BabyFeedingTop Ten Breastfeeding Questions and Answers

Top Ten Breastfeeding Questions and Answers

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Breastfeeding can be equally challenging and rewarding. If you are able to do it with success, it is the optimal and most natural way to provide your baby with the best nutrition possible. That said, it can be overwhelming and confusing for new moms, and many moms feel ill-prepared when they start breastfeeding for the first time. Here are answers to the top ten questions about breastfeeding to help you navigate this journey.

When should I start breastfeeding my baby?

Ideally, you should try to start breastfeeding within the first hour after your baby is born. This is when your baby is most alert and receptive to breastfeeding and it’s important to stimulate your body to start producing milk. It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and some may need a little more time to get started.

Additionally, for the first few days after your baby is born, know that your body only produces colostrum, which is a thick, yellow fluid that contains a high concentration of antibodies and other immune-boosting substances that help protect your newborn from infections or diseases. It also contains high levels of protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals, making it extremely nutritious and important for a baby’s growth and development. After a few days, your “mature milk” will come in; this is a thin and white fluid that your body will produce in a much larger quantity than colostrum.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

In the first few weeks, you should aim to breastfeed your baby every two to three hours around the clock, or as often as your baby seems hungry (this is sometimes called “breastfeeding on demand.”) As your baby grows, he or she may go longer between feedings and sleep longer periods at night without eating. Be sure to consult your doctor about weaning night feeds to ensure your baby is gaining sufficient weight.

For how long should I breastfeed my baby?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life. After your baby reaches six months, you should introduce solid food and can continue to breastfeed your baby until he or she is two years old (or beyond, if desired). The length of time you breastfeed your baby is a very personal decision, and every mother-baby pair is different. Some mothers find breastfeeding too physically or emotionally challenging, or their bodies don’t produce a sufficient amount of milk, so they choose to introduce formula, which is also a perfectly acceptable and healthy choice for your baby. Remember, fed is best!

How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

Especially in the early days of your baby’s life, your pediatrician will closely monitor your baby’s weight to ensure they are gaining weight sufficiently. A healthy, breastfed baby should gain around five to seven ounces per week for the first few months of life. Most babies will have doubled their birth weight by about three to four months old.

While breastfeeding, you can look for signs of fullness in your baby by monitoring their active sucking and swallowing. Also, pay attention to your baby’s hands! He or she may have clenched fists when they begin a feed and are hungry. Those fists will slowly relax as they gain contentment and fullness.

Can I breastfeed if I have small breasts?

Contrary to popular belief, breast size has little to do with your ability to breastfeed. Breast size is determined by the amount of fatty tissue, while milk production is primarily determined by the number and activity of milk-producing cells in the breast tissue. The more stimulation these cells receive from your baby sucking, the more milk they will produce. Interestingly, some women with small breasts may actually have an easier time breastfeeding, as their milk ducts and milk-producing cells may be more densely packed, leading to a higher milk supply.

One challenge small breasts may present is difficulty finding a comfortable nursing position. Be sure to work with a certified lactation consultant for support and guidance if you are having trouble with this.

Can I breastfeed if I have inverted or flat nipples?

Yes, both of these challenges can be overcome with the help of a doctor, lactation consultant, or other breastfeeding professional. Nipple shields are very helpful in assisting with your baby’s latch if you have flat or inverted nipples. In general, however, your baby’s mouth will naturally shape your nipple to fit in their mouth.

Can I breastfeed if I have had breast surgery?

The answer to this question depends on the type of surgery you had. Some breast surgeries, such as breast augmentation, may not affect your ability to breastfeed. Other surgeries, however, such as breast reduction or mastectomy may make breastfeeding difficult or impossible. It’s important to discuss your future breastfeeding goals with your healthcare provider prior to having surgery.

Can I breastfeed if I have Covid-19?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding is considered safe for mothers with Covid-19, as long as they take appropriate precautions. You should wear a mask while breastfeeding and also wash your hands before and after. Breastfeeding while sick with Covid-19 or another illness will actually provide important antibodies to protect your baby from being infected.

How can I increase my milk supply?

There are several ways to increase your milk supply while breastfeeding. Nursing or pumping frequently is the most effective way to do so, and some women use a method called “power pumping,” which involves pumping breast milk for a set amount of time, usually around twenty minutes, followed by a ten-minute break, and then pumping again for another ten to twenty minutes. This cycle is repeated for an hour or more, usually once or twice a day.

Other effective methods include ensuring a proper latch, staying well-hydrated, and eating a balanced diet. Some women swear by certain herbs or supplements, such as fenugreek or blessed thistle to increase milk supply (but keep in mind that these methods have not been scientifically proven to help).

What can I do if breastfeeding is painful?

Breastfeeding is often painful for women in the beginning. Common causes of pain include improper latch, breast engorgement, raw nipples, and thrush or mastitis. Be sure to consult your doctor or lactation consultant to determine the cause of your pain. Using nipple shields, nipple pads, a warm compress, and nipple balm may alleviate the pain. If you have thrush or mastitis, you may need anti-fungal and/or antibiotic medication to cure it.

Written by

Abigail Purcell, RN
Abigail Purcell, RN
Abigail is one of our expert writers and is a BSN, RN (Registered Nurse) with a wide range of experience. She has worked in Public Health, Medical-Surgical nursing, and, most recently, Paediatrics and Women’s Health. Her true passion is serving mothers and families by helping them navigate their healthcare. As a nurse writer, Abby enjoys being able to empower patients on a larger scale, using evidence-based information that is easy to access and understand.

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