When Baby Prefers One Breast

A mother asks: “I was wondering if you would have any idea why baby prefers one side more than the other and how can we encourage them to drink from the side they don’t prefer so milk supply can keep coming in.”

 There can be a couple of reasons for your baby having a preferred side: most women have one breast that is a better ‘producer’ so the milk flow is easier for the baby to feed on that side. You may also have differently shaped nipples, making it easier for your baby to latch on one side.

 However, more commonly, babies who have a side preference may have a condition called ‘torticollis’ – a stiffening of the neck muscles on one side. This can be a result of how they were positioned in the womb or their birth experience. For instance, a forceps or suction delivery or perhaps a C/ Section can mean that pressure on one side of the neck as baby was born is causing some stiffness and restriction of movement.

 Is it Torticollis?

 If your baby seems to prefer one side when they feed, do they also lie with their head turned to the same side? If this happens, please check with your doctor, paediatrician or child health nurse.

It can also be helpful to see an IBCLC lactation consultant for personalised help with positioning your baby at the breast and a physiotherapist or osteopath can help with stretches and exercises to support your baby’s neck muscles and movement.

 It’s important to get help early for torticollis as, untreated, it can mean your baby is likely to develop a flat patch on his head as his little soft skull is positioned with pressure on one side due to not moving freely. Some of these babies may be prescribed helmets later to correct their flattened heads.

 You can help your baby at home

  • Tummy time is important to strengthen your baby’s neck, shoulders, and upper body.
  • Baby massage can help loosen and stretch your baby’s tight neck muscles (see Pinky’s baby massage Video)
  • Wearing your baby will help strengthen his upper body and take the pressure off his head that happens when he is lying flat.
  • Floor play, encouraging your baby to turn his head by dangling toys or bright coloured scarves and moving them so he needs to turn his head to follow the object.
  • Placing baby’s cot against a wall so he will be encouraged to turn his head to see what is happening in the room on his least preferred side.

Beating breast preference

When your baby prefers one breast, it can be a vicious cycle – the less he feeds from that side the less milk it produces so he is even less interested. Although it’s important to check whether your baby has torticollis, it’s also important to encourage and maintain milk supply on both breasts. You can express milk from the refused breast to boost supply on that side and with an improved

milk flow, your baby may be happy to accept that breast.

One thing you can try is to hold your baby in a football hold on the least preferred side. This ‘tricks’ him into feeding in the same position as he would be on his preferred side. While this will help you to empty the breast and support your milk supply, this isn’t a long term solution: your baby needs to strengthen his neck muscles through a range of movement and by changing sides as you feed (even if you are bottle feeding), your baby gets sensory stimulation to both sides of his body, he is developing both sides of his brain and both of his eyes as he gazes up at you from different positions. This development is a foundation for later learning such as reading and writing.

The good news is, that with help from an IBCLC Lactation Consultant, your baby will soon be feeding effectively from both breasts and most babies with a side preference/torticollis will recover with gentle exercises and position changes. Of course, though, if you don’t feel your baby is improving or is developing a flattened head, please check with your health carer.