Lots of babies have that favorite toy or blanket that they are inconsolable without. Leave it at home or, God forbid, lose it and you are in for one hell of a night. Fortunately, there's one favorite thing that you aren't likely to forget: your boob. And the reason that your baby has a favorite boob when breastfeeding is surprisingly simple: one boob may be "better" than the other. Some little ones tend to favor one side over the other, but it isn't cause for concern.
A baby's preference for a particular breast is a common concern for many moms, if the Q&A sections of popular parenting sites are any indication. According to CafeMom, this practice is called "unilateral breastfeeding" and fortunately, aside from extreme circumstances, most mamas have nothing to worry about when it comes to your baby choosing one boob over the other.
Midwife Cath Curtin, of Melbourne Australia, explained the most common reason behind the favoritism on Mama Mia's Year One podcast saying:
A lot of women lactate better on one side. For some women, one [breast] is really big and one is really small. I've looked after women whose breast tissue has only developed on one side and they've breastfed babies really well on the one side.
Additionally, Karen Pryor, behavioral psychologist, and Gale Pryor, author of Nursing Your Baby, support this assertion on Baby Center. In a joint post to the site published in 2015, they wrote:
This tendency is harmless. Your breasts will adjust to produce different levels of milk according to the frequency with which each is nursed.
Along with not being a huge concern, there is a benefit to letting baby use one breast for the entire feeding session rather than switching things up. "He'll get the rich, high-calorie hindmilk that comes at the end of each feeding," according to Pryor and Pryor's post.
Aside from plain old favoritism, there are some alternative explanations for why babies gravitate towards one boob. One such reason, as explained by Anne Smith, IBCLC on Breastfeeding Basics is potential differences in the two breasts, such as nipple size or shape. For example, Smith points out that a flatter nipple may make it more difficult for baby to latch on, a natural reason to go to the other side.
In more extreme cases, Smith suggests medical causes of the favoritism. In such cases, the length of time that a baby has shown the preference can be indicative of its cause. If a baby has always chosen one boob over the other, it is probably just preference. If not, a couple of potential explanations presented by Smith are as follows, according to Breastfeeding Basics:
If you have had mastitis recently, that can change the taste of the milk and make it saltier, and that can make babies suddenly reject that breast ... If the breast refusal developed suddenly and continues, then you might want to have your doctor check it out, because (RARELY), babies will suddenly refuse to nurse from a breast that develops a tumor.
It's important to remember that no matter the cause, the duration, or the side of preference, your baby can absolutely get enough milk from one breast and one breast alone. New Kids Center notes that your body will respond to the shift in supply and demand and allocate more milk to the favored breast. While moms who breastfeed are told to switch breasts with every new feeding, Curtin explained in the podcast that oftentimes it is necessary to follow your baby's lead. She recommended in the segment that moms "just respond to your baby" because "every baby is different."
So, there you have it. Have no shame in your one booby game, mama. When your little one is swerving to the left or to the right, try to remember that they are getting all of the food they need. Rather than try to force their hand — or mouth — remind yourself that fed is best, regardless of what side it comes from.
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