to breast preference.

Pain or Injury

Also, if your baby has a medical reason to prefer being positioned a certain way, she may rather lie that way for breastfeeding too. For example, an ear infection in one ear may make it painful for your baby to lie on that side. The same can be true if your baby has a neck injury or pain at an immunization site. Or an undetected birth injury or defect can also result in breast preference due to positioning.

Understanding the cause of your baby’s breast preference may help as you strategize a solution. Later this week we’ll review ways to encourage nursing on both breasts and what you can do if your baby refuses to nurse on one side.

Sources: KellyMom, Breastfeeding-Problems, and BabyCenter