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.
If you've breastfed for any length of time, you know that all sorts of things can affect your breastfeeding journey. Birth control, day care, even pumping to grow that freezer supply every nursing mom covets — they can all change the way you breastfeed and the breastfeeding relationship between you and your kid. Like most areas of parenting, breastfeeding is a totally gray one and doesn't always have a simple solution. (Like, ever.)
Sure, you know that pumping more frequently can increase your supply, but when are you supposed to squeeze in that fun activity? Your day is already jam-packed. You know that your baby has to take a bottle to go to day care, but it's so much easier to just let them nurse instead of listening to them scream. And you have to work, but hearing how much your baby wanted you and needed you? That's just heartbreaking.
I spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor to get her expertise on these situations and how you can minimize the negative affects they have on breastfeeding your baby.
1. Baby Refuses Bottle
My 8-week-old is exclusively breastfed. We've been doing great, but I haven't been able to return to work or do errands alone because he won't take a bottle. His grandparents have tried giving him a bottle of breast milk while I was out of the house and he refused until I came home to feed him. By that time, he was very hungry and upset. It would be nice to get him to use a bottle so I can get a little time to myself.
There are a few tricks your loved ones and caregivers can use when feeding your baby a bottle. "Whoever is offering the bottle should cuddle him, offer skin to skin, and make sure the bottle is slow," O'Connor says. The feeding position may also affect your baby's ability to drink from a bottle. "The baby should not be in a reclined position, rather sitting more upright so that the flow is manageable. Sometimes movement helps such as rocking in a chair, a yoga ball or even wearing the baby in a carrier."
2. Baby Not Satisfied After Bottle
I go back to work in two weeks and for the most part exclusively breastfeed my 1-month-old son. He occasionally gets a bottle of pumped milk, but after drinking it, he will scream (even after eating enough) until he can be on my breast (he just likes to suckle and isn't big on pacifiers). How do I transition him to the bottle to get him used to it before day care?
"Often, bottles are fast and babies won't get their sucking needs met if they are fed quickly," O'Connor says. She suggests offering your baby breaks while drinking the bottle to help slow it down.
3. Breastfeeding While Taking Pain Pills
I'm currently pregnant and was wondering if I'd be able to breastfeed after having a C-section. Will any type of pain medicine affect breastfeeding?
"You can absolutely breastfeed after a Cesarean. Many medications are compatible with breastfeeding," O'Connor says. She recommends checking out The InfantRisk Center or LactMed for more information on which medications are compatible with breastfeeding or what alternatives you should try.
4. Maintaining Supply When Pumping
I pump two to three times a day now to build supply for day care. As far as pumping at work, I may only be able to pump once a day at lunch and then maybe in the car to and from work if I can buy a hands free system. How do I keep up my supply during the transition to day care and while I'm at work?
This is a problem many breastfeeding mothers worry about, so you're in great company. "It can be stressful to return to work and to balance mothering, breastfeeding, and a career," O'Connor says. "Many moms find that they are able to keep up their supply if they pump about three times during the typical workday. If you find that does not help you can add another pump during the day when you are with your baby. Also, nurse your baby frequently when you are together." O'Connor also says that most moms make the most milk at night, so be sure to nurse your young babies throughout the night. "Keep baby within arms reach at night so that you can nurse him easily," she says.
5. Keeping Baby Cool While Nursing
It seems like my baby gets hot and sweaty very quickly, but he isn't running a fever and if at home, he generally isn't clothed. I just feel bad for him and wish I could prevent him from sweating. How do you keep your little one cool when breastfeeding?
To put it simply, some people just sweat more than others. But O'Connor suggests using a gauze blanket between you and your baby during the hot and humid weather to help keep him cool. But don't worry about his hydration. Your amazing body is taking care of that already. "When the weather is hot, your milk has a higher concentration of water to keep baby hydrated," O'Connor says.
6. Nursing After Surgery
I have gallstones and have to have surgery. I am breastfeeding my 5-week-old and don't have enough pumped to last him a whole day without nursing. Will I be able to nurse after the surgery?
Depending on the medicine you're given, you may be able to nurse after your surgery. "Ask your physician or anesthesiologist which medication they will use and look to see if it is compatible with breastfeeding," O'Connor says. She recommends checking out resources like The InfantRisk Center or LactMed for medication options.
7. Tandem Nursing A 2-Year-Old That Never Breastfed
I have a 2-year-old and a breastfeeding 6-month-old. My 2-year-old wasn’t able to be breastfed before, but wants to now. Everybody is against me feeding my 2-year-old on the breast and I don't know what to do.
Forget the critics, mama. You're the mom and you get to decide how to feed your babies. "It is normal for a 2-year-old to breastfeed," O'Connor says. "Chances are your 2-year-old will not know how to suck to get milk out, but you can offer him the opportunity. Many moms tandem nurse." O'Connor also suggests expressing some of your breast milk and offering it to your toddler.
8. Baby Shortens Nursing Sessions
My 2-month-old usually nurses for about 30 to 35 minutes, but all the sudden she's dropped down to only 20 minutes. Is that normal?
Sounds pretty normal. "It's possible that she is able to get the milk out faster and is satisfied sooner than usual," O'Connor says. "If she is gaining weight appropriately, just follow her lead."
9. Pressure To Wean
My mother keeps pressuring me to wean my 15-month-old daughter off of breastfeeding. I feel she is not ready to be weaned yet, but the pressure from my mother is really getting on my nerves. Am I doing the right thing or is my mother actually right and I am feeding her like this for too long?
Trust your instincts, mama. "It is normal for babies to nurse into toddlerhood," O'Connor says. "Babies who wean before the age of two actually wean prematurely."
10. Baby Refuses Bottles Each Night
I have a 5-month-old breastfed baby. He will take bottles throughout the day fine, especially if we are driving or out. But I’ve been working nights until around 9 or 10 p.m.. At about 8 p.m., he refuses to take anymore bottles and he has to have me home to nurse him so he can sleep. He will literally scream until I get home. What can I do?
"Most likely a tincture of time is what you need," O'Connor says. Try not to worry too much. "The caregiver should be willing to put forth energy to rock and soothe your little guy. He will learn to trust that you will return."
11. IUD & Milk Supply
My baby is 2 months old and primarily breastfed. He takes occasional bottle on days I work and I pump on work days and in the evening, producing a lot of milk. I have an IUD and wondered if it can cause an issue with milk production?
"Some moms experience a drop in milk supply with hormonal birth control, others do not," O'Connor says. "Unfortunately, there is no way to know in advance. Many moms use non-hormonal IUDs or other non-hormonal methods of birth control."
12. Dealing With Oversupply
My 5-week-old is showing classic symptoms of oversupply. He is eating every hour or less for only five to ten minutes, he is gassy, spitting up, and needs burped often. I currently just pump two to three times a week. Can irregular pumping cause an oversupply?
"You may want to focus on managing your supply and letdown," O'Connor says, adding that you should cut out the pumping. She suggests side-lying nursing to help with an oversupply, as well as nursing on the same breast for two feedings in a row.
13. Baby Falling Asleep While Latching
My daughter is 1 month old and the first two weeks of breastfeeding were great. These last two weeks she will latch, but she instantly falls asleep. I'm strictly pumping now and, on occasion, supplementing with formula when I can't keep up supply or we are out and I can't pump. I'm desperate to keep her awake for a full nurse.
It might be time to seek some professional help. "In this situation I recommend seeing an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant," O'Connor says. "There are different reasons this could be going on so getting personalized help is your best bet." You can check out the International Lactation Consultant Association to find a consultant in your area.