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.
I had never heard of mastitis or clogged ducts until after I started breastfeeding. In hindsight, that was probably a good thing. I'm not so sure if I would've actually breastfed my daughter knowing the painful things that could happen. But it's another part of the breastfeeding journey that makes me want to fist pump every breastfeeding mama out there. Seriously, you could have flu-like symptoms and a hot, lumpy, painful breast because your baby slept through the night for the first time. That's one of the things you're willing to let happen just so you can breastfeed your baby. How amazing is that?
Also, it's a great thing to say to your 17-year-old child when they are being a total brat and you want to embarrass them in front of their friends. "I once had streaky, hard, red breasts because you were too sleepy to eat. You're welcome."
But if you're still freaking out about all of the things that can and do happen while breastfeeding, don't worry. I spoke with Holly Keyes, a lactation consultant for a pediatrics office, to answer real breastfeeding questions about bottles, your baby's weight gain, and if your period affects your breast milk supply. (Make sure to tell your 17-year-old that story, too.)
1. Exercises To Clear A Clogged Duct
Can running or any type of exercises help a clogged milk duct?
"Usually when I hear exercise and clogged duct in the same sentence, I assume the former is the cause of the latter," Keyes says. "I usually tell breastfeeding moms to stay away from exercises with a lot of arm movement. Depending on how you run, that could be included. Even tight sports bras can cause clogged ducts." Keyes recommends massages, hot compresses, and frequent nursing to rid yourself of a clogged duct, but if those don't work, seek help from a lactation consultant near you.
2. Sleeping After Latching
My 3-week-old keeps falling asleep soon after he latches, often within five to 10 minutes. What can I do?
"I always suggest a cold washcloth on the bottom of a baby's foot to wake them up when they start to fall asleep. However, if this is happening all of the time, it could be the sign of a shallow latch," Keyes says. "When your baby doesn't have a deep enough latch, they can't remove the milk from the breast and the suckling can make them fall asleep. Reach out to a lactation consultant if you feel that you need help making sure your baby is latched properly."
3. Baby Suddenly Refuses Bottle
My 10-week-old previously took bottles of breast milk, but has stopped all of a sudden. I've tried several different bottles and nipples, as well as letting different people try. I'm desperate to find a way to give bottles occasionally when needed.
"Try not to let yourself get too stressed," Keyes says. "Try to introduce a bottle when baby isn't screaming for hunger. Recognize their cues and give a bottle just as they are beginning to feel hungry."
4. Baby Clamping & Pulling On Nipples
My 2-month-old is doing a painful new trick called the clamp and thrash while feeding. What can I do to stop this?
"Do you know what your let-down is like? Some mothers have a fast let-down and others have a slow. In both cases, a baby can clamp down on your nipple," Keyes says. "For a fast let-down, your baby may be trying to slow down the flow of milk, so try expressing some into a burp cloth before your baby latches on so it's comfortable for them. For a slow let-down, some babies get impatient and bored waiting on the milk to release. You can massage and hand-express some milk into their mouth, or pump for a few moments before having your baby latch on so the milk is ready for them."
5. Getting Baby Back On The Breast
I've been breast feeding my daughter for a little over three months. When she was born she took right to it and we had no problems. Right before she turned 3 months old, I noticed my supply was low and I was only producing about an ounce total every four hours. I had to supplement with formula for a few days to get my supply up, and it worked. Now that I don't have to supplement, I'm trying to get her back on the boob 100 percent, no bottles, but I can't get her to latch for more than a few minutes. She gets frustrated and cries and I'm not sure what to do.
All hope isn't lost. "Keep trying," Keyes says. "Try lots of skin-to-skin contact, baby wearing, and even breastfeeding in the bath. You can also try pumping a bit before your baby latches on so that the milk is ready for her. Often, babies get lazy from bottles and the instant access to milk."
6. Milk Thistle & Blessed Thistle
Is milk thistle the same as blessed thistle?
"They are different," Keyes says, "but both have been used by mothers to increase supply. Some say it works, but if you're looking to make your breast milk supply increase, I suggest pumping between feedings and nursing as often as you can."
7. Baby Breastfeeds Every 2 Hours
My 3-month-old is 18 pounds, exclusively breastfed, and nurses almost every two hours. During the day it's fine, but I'm dying to get more than two hours of sleep at a time during the night.
"Can you pump a bottle? It might help to have your partner take over a night feeding so you can get some rest," Keyes says. "It's absolutely normal for a 3-month-old to still breastfeed this often, especially since breast milk digests so fast. I wouldn't recommend weaning or trying to make the baby go longer between feedings. It won't last forever."
8. Breast Milk Lightens In Fridge
Is it normal for breast milk to lighten in color when you put it in the fridge?
"This is normal," Keyes says. "You may notice that the breast milk has separated in the fridge, leaving a lighter color on the bottom and a heavier, creamier substance on top. As you warm the bottle, slowly swirl the container to incorporate the liquids again."
9. Baby Prefers One Breast Over The Other
My son is 3 months old and I recently started working again. I noticed how he now seems to literally fight me when I try and feed him on my right breast. He will push and shove me away, but as soon as I put him on my left he's OK. I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
You aren't doing anything wrong, mama. "Babies often prefer one breast over the other. Be sure you don't have any clogged ducts or infections in the right breast. Once that's ruled out, try starting your baby on the left breast and then switching to the right breast. When they are sleepy and wanting to comfort nurse, offer the right breast as well," Keyes says. "Just be sure to maintain your supply on that breast by pumping when your baby doesn't nurse."
10. Feeding Baby While Mom's Away
I have a 2-month-old that has been exclusively breastfed since birth. I'm getting a job that is requiring me to be trained for four days in a row in about a week. (I don't have a freezer supply.) My family all thinks it's no big deal to give him formula during those four days. I honestly don't know a lot about formula, but I do know that my baby refuses to take a pacifier of any kind and rarely accepts breast milk from a bottle. Any advice?
"If you're really concerned, start trying to feed your baby from a bottle now or have a family member help," Keyes says. "It's not impossible to start pumping now so you can have a supply ready for your baby if you don't want to use formula either. Try pumping twice per day and make one of those sessions right after your baby's first feeding session. You may not get much to begin with, but this is an effective way to increase your supply so you can pump a stash of breast milk."
11. Clogged Duct Turning Into Mastitis
I have large dense breasts and I am experiencing my first plugged ducts. My 3-month-old has been going through a growth spurt and eating nonstop. She recently slowed down and I had to pump to get some relief. However, now I have a plugged duct on the top of my breast. I've nursed her multiple times since I discovered it and it's not going away. I can tell the rest of my breast is empty and limp, but there is a huge hard sore spot on the top. How long until it turns into the dreaded mastitis?
"I would recommend reaching out to a lactation consultant," Keyes says. "Mastitis is not something you want and you may need some help getting rid of that duct before it becomes worse. Also try hot compresses and massages."
12. Period Affecting Milk Supply
Will being on my period affect my milk supply? Do I need to start supplementing with formula?
"Your period can affect your milk supply, but not by much. Often, mothers comment on their babies being fussier during feedings while they are menstruating, but it always goes back to normal," Keyes says. "If you want more of an output, you may need to add in another pumping session."
13. Best Time To Supplement & Pump
My infant son will soon be home with a nanny. I have no supply saved as I have tried to pump, but the only time I get more than an ounce is if he skips a feeding and I'm able to pump in lieu of that feeding. I have tried pumping to increase my supply, but nothing works. My only option seems to be to give him a bottle of formula and pump during that time. What is the best time during the day to supplement? Is there a better time during the day that won't hurt my supply?
"Formula is definitely an option, especially if you need to supplement, but you may not need it as much as you think," Keyes says. "If you do decide to supplement, you should replace every bottle feeding with a pumping session, so choose a time in the day that is best for you. If it's easier to pump in the afternoons, then let your baby have formula then so you can replace the feeding."
14. Skin-To-Skin When It's Too Hot
I would love to do more skin to skin with my 3-month-old, but she's such a little hot box that we both just end up sweaty and uncomfortable. Even with a fan and air conditioning.
"I often recommend moms slip into a kiddie pool during the summer for some cool skin-to-skin contact," Keyes says. "A cool bath can also help,"
15. Differences In Weight Between Breastfed & Formula Fed Babies
My 8-month-old son has been exclusively breastfed and is around 18 pounds. My husband has questioned whether or not our son is too small after comparing him to formula fed babies, but I tell him he's healthy and a good weight. Any idea of the difference in formula fed and breastfed babies when it comes to weight gain?
"Every baby is different," Keyes says. "If your pediatrician isn't concerned and your baby seems to be developing and eating well, there's most likely no problem."