Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 2

Breastfeeding and Breast Preference 2Your baby’s breast preference is not cause for major concern. As long as you are breastfeeding when your baby shows signs of hunger, she’s growing properly and soiling diapers, your baby is likely getting plenty of milk, even if it is primarily from one breast. Yet still, some mothers become uncomfortable in the less frequently used breast or may not like their new lopsided silhouette.

Earlier this week we discussed reasons for breast preference including milk supply, let downs, nipple differences, taste of breast milk, preferred positions, and a pain or injury your baby may be experiencing. Today we’re sharing ways to encourage your baby to nurse from both breasts and how you can even up your breasts if she continues to show breast preference.

Ways to Encourage Nursing on Both Breasts

If your baby’s breast preference bothers you, try these ways to encourage nursing on both breasts:

  • Offer the less frequently nursed breast first. Babies generally nurse more vigorously when they begin a breastfeeding session because that is when they are hungriest. This may help increase your milk supply and speed up let downs. Offering the less preferred breast first may work best when your baby is sleepy – either just after waking or before a nap or bedtime – when she is not keenly aware of which side she’s nursing.
  • Offer the less frequently nursed breast more often. Nurse your baby on the less preferred side twice per feeding, sandwiched by the more preferred side. If you only nurse from one breast at a time, start with the less preferred breast twice as often.
  • Find a more comfortable position. If your baby doesn’t like nursing on one side because you believe she’s uncomfortable, try a different nursing position for that side. Alternatively, try to switch from the preferred breast to the less preferred breast with as little repositioning as possible.
  • Distract your baby while nursing. Rocking, walking, singing or wearing your baby while nursing from the less preferred breast may help distract your baby and encourage more productive breastfeeding.
  • Work to balance your milk supply. Building up your milk supply in the less preferred breast may be the best solution to breast preference. This requires extra breastfeeding and pumping on that breast. On the flip side, if engorgement or a forceful let down is causing the breast preference, express milk from that side before a feeding to make it easier for your baby to latch and feed.
  • Use a nipple shield. Inverted or otherwise altered nipples can cause breast preference. If necessary, use a nipple shield on the less desirable side.

How to Counteract Breast Preference

So your baby is very stubborn, eh? That’s OK! As we mentioned, it is more about your potential discomfort – due to engorgement or appearance – than a true problem. The best solution for a baby who will not nurse from one breast is to pump that breast more often. This will help in several ways: First, frequent pumping will prevent you from becoming engorged, which can lead to plugged ducts that may cause mastitis. You definitely don’t want that! Secondly, pumping may increase your milk supply and help resolve the breast preference issue altogether. And lastly, pumping will ensure you have extra milk on hand if you feel your baby is still hungry after breastfeeding on her preferred side.

Bottom line: Don’t stress about your baby’s breast preference. Follow these suggestions to encourage your baby to nurse on both sides and when all else fails, pump!

Sources: KellyMom, Breastfeeding-Problems, and BabyCenter

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