Most Commonly Asked Breastfeeding Questions
Breastfeeding is both scary and beautiful, all at the same time! But sometimes it’s mostly scary! All new moms have questions about breastfeeding so know that you’re in good company!
Let’s get started answering your burning breastfeeding questions.
Q: What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?
“Breast is best,” you’ll now hear from countless pediatricians and OB-gyns all over the world. After decades of believing that nursing was something only low-income mothers did because they had to, doctors now acknowledge that there is no better means of nourishing your infant than with the equipment nature provided in the first place.
While choosing to breastfeed vs. formula-feed your baby should be based on your own preference, lifestyle, comfort level, physical ability and of course the approval of your physician, it helps to have the facts laid out before you prior to making a final decision.
Q: What are the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding?
A: Breastfeeding delivers complete nutrition for the first six months of life. On January 20, 2011 the Surgeon General issued a pro-breastfeeding call to action.
According to their abstract on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk: “Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neuro-developmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”
Breastfeeding protects an infant’s developing immune system. Antibodies are passed from mother to baby via her breast milk, thus lowering the child’s susceptibility to germs. According to the same abstract quoted above, “The risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in the first year is reduced 72% if infants breastfed exclusively for more than 4 months.13,14” It is also reported to reduce the likelihood of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) by 58%.
Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of:
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
(For more information, refer to the Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk abstract mentioned above, or click the numbered links for a redirect to their originating sources.)
Q: Am I doing this right? Breast pumping tips for new mothers
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A: If anyone says you “just can’t make milk“ or if you feel like breast pumping isn’t working, don’t listen to them and don’t give up. Instead, do this:
Eat really healthy and get lots of rest. Make lots of colorful veggies, healthy protein, whole grains and dairy part of your diet. If you’re sensitive to milk, eat plain yogurt instead. It doesn’t contain lactose. Go to bed early and take naps if you need them. (You will.) Drink your mother’s milk tea!
Continue taking your prenatal vitamins and calcium/magnesium. This is very important. Breastfeeding mothers need the boost of B vitamins that baby is draining out of their bodies as he uses up their nutrition. The stress of adjusting to motherhood will also rob you of needed nutrients.
Aim for a minimum of a full, 2.7 oz bottle per side. That’s a minimum. If your milk production is good, you should be able to make 2 of these bottles per side, with no problem. But you’ll have to work up to that – it doesn’t happen in the beginning. Bring 4 clean bottles and caps with you each time you pump, so you won’t be tempted to stop after only pumping one bottle on each side.
This is my favorite breast pump and I have used it for all seven of my babies with great success.
Pump even more than the experts tell you to. If the nurse says “Pump for 10,” do it for 20, on each side. The learning curve means it will take longer to get enough milk when you first begin to pump, so plan to over-achieve so you can meet your goals.
Pump often – at least every 3 hours around the clock.
Massage your breasts before starting to pump. Lay your palm out flat and massage circles around your breast, from the outside by your armpit, in toward your areola and nipple.
Ensure strong nipple suction. Just like the baby must latch in order to suck milk out, the breast pump’s nipple should be firmly attached until a suction forms – otherwise you’ll just be swishing air into your bottles. Periodically check to see if you’re still “latched” to the nipple cup or shield. If not, remove and reattach to your breast, making sure to cover the entire areola with the nipple cup. Push it on to ensure suction.
Press/massage your breasts while pumping. There are milk ducts all over the inside of your breast, from the armpit area to the nipple. Check out a diagram to better understand where the milk is being manufactured. As you pump, the flow may stop and start. If it stops, try gently massaging different spots on your breast – or be aggressive like I was, and really mash them in there! I know that if my flow subsided, I could always get more by pressing my breast on the outside and then the inside.
Stop, then start again. Sometimes all it takes to get the milk flowing is a little pause and then a restart.
Pump until the milk forms a layer of fat. It may take until the second, 2.7 oz bottle fills before the milk becomes thick and rich. Have patience and stick it out to the finish.
Be an “active” pumper. Don’t just sit there gaping at the television. Instead, take note of what your breasts are doing. Is the nipple shield still suctioned on, or is it just hanging there making a swishing sound? LOOK at what is coming out. If you don’t see white streams of milk flowing into the bottle, reposition your breast or squeeze it around.
Be a determined breast pumper. Don’t let anyone else psych you out – not even your doctor. If you really want to make milk, you can do it!!!!
Q: Is it okay to give my breastfed newborn a pacifier?
A: The consensus among nursing mothers is that use of a pacifier should be avoided with newborns who are learning to nurse.
Why? The pacifier will sub in for the actual breast. The idea with newborn babies is that they have to master the tough challenge of learning how to breastfeed. This is no easy feat. Pop a different sort of nipple in there, and when they get to the actual nipple, it’s going to feel strange in their mouths. And perhaps they won’t even have the urge to practice nursing, having done it with the pacifier for some time.
Other facts about pacifiers and nursing:
Breastfed babies who use pacifiers are more likely to develop thrush (mouth yeast infection) and then transfer it to Mom’s breasts.
It is not recommended for nursing infants to use a pacifier until they are 6 to 8 weeks of age.
Using a pacifier can interfere with your ability to establish milk supply. This is because the baby should be practicing on Mom, not on an artificial nipple. The more a newborn practices suckling, the quicker mom’s milk comes in.
Q: Do Breastfed Babies Spit Up Less?
A: In the vast majority of cases, breastfed babies do tend to spit up less than bottle-fed babies. Breast milk is said to be gentler on the digestive system, containing the perfect balance of nutritional needs. Baby formula tends to contain more sugar (corn syrup) and be higher in protein, causing the baby’s stomach to have to work harder to process it.
Additionally, baby bottle nipples are easier for baby to suck milk out of because the hole tends to be larger and the flow is easier. This means the baby has to work much less harder to actually get milk. An artificial (bottle) nipple that has too easy of a flow can cause the baby to consume formula at too quickly of a rate. While it may be satisfying for a new mother to watch her newborn quickly drain a bottle, the rapid influx of formula into the baby’s delicate new digestive system can cause digestive upset, including reflux and spitting up.
If your breastfed baby does seem to spit up a lot, you may wish to check with your pediatrician about this. In some cases, the baby’s stomach may be sensitive to something the mother has eaten that is being transferred via her breast milk.
If you have any concerns about spitting up, whether your baby is breastfed or bottle fed, you should talk with your pediatrician about your concerns.
Q: At What Age Will My Baby Stop Breastfeeding?
A: Remember when your baby was first born, and it seemed like she would never learn to latch, let alone breastfeed? Now look at the two of you… you’re old nursing pros together! And after lifting your shirt for the umpteen trillion bazillionth time, hunched in your car, in a back room at parties, in the middle of the night, on family vacations, etc…. you may be thinking… it’s time to be done.
Of course every child does eventually wean from breastfeeding. The “when” just depends on the child, the mother, and the unique circumstances surrounding them.
If you just continued indefinitely nursing, without eliminating feedings and encouraging more independent activities, how long would your child keep on clinging to the comforting act of drinking milk from your breasts for? Truth be told, every child is different. In more undeveloped countries, it’s common to see 3 and 4-year olds hanging on to those last few comfort feedings from mother. And that’s totally fine!
The combination of the child’s personality (needy versus independent), the mother’s efforts to direct baby toward other pastimes; the comfort he may find in other, non-breastfeeding activities, and the ability to self soothe… all play a part in when/how your child officially gives up breastfeeding for good.
Weaning from breastfeeding is part of the “come here – go away” dance and means toddlerhood is fast approaching. Your child nurses a little less, and a little less, as time passes. Sometimes he comes back to it if needing extra closeness that day. Sometimes the feeding is very short in duration, as he has other, more interesting things competing for his attention. Other days, he wants to regress to babyhood and hold onto Mom and the sweet, milky goodness for just a little longer. But it definitely does end.
If you are eager for this to be sooner rather than later, then find substitute activities to replace nursing time. Start giving your child a cup of milk, instead of the breast, before a nap. Avoid talking about it if you can. Quietly replace nursing with another fun activity… imaginative play, a snack and a drink, a walk in the park. Go on new and exciting outings, find fun new playmates… there are many ways to occupy a toddler’s busy mind and get her thinking in terms of the great, big world, rather than the small world of moms and babies and breastfeeding. No matter how long or quickly it takes, don’t worry… every child is different, and it’s all good.
For more in depth information, check out this post: Wondering How to Wean Your Baby? Easy Tips to Stop Breastfeeding
Surely you have other breastfeeding questions, but these are just a few to get you started. In the meantime, check out these other related posts for more reading:
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Your Biggest Breastfeeding Questions Answered