Breasts are amazing. No one can argue, really. But what I’ve found super amazing about breasts is this: although they are undeniably a set, a beautiful set, they operate independently. This revelation should have come as no surprise to me. There have been many times in my life that one breast responded to… lets say a cold breeze and the other one was like, meh. But surprise me it did.
Here’s How it Happened
My baby was breech and born via C-section. Because I’m right-handed, I took to the “football hold” on my left side. I could cradle my daughter in my left arm and use my more dextrous right hand to help guide my breast when she latched-on. I tried to switch sides like they recommend, only to fumble and get frustrated when the latch-on wasn’t accomplished easily. My daughter would fuss, wondering why the heck was I interrupting her perfectly good meal and comfortable position for a sub-par experience in another place? I can relate. Could you imagine going to your favorite ice cream parlor, taking three bites of your most favorite decadent flavor only to be interrupted and moved to a new spot and handed a new bowl to warm up to? I imagine my response to this request being something along the lines of “Okay… fine!” Yes, I’d get cranky too.
Even when I started her off on the sup-par side she would fuss until I stopped trying to push the right side onto her. She really just wanted to eat her meal on the left side and be done with it. I was worried that my right side would engorge and get no relief. But, it didn’t. My left side responded to my baby’s suckles and produced more milk, the right side just reverted back to its pre-pregnancy state.
Here’s the Science (Sourced from nonprofit health organization SutterHealth.org)
Breasts operate independently and directly respond to an infant’s suckles. The suckling stimulates the nerve endings in the nipple, which signals the pituitary gland in the brain to release prolactin and oxytocin. When this happens, the prolactin causes the mammary glands to take nutrients from your blood supply and turn them into breast milk. The oxytocin causes the “let-down” or milk ejection reflex.
The only problem with nursing on one side is that you may look or feel a little lopsided. And usually it’s not that dramatic. You will produce plenty of milk from one breast. Mom’s of twins know this all too well, and when my milk came in I felt like I was equipped to feed a village. So, really other than not finding a bra to fit, it’s your vanity that you’ll battle with. If you really want both breasts to be utilized then try pumping from one breast while your baby nurses from the other.
Nursing should be a rewarding and enjoyable time for both of you. Baby gets to relax and bond with mom. Mom gets to relax thanks to the calming effects of oxytocin. Not to mention those awesome extra 600 calories that the baby is burning for you by nursing. So relax, let your baby pick a breast, and enjoy.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two.