Ten Common Questions About Breastfeeding

The month of August is National Breastfeeding Month. To conclude our celebration, we wanted to provide some information about breastfeeding. The following are the ten most commonly asked questions with answers for you. As always, we are here to help you with your breastfeeding journey. At Firelands, we have a daily outpatient lactation clinic and offer a weekly support group. Feel free to reach out to us at 419-557-7596 for additional information.

1. Is my baby getting enough to eat?
This is a very common question.  There are various ways we can tell if your baby is getting enough to eat.  First, watch the feeding and look for swallows. Have your lactation consultant or nurse help you to identify these.  Second, watch your baby’s output.  Is baby having an appropriate number of wet and dirty diapers?  This number changes every day of your baby’s life.  At five days of life, the goal is to be having 5-7 wet diapers and 3-4 yellow, seedy stools.  The last way is to monitor your baby’s weight.  We expect a baby to lose weight the first days and then start to regain at a rate of one-half oz. to 1 oz. daily.  Keeping in touch with your lactation consultant or doctor can help you evaluate how your baby is doing.  There are many references for this information as well.  If you have concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out and call your doctor, lactation consultant, or hospital maternity unit.  

2. What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
There are so many benefits to breastfeeding for a baby and Mom.  We continue to learn more and more about the benefits such as; a stronger immune system for baby, reduced cancer risks for baby and mom, and cost savings, to mention a few.  There has been a lot of information found about the long term benefits of breastfeeding recently.  The value of exclusive breast-milk in an infant’s diet is incredible.  This is programming the baby's immune system for lifetime health and reducing risks for autoimmune diseases, cancer, and many other diseases later in life.  Any amount of breast milk is good in a baby’s diet and has benefits.  

3. How do I know my baby is actually getting milk?
The best way to tell if a baby is getting milk is to watch baby feed.  By watching, you can see the sucking pattern and swallows.  These patterns can change over the first days and swallows will increase daily with feedings.  Around day 3, your milk production will increase and it will be easier to see swallows regularly.  Reach out to your local lactation specialist to assist you in identifying these.

4. Is there anything I can’t eat or drink while breastfeeding?
A mother with healthy eating habits usually doesn’t have to change her diet while breastfeeding.  It’s recommended to have a balanced diet with a variety of foods.  There are some things that a baby may be sensitive to in your diet.  These may include large amounts of dairy products, gas-producing foods, spicy/acidic foods, and caffeine.  Initially, we encourage you to eat your normal diet like what you ate in pregnancy.  Then watch how your baby reacts.  If they are fussy or gassy, then review what you have eaten and reduce consumption of an item that may be causing issues.  You may want to keep a food journal for a few days.  This will help to identify what foods may be bothering your baby.  Food allergies are rare. Most babies do well with anything in mom’s diet.  They have been tasting it in their amniotic fluid for 9 months.  If there are concerns, talk with your baby’s doctor or lactation consultant.

5. When can I start pumping?
Pumping can be done at any time.  If your baby is struggling to latch/feed in the first days, you may start pumping to help stimulate your milk production and get milk for your baby.  The frequency is variable depending upon the situation.  If your baby is unable to feed at the breast at all, you would want to pump approximately 8-12 times daily for approx. 15-20 min. on each breast.  If you become engorged and uncomfortably full, you may pump or hand express milk for a short time after feeding your baby to relieve fullness.  If engorgement is causing your baby to struggle with latch, pumping, or hand expressing before the feeding can help to facilitate baby to latch.  Otherwise, if your baby is feeding well, you may start pumping 2-4 weeks after delivery to prepare for going back to work.  Pumping once or twice daily in addition to feeding baby can give you some extra back up milk for when you are gone from your baby.  Breast-milk can be frozen.  Check reference tables for breast-milk stability at room temp., in refrigerator, and freezer.

6. How can I boost my low supply?
Low supply can be increased in a few different ways.  First, we go back to the basics of supply and demand.  The more your body is stimulated and asked for more milk, the more it will produce.  It is important to feed or pump 8-12 times per day, especially in the first month.  This includes during the night.  The first month is the crucial time for setting up long term milk production.  There are certain foods, we call them lactogenic foods, that may help to support good milk production. There are also over the counter or prescription supplements that can help as well.  Talk with your doctor or lactation consultant about those.  If your baby does need additional supplements, more milk than what your body is producing, supplements can be given with direct feeding at the breast.  This is a great option to provide your baby with the nutrition they need and stimulate your milk supply.

7. How can dad get involved in the breastfeeding process?
Dads are great support for Mom and can be very involved with breastfeeding.  First, the encouragement from dad or support people can give mom the extra boost she needs to make it through a tough period.  Hearing encouraging words of support and love can make a big difference.  Dad is great at helping take care of your baby right after a feeding.  Moms will sometimes feel the effect of oxytocin during feedings that makes them very relaxed and sleepy.  This helps mom to get some power sleep and then Dad can then take baby, change a diaper or two, and soothe baby back to sleep.  Dad can sometimes help mom to get a baby positioned at the breast and make everything comfortable for Mom, including getting a snack or drink for her.  Dad can come to the breastfeeding classes prenatally with mom too and learn all the tips to help breastfeeding get off to a good start. They will sometimes remember things that mom has forgotten. There are so many things Dads and support people can do and I am so excited when I see great teamwork in action.

8. Should I still breastfeed if I’m sick?
Absolutely.  When mom is exposed to a germ in her environment or she gets sick, her body starts to make antibodies that are aimed at fighting that germ.  So, her milk becomes a custom made pharmacy for baby.  Baby will get live antibodies in the milk that are fighting that germ that may be in the baby’s environment.  Baby doesn’t have to get sick and have her body start to generate the antibody.  Baby gets it custom made from mom.  There are a few infections (chickenpox, herpes lesion on the breast, HIV, etc.)  that have restrictions for breastfeeding.  If you have any concerns, check with your doctor or lactation consultant.

9. How can I best manage breastfeeding once I return to work?
The workplaces have become much more friendly for breastfeeding in recent years.  Most workplaces have a designated pumping/nursing room where you can go to express milk for your baby. Before returning to work, you should talk with your employer about your need to pump regularly during the workday and together determine the best place for that.  You would need to pump approx. 15 minutes every 2-4 hrs. depending upon your baby’s feeding schedule.  Planning ahead and gathering supplies (pump, cooler pack, bottles, storage bag, storage area at work, etc.) can help alleviate some stress before going back to work.  You may also want to start pumping at home 1-2 times daily during your maternity leave to establish a backup supply of milk for your freezer.  This will give you peace of mind if you fall behind on pumping at work.  Do some trials with your baby, taking a bottle 3-4 weeks after birth occasionally to get your baby used to a bottle.  Then, when it gets closer to return to work time, do some trial runs with your babysitter as well.  This will lessen stress for mom and baby and will make the transition easier.  Talk with dad and support people to help with dinners, cleaning, and more so you can do lots of snuggling and relax with your baby before and after work.  You deserve it and extra snuggling/nursing will help you make good milk too!  Visit womenshealth.gov to find great information about pumping and returning to work.

10. What breastfeeding resources are available to me?
There is a multitude of breastfeeding resources available.  We recommend starting first with your local hospital, health department/WIC office, or La Leche League group.  There are many caring health professionals and lactation support people to help you with your journey.  You may be able to schedule a visit/attend a class or support group with a lactation consultant in your area to learn more prior to birth.  If you are having any difficulties with breastfeeding, you should schedule a visit with a lactation consultant.  It is also a great thing to attend a breastfeeding support group.  La Leche League is a great support organization – moms helping moms.  Your local hospital or health dept. may sponsor one as well.   We hold one at Firelands weekly.  One of our lactation consultants is always present and we weigh babies, discuss concerns or questions, and moms support each other.  There are many resources online as well. 

Breastfeeding Resources