Breastfeeding can be a hard, isolating, and emotional journey, which is why it's so important to have support. That's why Romper launched a Facebook breastfeeding community, Breastfeeding TBH — 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, and each week in Rack Facts, Romper speaks with a lactation consultant to answer as many of those questions as possible. After all, everyone can use a little expert help, especially when it comes to feeding your kid.
Social media may be a well of judgement, but it's also one of the best things for a mom, especially those who feel like they have no idea what they're doing. (So everyone, right?) Hashtags like #NormalizeIt and #SometimesBreastfeedingLooksLikeThis have opened up incredible communities and discussions about one aspect of parenting that is constantly making moms question everything — breastfeeding.
Pumping, weaning, increasing a low milk supply, struggling with lip and tongue ties, trying to keep breast milk cold until you can get it to a fridge — all are very real struggles breastfeeding moms can face, and that's barely scratching the surface. People love to judge about breastfeeding, but those who choose not to do it have no idea all that the simple (ha, OK) act of feeding your child entails. To answer some of those tough questions, I reached out to Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge and is a total expert, so check out her Facebook page if you want more tips, tricks, and advice.
I am breastfeeding a 9-month-old girl at the moment. I would like to start weaning. How do I start?
O'Connor says the first thing to do is to make sure that your baby can tolerate formula, because before the age of one, most of a baby's nutrition comes from breast milk or formula. "But if you can continue for three more months, you will not need to rely on formula," O'Connor says. She also suggests taking your time. "It is important to move slowly to avoid engorgement, which can lead to mastitis," she says. "Find which nursing session is the most important and eliminate that one last. Also, offer plenty of hugs and eye contact as nursing has those elements built in."
2. Pumping For A Sick Baby
My daughter was recently admitted into the PICU at 2 months old from sudden cardiac arrest. She is hooked up to several things and won't be able to get nutrition for a while via a feeding tube. She is exclusively breastfed and I've been pumping but I'm very worried about my supply running out.
You got this, mama. "Keep pumping, ideally using a hospital grade pump, at least eight times per 24 hours" O'Connor says. "If you are able to offer skin to skin to your baby, it helps with her healing as well as with your milk supply."
3. Keeping Milk Cold On The Go
I work as a sales person and am getting ready to return to work on Monday. I drive all day from one customer location to another with no home base. I'll need to pump and store milk in my vehicle. How do I keep milk cold in the car?
O'Connor suggests any type of car fridge or cooler should work, as long as you can keep the milk around 32 to 39 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Baby With Ties Refusing Bottle
My 15-week-old (she was six weeks early) barely ever accepted a bottle and now that we got her tongue and lip ties corrected, she refuses it all together. How long will it take (if ever) to get baby to take a bottle?
Don't fret yet. O'Connor says that some babies are just purists when it comes to breastfeeding, but that doesn't mean you can't try. "You can have someone else offer the bottle, but the caregiver should keep the baby upright, even try wearing your baby," she says. "Some babies also respond to movement – like the adult sitting on a birthing ball or rocking chair while feeding." She also recommends skin to skin contact while giving your baby the bottle, as well as making sure the bottle touches your baby's palate. "Some babies respond to sucking if the bottle makes gentle contact with the hard palate."
5. Baby Not Pooping
What is the longest amount of time an exclusively breastfed 2-month-old can go without pooping? My son hasn't gone in a week and three days. I know it's normal for exclusively breastfed babies to not go often, but how long is too long?
"There is not a real answer here, as many babies to go a long time without stooling," O'Connor says. "If the baby is comfortable and gaining, that is a good thing. When all is well and the gut is healthy, babies typically stool at least once a day."
6. Increasing Supply
With my first child I was unable to breastfeed; I just didn't produce. Now with my second, who is 3 weeks old, I'm producing, but not enough. How can I increase my supply?
"If there was little to no breast growth while pregnant it is possible that you have hypoplasia of the breasts or insufficient glandular tissue," O'Connor says. "But many moms can build supply with medications, herbs, and a baby latching." She also points out that any amount of milk is good for your baby, so give what you can. You can even try supplementing with donor milk, and O'Connor adds that domperidone can help with low supply. "Goat’s rue, shatavari and malunggay are herbs that have also helped moms make more milk," O'Connor says.
7. Breastfeeding With An Upper Lip Tie
Did any of you have a baby with an upper lip tie? My six-week-old has one and there's been so many issues with breastfeeding. It's so painful, he feeds for hours at a time, and because he's getting mostly foremilk, he's constantly pooping. I'm really thinking about getting the tie released. Does it help with breastfeeding?
"Often a lip tie is coupled with a tongue tie," O'Connor says. "This tethered tissue can make for painful nursing and it can lead to low milk supply or slow weight gain. Freeing this tissue can help with nursing, mom’s comfort, and baby’s ability to get milk more effectively." But the benefits of having the tie released don't end with breastfeeding. It can also help with gassiness and possible future problems like stomach issues, speech issues and dental issues.
8. Baby Constantly Hungry
My baby is 3 weeks old and most days wants to nurse every hour and a half to two hours. He acts like he's always hungry. I know I have plenty of milk. Is this normal?
Don't worry, this is totally normal, especially for a 3-week-old. "It is a major growth spurt time," O'Connor says. "Also, many babies want and need to be held and they communicate by rooting. Nursing is more than just a feeding method —it is a way to keep mom and baby close and to keep baby safe and secure. Before putting down, be sure he is asleep. If a baby is put down before he is in a deep sleep, he may root to be picked up. This is an instinct that protects him." O'Connor also suggests that cluster feeding helps with longer stretches of sleep in between.
9. Breastfeeding For 6 Months Or 12
Is it better to breastfeed exclusively for six months or breastfeed with formula supplementation for a year? What's more important, longevity or exclusivity?
"There is not a definite answer to this question. We know that once you add a supplement, even once, it changes the baby’s gut, so from this perspective, exclusive is important. On the other hand, a baby’s immune system is much stronger as long as he gets his mom’s milk, so keeping up breastfeeding for longer can help keep him protected from bugs and help his immune system. This is not just for when he is a baby — the longer a baby is breastfed, the better his immune system is throughout his life," O'Connor says.
10. Vitamin D Supplement
My pediatrician told me that I need to give my exclusively breastfed daughter vitamin D supplement. Should I give it to her or not?
It's not a bad idea, considering that a vitamin D deficiency seems to be common in most people, O'Connor suggests. "Unless you can get blood work to determine yours and your baby’s levels, it is generally a good idea to supplement," O'Connor says." There are vitamin D drops that are simply one drop of 400 IU of vitamin D and that's sufficient. There is no need to offer the vitamin D that has other additives."
11. Eating Nuts While Breastfeeding
Can you eat peanuts or any type of nuts while breastfeeding?
Absolutely. "Enjoy all the food you typically eat," O'Connor says.
12. Periods & Breastfeeding
I have a five-month-old baby boy and I am exclusively breastfeeding. I pump for him since I work five hours a day, but I just got my period. I'm shocked. How is this possible? I never had one while nursing my daughter. I'm concerned with how this will affect my milk supply.
Every baby is different, but O'Connor suggests that your baby receiving a bottle could could be the reason your period returned. "Even if your baby is only getting your milk, babies sucking at breasts is what keeps fertility at bay. But even though you have your period, you can keep nursing as long as you and your baby agree," O'Connor says.
13. Breast Pumps
I'm exclusively pumping for my little one and I'm not super satisfied with my pump. Is there a favorite out there?
"Many moms feel a hospital grade pump is the way to go as it is smoother and more effective in most cases," O'Connor says.