Friday 17 August 2012

One Breast or Two?

Another common question asked by new mums in the early days.  I hear stories of women being told that they HAVE to use one breast only per feed or that they ALWAYS need to use both breasts per feed, often with a minimum or maximum time limit attached to it.

I thought I'd give you my take on the matter and then you can look at your situation to make a decision, or better yet look at your baby to be guided in this decision.  As always I am talking about healthy, term babies who are peeing and pooping and feeding well.

Your baby knows how hungry they are and will ask to be fed.  Over the first few weeks you will learn to read your baby's cues so that you know when they are hungry, tired or need a nappy change.  I find feeding on demand a much more relaxing way to feed as you don't find yourself watching the clock and you can get on with your day until baby lets you know he'she is hungry.

In the first few weeks while you are getting to know your baby, your body is establishing your milk supply and putting down the foundations for your whole breastfeeding journey together.  As with many things, a good foundation is vital for success.  The body will do as you ask, so if you tell your body that you have twins by feeding twice as much then your body will respond by making enough milk to feed two babies..

To get breastfeeding off to the best start possible you need that good foundation.  Once you have established a good supply you then have the freedom to choose any direction you want to take.  You can breastfeed exclusively for as long as desired, you can return to work and pump to maintain your supply and you can also choose to stop on your own terms and not before you reach your goals.  You can always deceases your supply, but it can be more challenging to increase your supply if you never established a good supply in the beginning.

Establishing a good supply in those first few weeks is vital, and so I always encourage new mums to start out strong so that they have a choice in the future.  You don't know what kind of a supply you will have or what your body will do.  One breast may produce more than the other, one may have a faster flow than the other.  You may even have an over supply of milk, but if you start out strong then you can always slow down later.

Let baby finish at the first breast, this means allowing the baby to decide when they are finished and they usually come away all by themselves.  I say finish, but the breasts are never empty and milk production goes on throughout the feed and beyond.  Once the baby has finished with one breast take this natural break as a chance to change a nappy or do some burping (post about burping to come soon).  After a short break offer the second breast.  Think of the second breast as dessert, you don't always have room for dessert but it is nice to have the option.  The few minutes break allow baby to let his/her body to react to the intake and make sure that hunger or full signals have a chance to be heard.  Some babies will always take the second breast breast, some will never take a second breast, and some babies will take it sometimes.  Because we don't know what they will do every time it's nice to give the baby the option and the added breast stimulation is great for milk supply.  My son took both breasts for the first few weeks of life until we noticed that he had started spitting up after every feed for a few days.  Before jumping to a reflux conclusion we thought that maybe he was eating too much and the excess was just coming back up with there being no more room in his tummy.  We offered one breast per feed to see if there would be a difference.  The spitting up stopped and the next time he asked for the second breast at a feed was when he could ask with words and found it amusing to say "other one?".

If your baby is not able to establish a milk supply due to illness or latch issues, a hospital grade pump is the next best thing (after a nursing toddler of course).

Had a baby recently?  Take a few weeks, take the weight off your feet, sit in front of the tv or grab a good book and feed, feed, feed!

Once your supply is set on good foundations you can stop offering the second breast if it is usually refused.  Let your baby and NOT a well-meaning health professional tell you what they need (as long as baby is healthy, peeing, pooping and gaining weight).

Did you receive advise about how many boobs to use per feed or have you had to change your routine for any reason.  Tell me all about it?

The first few weeks of breastfeeding can be challenging on your nursing bras.  Choose a nursing bra that can accommodate small changes in cup size so that you feel comfortable at all times.  Make sure it is comfortable on the loosest setting so that you have room to tighten with wear and weight loss.  Here is a selection of these nursing bras that work perfectly for this reason.


  1. Great advice Boobiemilk! Thank you. Despite being on my third baby, I still had the dilemma of what to do re: one boob or two and got differing advice from midwives, health visitors, etc. I'm on month 4 now of feeding and to anyone struggling out there, I would just say to perservere beyond the early days as it really has got a lot easier as baby has learnt how to latch really well now and feeds relatively quickly so life has become easier.

  2. I was told to offer one then, when finished, the other but wasn't told how to tell when she was finished! And she never was because we had "issues". However, even now at 14 months I still find that the "normal" pattern of one then the next doesn't work for us. She prefers to be passed back and forth a couple of times. I don't know if it's a flow thing or what but it works fine for us.

  3. I had very little guidance when it came to breastfeeding twins. In the early days when I was breastfeeding the Twinkles on demand, the baby that required feeding always fed from the fullest boob leaving the other boob for the other baby. At other times I would tandem feed them. When they went onto solids, I then designated a boob for each baby. Spud has the right and Sprout has the left boob. I've often wondered how other twin mummies fed their babies and whether they offered both breasts.

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