10 Real Breastfeeding Questions About Solids, Milk Fat, & More, Answered By An Expert
Breastfeeding can be a hard, isolating, and emotional journey, which is why it's so important to have a community of supporters. Romper has launched a new Facebook breastfeeding community, Breastfeeding TBH, in an effort to help make feeding another human being with your own body a little easier. Every day, readers ask questions because, let's face it, breastfeeding is complicated. Each week, Romper will be speaking with a lactation consultant to answer as many of these questions as possible.
If you've ever stared at a bottle of your breast milk in the fridge, trying to figure out if you're doing it right or if all breast milk is supposed to look like a tub of cottage cheese gone bad, I feel you. There are few things worse than worrying about every little thing, but hey. Parenthood, am I right? And breastfeeding. It's amazing that your breasts can nourish a baby, but it's also kind off-putting when you have literally no idea how any of it works.
You're not alone. I took your questions to International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kristin Gourley to get answers so you can stay off Google. Gourley works with Lactation Link which offers in-home consultations in the greater Utah Valley area, but she also teaches online, on-demand, comprehensive video classes. Their expertise covers everything from learning how to breastfeed to pumping efficiently so you can go back to work, so head to Lactation Link's Facebook or Instagram to join the community.
1. Breast Milk Doesn't Look Fatty Enough
When I store my breast milk in the fridge I've noticed when it separates there isn't a whole lot of fat in it. How do I fix this? I feel like my little guy is never full.
It's actually not possible to measure the amount of fat and calories in your milk by its appearance, and Gourley notes that there have been studies proving that the amount of fat in a mother's milk isn't changed much by what she eats. "The best way to make sure that your baby is full and growing well is to nurse often, at least eight to ten times per day," Gourley says. "If you still don't think your baby is full or growing well, see an IBCLC."
2. Losing Weight While Breastfeeding
My baby will be two months next week and I am finally ready (with doctor’s permission) to start exercising again, but I’m afraid if I lose weight it might affect my supply. I typically lose weight in my breasts first. This makes me nervous. Any tips would be helpful.
"If you lose weight in your breasts, that would be fatty tissue and not the network of ducts in your breasts, which are what is responsible for making milk," Gourley says. To ensure your milk supply stays adequate while exercising, Gourley says to breastfeed at least eight to 10 times per day, eat and drink to your hunger and thirst, and exercise in moderation and to your current fitness level.
3. Baby Refuses Bottle
I have an 8-week-old who is used to taking a bottle of breast milk, but we went two weeks without giving him one and now he refuses to take it. Any suggestions on how to make him take the bottle again?
Don't give up. "Offer the bottle often, but don't force it, and take a break if he gets upset," Gourley says. She says warming the bottle nipple by running it under warm water before feeding might help as well as letting your baby touch the nipple with his lips and allowing him to latch on like he would your breast rather than forcing it in his mouth. "Another option is to feed him with a small cup, like a medicine cup or shot glass, and tip it into his mouth so he laps up the milk."
4. Baby Refusing Solids
I need advice on how to get my exclusively breastfed 7-month-old boy to eat solids. I have tried everything like mixing it with my breast milk or cereal and putting it in a bottle. He flat out refuses to even open his mouth to try it. His doctor put him on iron drops and every time I give it to him he pukes. He still wakes three to four times a night and I worry he isn't getting enough sleep. I also worry he isn't getting enough nutrients from my milk.
Don't worry about your milk — it's full of nutrients and some babies just take a while to warm up to solid foods. "You can try letting him hold a spoon so he feels like he has some control and you could also try offering diced up food for him to work on self-feeding," Gourley says. She notes that it's a learning experience and that it's also normal for your baby to wake up at night to nurse. "The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization agree that breast milk should still be the primary form of nutrition through the first year of life even after solids are introduced," she says. "If you're worried, have your pediatrician do a simple blood test to check your baby's iron."
5. Leaking Colostrum Years After Breastfeeding
I haven't breastfed my daughter since she was 18 months old and I dried up. She is about to be 3 years old in two months. I was watching my newborn nephew who is breastfed and when he cried, I felt tingling in my breasts and sure enough, some sticky, almost colostrum type of milk came out. Is this normal?
"It can be normal, especially if you have had any regular stimulation of your breasts like water in the shower or sexual contact or if you're around babies often," Gourley says. "It’s often referred to as 'weaning milk' and does resemble colostrum. It can also happen if you're pregnant, even in very early pregnancy. If you're worried or anything else feels off, your doctor can do simple breast, thyroid, or pituitary tests to make sure all is well."
6. Baby Irritable When Breastfeeding Rather Than Bottle Feeding
My baby is 4 months old and we breastfeed during the day and my husband gives two or three bottles in the middle of the night while I pump. Lately during the day feeding sessions, my baby gets so crabby. He'll actively nurse for like five or eight minutes on one side, then start crying, squirming, kicking, and pulling off. I switch sides and it's the same scenario five minutes later. I'm just not sure what he's trying to tell me. I don't know if I should just give him a bottle when he gets like this.
"He may be preferring a faster or constant flow like the bottle has," Gourley says. "You could try to nurse at night instead of using a bottle so he knows that’s the way to get food at this point, or you could try paced bottle feeding, where you sit baby up and the bottle is more horizontal than vertical so the milk flow isn’t as fast, and also take frequent burping breaks." She says that the more you nurse, the more he'll trust the flow of your breast milk since it's not constant. She also notes that it's possible he's become efficient at breastfeeding and is actually getting all the milk he needs in those few minutes.
7. Insomnia When Night Weaning
Is it normal to suffer from insomnia due to night weaning?
Weaning hormones can cause a lot of changes, so it could certainly be possible to have insomnia related to night weaning notes Gourley. "Try to go to bed earlier instead of waiting until you're super tired, make sure you're eating well, getting outside, and exercising during the day, and turn off all electronics about an hour before bed," she says. She notes that if you're still having trouble sleeping, consider any anxiety you might also be feeling and see a doctor to improve your sleep.
8. Red, Hard Breast While Exclusively Pumping
I have a preemie in the NICU, therefore I'm exclusively pumping. For about three days now, I've had a hardened lower breast and it’s beginning to look red. I believe that as result of this my milk supply on that same breast has significantly lowered. The pain is getting worse as time goes on. Is this normal and what can I do?
"If the pain is increasing and there’s a red streak, it may be a plugged duct that could turn into or already be mastitis," Gourley says. "If you have or get a fever, see a doctor because mastitis is very treatable but miserable to endure." To help remove as much milk as possible but increase your comfort, she recommends using "hands on pumping" which means massaging and compressing your breasts as you pump. "It’s not uncommon for supply to temporarily lower due to a plugged duct or mastitis, but with regular milk removal and resolving any infection, it will rebound."
9. Special Diets While Breastfeeding
I find it so hard to eat my regular normal foods now because I feel like it's been affecting my newborn’s tummy. Sometimes he gets runny diapers, and sometimes he’s really constipated. Today he's been really fussy and crying. I’m starving and I just don't know what to do with myself at this point. Any tips on what to cook or eat on the daily?
If your baby is dealing with true constipation (hard, pellet-like stool), then he should treated by a doctor, but runny stools, fussiness, and crying are normal. "Most mothers find they can eat whatever they want while breastfeeding without issue for their babies or in their milk supply," Gourley says. "If you feel like your baby is sensitive to something in your milk or is more fussy than he should be, you should see a doctor or an IBCLC."
She recommends keeping one-handed snacks around like granola bars, fruit, or simple sandwiches so you can grab one when you're hungry or use a baby carrier so you can prepare food while keeping your little one happy.
10. When To Introduce Solids
I’ve heard breastfed babies don't need to eat food for up to six to eight months as your breast milk has more nutrients in it than food does. Would you recommend starting the recommended foods at around 4 months old as most say to do or wait longer and introduce food later? Do you think waiting made your kids picky eaters?
"The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend waiting to begin introducing solid foods until the middle of the first year, so about 6 months old," Gourley says. "This is to help baby’s gut to mature to be able to digest food and nutrients as best as possible." Developmental signs of readiness for solids are also something to look for like good head control, sitting independently, grabbing things with the thumb and forefinger, and interest in what you’re eating.
"The best way to prevent picky eaters is to offer a variety of foods from the beginning," she says. "It can take many tries (even 15 to 20) for a baby to learn to like a food, so continue offering." Research has also found that introducing foods while still also breastfeeding can protect against allergies, so any food is okay from the beginning, provided it’s not a choking risk, Gourley notes. Honey is the only no-no as it has a risk of botulism in infants until after they turn 1 year old.