One or two breasts

Should I use one breast or two?

Feed the baby with one breast and then watch for hunger signs to see if the baby wants the second. Most babies need the second breast some of the time. If they don’t want it, they will sleep or be happy when held. If you have a lot of milk, your baby may take only one breast but tend to feed more often and have 9 – 12 feeds in one day. Babies who are not growing well should always be offered the second breast.

A) Normal situations

A baby may:

  • Never need the second breast.
  • Sometimes need the second breast.
  • Always need the second breast.

Feed the baby at the first breast and then wait to see if the baby gives hunger signs. This is usually within ten minutes.

Nearly all newborn babies need the second breast. Once the milk comes in most babies need the second breast most of the time (Kent 2007).

If a mother has a lot of milk, the baby will tend to take only one breast. These babies also tend to feed more often and have 9 – 12 feeds in 24 hours instead of the more typical 7 – 10.

Do not worry about the baby emptying the breast or getting the “hindmilk”. If the baby has had a normal feed on the first side, do not return the baby to the first side. Rather offer the second side if the baby is still hungry after the first side.

After finishing a feed and being awake for an hour or so, babies sometimes return to the breast to breastfeed to sleep. This is a short feed and the baby will be asleep within 5 – 10 minutes.

B) Abnormal situations

Babies who are not growing well should always be offered the second breast. If the baby is regularly hungry after the second breast and usually has another full feed back on the first breast, this may be a sign the baby is not getting enough milk.

Some mothers have one breast that makes much less milk than the other. Mothers should start all feeds on the weaker breast and finish the feed with the more active one. In this situation, a baby will always take two breasts at each feed.

References

Kent JC. How breastfeeding works. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2007 Nov-Dec;52(6):564-70