So, are you supposed to feed the baby on one breast or both breasts at a single feeding?

While we are at it, what counts as a feeding? One breast or both breasts? What if the baby takes one breast and then 20 minutes later wants the other breast? Is that one feeding or two?

The answer is yes. Or no. Or I don’t know.

If you are asking these questions, you are too caught up in what your baby should be doing and you aren’t paying attention to what your baby is actually doing.

I know you want me to tell you rules, timelines, and parameters, but I’m sorry, I can’t. I don’t know your milk supply and I don’t know your baby. It would be disrespectful to you and your baby to give you a “one size fits all” answer.

You are a unique person with a unique milk supply.

Your baby is a unique person with a unique way of breastfeeding.

So, here is what I will tell you to guide you through the one boob-two boob conundrum.

A boob is never really empty. Even if it could get empty, you wouldn’t ever know it because your boob isn’t clear. So, if you hear advice to “nurse until your breast is empty,” acknowledge that that is silly advice.

Put baby on your boob and nurse him as long as he will actively drink. Use breast compressions to keep him actively swallowing. It doesn’t matter how long he is on the boob. It matters what he is doing on the boob.

If he detaches himself, first check to see if it was an accident. Sometimes babies just lose their suction or slip their latch. They will quickly look for it again as if to say, “Oops! My bad! I wasn’t done!”

If he detaches himself, doesn’t immediately look for it again, and seems contented, go ahead call that boob “done.”

If he falls asleep after drinking well, call that boob “done.”

If you are compressing and he is rapidly nibbling, not drinking, no matter where you squeeze, you can choose to wait it out for baby to detach or you can unlatch him and call that boob “done.”


Often, babies need a little time to digest boob #1 before considering boob #2. Place baby up on your chest and try to burp (he may or may not burp, but the jostling will annoy him enough to make him consider the second boob).

Give about five minutes, then offer the second breast. It is almost always a good idea to offer the second breast. If he doesn’t want it, fine, but it is only fair to offer it to him.

He may take that second breast for a little bit of time or a long time. It is his choice. Just be sure to start on that second boob next time.

Still pregnant?

If you are local to the Wilmington, DE area, I would love to meet you at an upcoming Breastfeeding Basics class.

Too far to travel? No time for live classes? Check out comprehensive online program: The Pregnant Mama’s Guide to Breastfeeding Success

Currently Nursing?

Come see me or one of my fabulous colleagues at The Birth Center in Wilmington, DE. Let us take the time to teach you about your own unique baby and breastfeeding relationship during a one on one consultation.

One Comment

  • […] What we do know (and when we say “we,” I mean people who help women based upon evidence, not based upon what Dr. Spock preached in 1978) is that something triggers a baby to release the breast when they have had enough fatty milk. That is why it isn’t a good idea to time a baby’s feeding and pop him off at some set arbitrary time. It is also why you shouldn’t keep putting baby back on the same boob to “empty it” even if he is popping off. If he seems done with the first boob, whether it has been 10 minutes or 45 minutes, by all means, offer the second one! […]