Prevalence and Characteristics of Infant's Unexplained Breast Preference for Nursing One Breast: A Self-Administered Survey

Breastfeed Med. 2015 Dec;10(10):474-80. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2015.0116. Epub 2015 Nov 5.


Background: Breastfeeding is recommended by international bodies as the only source of infant nutrition during the first 6 months of life. Sometimes infants prefer to nurse on one breast for no obvious reason (hereafter called infant's unexplained breast preference [IUBP]). IUBP might reduce the rate of exclusive breastfeeding. The prevalence of IUBP is unknown because most of the literature on IUBP so far has been anecdotal. This study's objective was to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of IUBP among healthy infants in Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia.

Materials and methods: We conducted a population-based, cross-sectional study between March and August 2013 in the Al-Ahsa area, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. Healthy infants who had been born at full term (≥37 weeks of gestation) and were 2-24 months of age were included. We distributed 600 self-administered surveys to mothers who attended vaccination clinics in nine primary healthcare centers.

Results: Of 478 mothers who responded to the survey, 121 (25.3%) reported unilateral breastfeeding. IUBP was the most common reason for unilateral breastfeeding, with a prevalence of 13.6% (65/478). IUBP developed at a median age of 1 month (range, 1 day-9 months) and was familial in 42.9% of cases. It was the only reason for formula feeding during the first 6 months of life in 18.5% of cases.

Conclusions: IUBP is common, develops very early in life, and can be familial and a reason for formula feeding. However, these findings need to be confirmed in other studies of other populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Saudi Arabia / epidemiology