Baby refuses one breast: Breastmilk has unusual taste

My six-month-old daughter wants to nurse from only one of my breasts. One day, about a month ago, she spit out the milk from the other breast and now will not nurse from that side. I expressed a little milk from each breast and they taste radically different. The side she refuses to nurse on tastes sour. I have talked to a nurse and a doctor but neither one had an answer for me. Is this common, or should I be concerned?

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Kathy Kuhn

Kathy Kuhn is a registered nurse who has been working with breastfeeding families since 1981. She has been an International Board Certified... Read more

Sometimes when a woman has mastitis, a breast infection, it can cause the milk to taste more salty from an increase in sodium in the breastmilk. I'm not sure if that is what you are experiencing since you describe the milk as "sour," but it may be worth a trip to your physician for an evaluation to determine if you have mastitis or any other health concern related to that breast. Mastitis generally causes very noticeable symptoms of fever and sore breast, but occasionally a mother can have a subclinical mastitis that is more mild and comes on slowly without a fever.

Another possibility may be related to the normal tendency of all women to produce more milk in one breast than the other. Sometimes a baby will develop a preference for the one with the faster flow of milk or the slower flow. It may be that the "offending" breast was your daughter's least favorite from the start and if she responded by taking it less often or taking less milk from it, that breast may have started to produce less milk.

When a breast starts producing much less than it previously had, as occurs during weaning, the milk can also take on a salty taste. I'm not sure if the sour taste you describe could be part of the same process but I suspect it could or that the sourness you describe is a result of the increase in sodium in the milk.

Your daughter will be able to continue to breastfeed on only one breast if that is all she will accept. It is possible to maintain an adequate supply with one-breasted feedings should that become necessary. If you would like to encourage her to take the other breast again you may be successful if you help to drain that breast and induce a larger milk supply in it by pumping. The sour taste may go away after about a week of pumping and your daughter may accept it again. (Mohrbacher, N; & Stock, 1997) You may need to gently encourage your daughter to take that breast again after pumping for a week by offering it after she starts on the favored breast or when she is half asleeep and doesn't realize you are offering the breast she once rejected. Some mothers also find that they need to hold the baby in the same position as though they are at the more preferred breast in order to "trick" the baby into taking the breast they previouisly rejected.

Please don't forget to see your physician to rule out any health concerns in that breast that may have led to the "off" taste and indicate a need for medical attention.

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