Every new mother has gazillion questions on her mind regarding baby care after the arrival of her newborn. The first week is the most crucial as this is the period when the baby and the mother, both, need to learn the art of breastfeeding. Many mothers find themselves in a dilemma whether they should breastfeed using both breasts or just one. Let us be clear that there is no standard answer or set rule to this question. Every baby is different, so is every mother. They share a unique relationship with each other so the question of one rule applying to all should not arise.
However, there are some major factors that can help you decide on whether you should breastfeed using one breast or both each feed. Let’s take a look at them:
Your Baby’s Age: In the first few days of your newborn’s life, you can try to offer both breasts at each feed. The baby needs maximum feedings in the early days and one breast may not have enough. Frequent feedings through both breasts stimulate milk production in both.
Your Milk Supply: If you can produce enough milk in one breast to feed your baby and fill him up, then that is great. When you empty one breast completely, you know that your baby isn’t just sucking the watery milk which comes in first. The hindmilk, rich in fat comes in the end and you must ensure your baby reaches to it before you offer the other breast. If you feel the baby is still hungry, then you can offer the other side to nurse him. There is no point switching breasts if the baby hasn’t finished one completely.
Comfort Purpose: If you offer your breast to comfort the baby and get him to sleep after a breastfeed, then in such a case he may be satisfied with latching on to just one breast. Give him his prefered breast ( oh yes, babies have their preferences ).
As your baby breastfeeds, you must pay attention to him and look for signs like pausing and swallowing. It is important to try and understand the breastfeeding pattern of your baby so you know exactly how to feed him. When the baby stops sucking or swallowing, you can try and offer the other breast. If he is still hungry, he can start on that breast. Usually, some babies let go of the breasts when they are full. Another sign that they are full is that they become restless. In such a case, you can carefully unlatch your breast from your baby’s mouth and give both you and the baby some rest. Next time you begin, offer the second breast. Use a band or some sign to tell you which breast’s turn it is.
Many mothers also try this tested formula of changing the diapers of the baby once he is done feeding on one breast. This gives the baby time to digest the milk he had and he also remains awake and full of vigor. You can then try to switch breasts and offer him some more milk. This technique serves as a blessing especially in case of sleepy babies, to keep them awake during nursing.
Let us look at situations when you can breastfeed from both sides at each feeding:
Slow Weight Gain: A mother’s milk is the only way for the nutrients to reach the baby in the initial few weeks. If your baby is not gaining weight because of your feeds using one breast only, then you may want to try and offer both the breasts during each nursing.
Engorgement of Breasts: Engorgement of breasts happens when you have been nursing your baby using only one side for a long time which leads to pain and pressure in the breast that has not been nursed upon and has too much milk. If you offer both breasts during feedings, in every 2 to 3 hours milk will be removed from your breasts and that will avoid any engorgements.
Now let us look at some instances when you can breastfeed using one side at each feeding:
Breast Preference: Some babies prefer only one breast and refuse to nurse from the other side. In such cases, if the growth of the baby is not coming in the way, you can feed the baby from one side for a blocked time.
Symptoms of Colic: If your baby is showing symptoms of a colic, in such a case, feeding on one breast can reduce these symptoms and provide relief to the baby. If your baby is gaining weight rather quickly, nursing on one side helps keep that in check.
Having mentioned these points, the fact still remains that there are no fixed rules for a mother to use one side or both to breastfeed her baby. It depends on the circumstances of each case and the breastfeeding relationship of a mother with her baby. However, there are many articles that claim to give you exact advice on this subject that you need to strictly ignore because they are myths.
Timing Breastfeeding: Many mothers are advised that they switch breasts after 10 or 15 minutes or such fixed time. However, this is not an ideal approach to breastfeeding as the length of the breastfeeding time tells you nothing about the milk consumption by the baby.
One-Breast Feeds Only: This is a very popular poor general advice that a lot of new moms get that in order to reach the hindmilk it is best to stick to feeds from one side. If you have a low storage capacity or cannot produce enough milk, in such cases you would be denying your baby the other half of his share.
Size Matters: Well, certainly not in this case. The size of your breasts does not matter as far as the milk supply is concerned. This is because the fatty tissues only control the cup size, whereas the glandular tissue or the milk-making tissue is responsible for the amounts of milk.
We hope we were able to shed some light on various issues surrounding breastfeeding with this post. The bottom line is, it is the best to follow your baby’s hunger cues and nurse him accordingly. Be wary of any myths or poor advice and consult a lactation expert when you feel you need any guidance on the subject.