How To Breastfeed From Only One Side

The thought of breastfeeding my upcoming fourth baby (19 weeks to go!) has left me with crazy amounts of anxiety.

As in, it's all I can think about it.

And instead of thinking about how great it's been to breastfeed my other children, or what a wonderful bonding experience it will be, I can only think of one thing: how much I am dreading it. But I've come up with an interesting solution that I think might just solve my problem:

Unilateral breastfeeding. 

{ MORE: 5 Tips to Help You Deal with Nursing Pain }

breastfeeding_one_side
Image via Flickr/ David Leo Veksler

Allow me to back up and explain: I've had a lot of trouble with breastfeeding my children. Not necessarily in terms that I wasn't able to breastfeed or my kids had any technical difficulties with nursing, but for me

I was hospitalized with severe mastitis with my first daughter, and as a result, I had some damage to the milk ducts on one side. My supply is less on that side, which leads the baby to prefer the opposite side and causes me a lot of pain when breastfeeding in the affected side. 

It's a vicious cycle. With my third child, I ended up getting mastitis seven times from all the back-and-forth feedings and overproduction from the breast that tried to compensate. 

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So this time, I'm fearful. I don't want to go through constant pain and engorgement; I don't want to cry every time I nurse my baby; I don't want to wake up shivering in the middle of the night with yet another 104-degree fever. 

But for the first time, I have hope that I might be able to successfully breastfeed and do it without endless bouts of mastitis and grit-my-teeth-through-it pain. And the solution?

To breastfeed from only one side. 

The thought first crossed my mind, when my cousin, Jacquelyn, the owner of j&j brusie photography, told me that she had similar problems with one breast not producing as much milk. She ended up breastfeeding her now 4-month-old daughter from only one side, being sure to to pump the production side between feedings to keep up her supply. 

Although the non-producing side ended up drying up, looking at Jacquelyn's perfectly adorable, delightfully chubby daughter, I would say that there's nothing wrong with her feeding preferences!

Her story intrigued me and gave me hope—would it really be possible for me to breastfeed successfully on one side, saving me from pain but still allowing me to nurse my baby?

“I wouldn't recommend it for just any woman, but for a mom with breast damage or issues serious enough to want to try unilateral breastfeeding, it is definitely a feasible option with dedication and hard work,” says certified lactation consultant Leah Jacobson, a mom of five and founder of The Guiding Star Project. “It can be done, and one breast can easily make enough for one baby, and two even for some really lucky women!”

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Although Leah cautions that it can be difficult to simply “dry up” the affected breast, due to the complicated milk production system that is controlled by many factors in the body, not just by milk removal alone, it's an interesting concept for women who have damage to one breast or a lack of production on one side. 

And if nothing else, the thought that I might be able to successfully breastfeed this baby without pain is really the only thing that keeps me going. 

And that has to count for something, right?

Do you know of any women who have breastfed from only one side? Would you consider it? 

What do you think?

How To Breastfeed From Only One Side

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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3 comments

  1. JosephsMom says:

    My sister has inverted nipples and her left is worse than her right, she has successfully nursed her first daughter on one side while pumping the other side and storing for bottle feelings. She is currently nursing baby number 2 on one side again while pumping the other. She admits it is A LOT of work but if you are determined it will work.

  2. starlytegurl says:

    I never even thought it might be an issue, but I have been nursing my son (who turns 1 in a couple weeks) on only my right side for months now. My left side just never had much of a supply. I could feed him on the right and then still pump 4oz, but no matter what I did, how often I pumped/nursed/expressed, I just could never get more than .5 to 1oz on the left. I always tried feeding him on the left before giving him the right side, but the supply was so minimal and SLOW compared to the right, that he would get angry and grunt and tug and fight on the left until I just gave up and switched him to the right. We gradually stopped trying the left side before the right, and since the supply was so minimal anyway, I never had any pain. I can still get a tiny bit of milk out if I pump on the left, but I don’t ever worry about feeding him from only the right. And we exclusively breastfed until he was 9 months! I think it is probably a lot more common than I realized, so I’m glad to hear that others do it too!

  3. brent says:

    i bf from one side only and have since giving birth 4 months ago, my daughter never wanted the other boob. she didn’t even want boobs at all but finally latched to one. i’m fine with bf with one boob and she eats as much as she wants and is happy and healthy and gaining weight. i hope my boobs/nipples go back to normal after i wean her off

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