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.
They say most of parenting is relying on your instincts, but I think all moms can agree that sometimes our intuition seems faulty, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. When I was in the recovery room after giving birth, the nurses brought me my daughter and asked if I'd like to try nursing her. "Um, sure," I said. The nurse smiled, handed me my daughter, and walked to the other end of the room. "I'm not sure how though," I whispered, worried that she was going to roll her eyes and lecture me on being unprepared to have a baby. Instead, she smiled and said, "Just give her your breast. Let's see what happens."
I know not every breastfeeding journey starts as easily as mine, but even I had apprehensions as time went on. Did my daughter have a good latch? Was she getting enough food to eat? Should I be watching my diet? Was she crying because of my milk?
No matter how breastfeeding is going for you and your baby, whether you're having a great time or struggling, every mom has questions. To answer some of them, I spoke with IBCLC Lisa Fortin from My Milk Matters and Janice Campbell, lactation consultant at South Nassau Communities Hospital, to give you the expert advice you're craving when you're worried that your intuition isn't enough.
1. Prepping For Baby
I'm still pregnant, and know of some family members that couldn't produce enough milk. It is scaring me because I find it very important to breastfeed my child. However, I don't know if I should start taking these vitamins I found that are supposed to help increase milk production and prevent blocks. I've been told by friends to wait until I've started lactating, but I've had others tell me to start now.
"It's great that you are thinking ahead," Fortin says, but she suggests you may not have anything to worry about. "Most healthy women who can carry a baby to term will be able to produce enough breast milk for their baby. Many supply issues arise when there is early mismanagement of breastfeeding. I would encourage you to talk to your family members to see if there is a common denominator such as IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) that would genetically predispose you to a low milk supply." Fortin adds that those types of conditions are rare, however, and that it is much more common that breastfeeding interference will affect your milk supply. "Interference in the earliest hours, days, and weeks, often by hospital staff or well-meaning relatives lead toward the downward spiral of low milk supply," she says.
Fortin suggests that instead of vitamins, you reach out to baby-friendly hospitals that encourage breastfeeding and your efforts, as well as choosing a midwife, OB-GYN, doula, or birth partner that supports you. "Attend a local La Leche League meeting to hear what other new moms have experienced and don't be afraid to reach out to hospital staff and lactation professionals if you feel you need help."
2. Input & Output
What foods make breastfed babies gassy?
"Any and none would be the most accurate answers," Fortin says. "Many mothers can eat a plateful of sauerkraut and bratwurst or steak and kim chi with nary a peep from their breastfeeding babe. Other moms watch every morsel that crosses their lips. Research does not support the idea that gassy foods make gassy babies. However, some babies can be sensitive to cow's milk protein or other common allergens like soy, eggs, or tomatoes, resulting in gas, fussiness, rash, or sleep disturbance." Fortin warns against avoiding foods or cutting things from your diet unless your baby seems to suffer from them. "Remember, breastfed babies develop a palate for a wide variety of flavors based on the diversity in their mother's diet," Fortin adds.
3. Baby Refusing To Breastfeed
My baby is 9 months old and has refused the breast this past week. She recently became mobile, so I just took it as she was too busy, but now a week later, she wants nothing to do with breastfeeding. She won't even night nurse anymore. Is this normal? I'm beating myself up over it because I had my heart set on the first two years and now, nine months in, she has pretty much fully weaned.
"I would encourage you to keep persisting," Fortin says, noting that nursing for the first two years is the best nutrition your baby will have in that time to help her development. "It is very unlikely that she has weaned herself for good, but rather there may be some extenuating circumstance that has made nursing less enjoyable than it was just a short time ago. Developmental milestones like crawling and walking can definitely keep a baby busy enough to miss a few nursing sessions. Could she be getting a set of teeth, perhaps her incisors, which may be overlooked as they are tucked further back in the mouth? How are you feeling? Any symptoms of a yeast infection or mastitis? Yeast can make nursing painful for both mother and baby, and mastitis can make milk taste more salty." If everything seems fine, don't panic. Fortin suggests that this kind of situation could improve spontaneously and you may never know what the problem was. But if you want to try something, Fortin recommends some skin-to-skin contact. "Stubborn babies have been known to give up a nursing strike when in a warm bathtub with mom, when sleeping with mom, or spending lots of skin-to-skin time with mom."
4. Pumping To Increase Milk Supply
Is it possible to bring your milk supply back up by pumping more often?
Fortin notes that while pumping is one way to increase milk supply, you need to figure out why your supply is low to begin with. "Low milk supply can be caused by mother or baby, can be physical or physiological, or any combination of these factors," she says. "Meeting with a qualified lactation consultant who can take a detailed medical history for both of you should be a priority if your baby is not gaining well or not producing three to four soiled diapers and five to six wet diapers in 24 hours."
In the meantime, she suggests nursing "1o to 12 times per day." "Follow your baby's feeding cues and nurse whenever your baby wakes, roots his head from side to side, licks his lips, puts hand to mouth, or fusses," she says. "Nurse on both sides and pump after breastfeeding for at least 10 minutes or for two to five minutes after milk flow stops." Fortin also adds that a well-latched baby is the best pump, so if your baby's latch is painful, if your nipple comes out of your baby's mouth misshapen, or if you have cracks or bleeding, you should reach out to a lactation consultant.
5. Breastfeeding In A Sling
I am looking to buy a sling for breastfeeding. Any input on the best ones to buy?
"A baby sling is an invaluable tool for a new mother to have in her possession," Fortin says. "A good carrier promotes bonding, facilitates breastfeeding, soothes a fussy baby, frees up a busy mom's hands, and is an excellent system of transport." Fortin suggests watching out for front-facing carriers, as you want your child to face you in a sling, and that these types of carriers can put baby in an unnatural starfish shape. "Look for a woven wrap or sling that can be worn in various ways from infancy to toddlerhood," Fortin says. "Practice before baby comes if possible, and know that there is a learning curve, but many moms become quite adept at wrapping their baby to their body. Check online at sites like Etsy or hand-sewn carriers in amazing fabrics that both you and your partner will like. Many small local baby shops offer free instruction in wearing the particular type of carriers they stock."
6. Breasts Seem Less Full Than Before
My son is 6 weeks old and breastfeeding has been going great; no problems at all. However, yesterday I noticed that my breasts didn't feel as "full" as they usually do. They have decreased in size by half and up until now, they have constantly felt full and heavy, especially when he needed to nurse. Should I be concerned about this? He does seem to get plenty of milk when he nurses and he hasn't been nursing as frequently the past week as he used to, but he doesn't seem extra hungry.
No worries, mama, Fortin says that this is very common at the six week mark. "After weeks of soggy nursing pads, puddles in the bed, and breast milk showers on your baby's face, mother nature is convinced that you are making enough milk and your baby will not starve," she said. " Your supply regulates and your breasts figure out how to produce 30 to 40 ounces of milk a day without causing a major laundry issue. As long as your baby is happy, gaining well, and producing amble diapers, you can congratulate yourself for making it through the first six challenging weeks of lactation."
7. Ongoing Yeast Infection In Breasts
My question is about yeast infection on the breasts — I have been battling it now for seven weeks. My son is eight weeks old and it has made it very difficult to successfully nurse him. I do a lot of pumping and bottle feeding because of the pain. We do nurse, but I have to take breaks. I have tried every treatment under the sun. I can't get rid of this infection, it is so resistant to everything. I am beyond frustrated right now. I am determined to nurse him and I guess I will do it in pain if I have to, but I just wanted to know if anyone else has had this issue and what I can do to resolve it.
"You may discuss the possibility of a round of diflucan with your doctor and, likewise, the gentian violet protocol can be repeated," Fortin says. "I have seen many moms get relief using Dr. Jack Newman's All Purpose Nipple Ointment (APNO), which is a compound that needs to be mixed at your pharmacy. You can find the prescription by googling APNO Jack Newman and print the information for your pharmacist." Fortin also adds to check on your bras, and suggests washing them in hot water with a vinegar rinse.
Another unexpected culprit? Sugar. "Avoid all sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup, as they just feed the yeast. If you continue to attack the yeast from all fronts at once, you should find healing. Contact a lactation professional or call the La Leche League warm line if you continue treatment and do not have at least some improvement in another week or two."
8. How To Avoid Supplementation
I have a 5-month-old and I'm trying to up my supply so I can breastfeed her exclusively. Right now I have my good days — where she can get full off of just my breast milk — and I have some bad days where I have to give formula as well. I am currently trying fenugreek and it works great, but is there something else I can do while I'm taking that to help make enough milk for her?
"The best way to produce more milk is to breastfeed on demand and, if possible, to increase the breast stimulation by using a breast pump," Campbell says, but keep in mind that more milk out equals more milk made. "You should try to breastfeed your baby eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period, and always breastfeed your baby before offering formula supplementation."
9. Pumping Doesn't Seem To Help
My baby is a week old and breastfeeding isn't going very well so I've been pumping. I've been pumping after every feeding, and my milk seems to be getting less and less. Any advice?
"Supply and demand is the philosophy behind producing enough milk," Campbell says. "You are doing the right thing by pumping after every feeding. Make sure that you are breastfeeding your baby at least eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period, too. Also, be mindful about your baby's latch and if the milk is effectively being transferred to baby. Is your baby having enough dirty diapers every day? Is your baby gaining weight? Does your baby sleep comfortably after feedings? If so, you may be producing just the right amount of milk."
10. Baby Biting Down On Nipple
My 4-month-old started clenching down really hard when I'm nursing him, and then turning his head away very quickly, feeling as though he will rip off my nipple. Any advice to discourage this?
"At the first sign of feeding cues, you want to get ready to nurse your baby," Campbell says. "You can help your milk get to your baby faster by doing a gentle breast massage on your breast towards your nipple for a minute or so. After the massage, you can also do some hand expression of your milk. This makes your nipple soft and easier for your baby to latch on. The taste of milk will also make your baby more comfortable." Campbell also suggests that your baby may be teething, too, and it might be beneficial to reach out to a breastfeeding support group to learn how other mothers handle similar situations.
11. Cutting Out Dairy
Has anyone experienced any food allergies or sensitivity that their baby reacted to while breastfeeding? I heard cow's milk is the most common. My 8-week-old is constantly gassy and uncomfortable, and I'm thinking of eliminating dairy from my diet. My husband and I have been consistent with gas relieving exercises, but it doesn't seem to bring him enough relief. It's heartbreaking to see him so uncomfortable.
"Cow's milk in a mother's diet can cause some sensitivity to babies. Try contacting your local La Leche League chapter or reach out to a lactation consultant for guidance," Campbell says.
12. Birth Control Affecting Supply
My baby is 5 months old and I had the birth control Nexplanon put in my arm about eight weeks after delivery. Since then, I feel like my supply is low and I'm having it removed in a few days. What are some ways I can increase my supply if this doesn't help? I'm starting to giving a few ounces of formula after feedings and pumping extra, but I really want to make this work.
"Feeding your baby on demand will ensure good milk supply," Campbell says. "Any amount of pumping will also increase the breast stimulation and ultimately your milk supply. Remember, more milk out equals more milk made. Try to breastfeed your baby at least eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period."
13. Painful Pumping
I am seven weeks postpartum and I have been pumping every day, every three to four hours. I get an average of seven to eight ounces each time, which is great, but my nipples are so sore, red, dry, cracked, and bleeding. It hurts so bad to pump. I have been using cream, letting them air dry, salt water rinses, ice packs, and soothing gels. Nothing works, but I don't want to stop pumping.
It may be an equipment issue. "The breast pump flange size you are using may be the wrong fit, causing friction and discomfort," Campbell says. "Have a lactation consultant help you to learn if this pump accessory is adequate for your breast size."
14. Beginning Baby Led Weaning
My daughter will be six months old next week and we started solids a couple of weeks ago. I have been giving her about a teaspoon or so of baby food, but the last couple of days, I have been letting her eat as much as she wants at only one meal and we are about to do baby led weaning. Is it normal or good for her to eat a whole four ounces?
"Babies have a remarkable ability to self-regulate their food intake, not only at the breast, but at mealtime, too," Fortin says. "While most of us were probably spoon-fed pureed foods, today the move is toward baby-led solids. Offering your baby small amounts of whatever healthy whole foods are on your plate and letting them feel, explore, taste, and eventually eat, helps your baby develop into a child and adult that likes varied flavors, knows how much to eat, and when to stop eating." Fortin recommends looking for certain developmental signs in your baby to know if they are ready for solids. "Interest in food, the ability to sit unsupported, absence of the tongue thrust reflux, eruption of teeth, and finally, the pincer grip. You'll know your baby has experienced the latter ability when they start noticing microscopic morsels and attempt to pinch them with their thumb and forefinger. A baby who is just six or seven months old can sit with the family and hold a banana, pincer grip cooked veggies and meat chunks, gnaw on a piece of toasted bread, or enjoy some fresh berries. Like breastfeeding, your baby will not over eat. Just make sure you offer healthy choices and stay away from any added sugars or too much sodium."