Choosing a starting breast

Which breast do I start on?

Normally mothers should change the starting breast from one feed to the next. If they offer one breast first more than the other, that breast will start producing more milk while the second produces less. The baby may wean from the side that produces less. If mothers have much less milk on one side or have a baby who doesn’t like one side as much, they should start on the weaker side.

A) How to change the starting breast

In general, you change your starting breast from one feed to the next. If you start on the right breast for one feed, you would start on the left with the next.

You should change the starting breast whether or not the baby takes the second side.

Ensure that you are not offering one breast first more than the other. Some mothers are strongly right- or left-handed and this can result in one breast offered first more than the other.

To remember which side you started on, you can:

  • Keep a small cloth in your bra to mark your starting side.
  • Attached a clip or other item to your bra strap to mark your starting side.
  • If both breasts fill equally, feel the breasts for fullness and start feeding on the fuller side.

B) Reasons for changing the starting breast

Babies will breastfeed on the first breast and, if they are still hungry, will take additional milk from the second side. This results in the first breast being emptied more thoroughly than the second. More complete and regular emptying of the breast stimulates more milk production in a normal breast (Kent 2012).

If you offer one breast first more than the other, that breast will start producing more milk than the other. That can cause:

C) When to start the baby on the same side

Sometimes you should start a baby on the same side as you did for the previous feed. If you have much less milk on one side or have a baby who doesn’t like one side as much, start on the weaker side.

This can be temporary or permanent, depending on the situation. If you always have less milk on one side, continue offering that side first. If you have increased the milk supply on the weaker side to where it is now even, start changing your starting side.

References

Kent JC, Prime DK, Garbin CP. Principles for maintaining or increasing breast milk production. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 Jan-Feb;41(1):114-121