16 Real Breastfeeding Questions & Answers On Supplementing, Pregnancy, & More
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.
In theory, breastfeeding sounds like the easiest thing in the world. Your baby latches on to your breast, they drink your milk, and they let you know when they've had enough. Your body creates the perfect blend of nutrients for your little one, and it's the most natural, honest, easiest thing in the world.
Except for when it's not.
Look, there's a lot more to breastfeeding than simply getting your baby to drink your breast milk. There's the issue of trying to pump enough milk so you can go to work. There's the problem of trying to get pregnant while breastfeeding and hearing a million different opinions. There's that moment where your baby decides they want to latch on to your breast for an entire day and you don't know whether to laugh or cry because it's literally the most frustrating thing in the world.
Moms are told to trust their bodies when they're pregnant, and that advice carries over when you're breastfeeding. But it's not always easy, which is why an expert helps. I spoke with Danielle Downs Spradlin, a certified lactation counselor accredited by the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice. She is a veteran nursing mother who wants mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals, and her practice, Oasis Lactation Services, focuses on science, infant-mother well being, evidence based solutions, and making breastfeeding an enjoyable and healthy time for the whole family. You can follow her YouTube channel for even more breastfeeding tips! (And if you're in the Atlanta area, be sure to reach out to Oasis Lactation Services for all your breastfeeding needs.)
1. Increasing Supply For Babies With Milk Allergies
I'm a new mom of a beautiful boy and I want to exclusively make him a breastfed baby, however, we found out he has a milk allergy. I had to cut all dairy from my diet and my milk supply dropped. Like drastically. Now I'm on fenugreek supplements, mothers milk tea, and Gaia lactation support and still my supply is low. Any advice on how to get my supply flowing again so I can pump and feed him and know he's healthy?
"Cow milk protein allergy is very frustrating to deal with," Spradlin says. In fact, she says that the allergy is often misdiagnosed because the real problem is an overproduction of breast milk. "Oversupply can mimic the symptoms of cow milk protein allergy, particularly the symptom of green stools. Milk production begins with oversupply for the first several weeks in most mothers and levels out to meet the baby's needs exactly. Many mothers see this balancing as a loss of milk production rather than a stabilizing." Spradlin also says that there is nothing in cow milk necessary for human milk production, so there's most likely no connection between a change in your diet and a change in your milk production. "If you've noticed a change in the baby since eliminating dairy and your milk production seems less, this is likely your milk supply stabilizing. Daycares are also notorious for overfeeding babies with a bottle. Breastfed babies only need 1 to 1.25 ounces of breast milk per hour of separation. Normal pump output is two to four ounces total from both breasts after 20 minutes of pumping. Breastfeeding is supply and demand. The number one evidence based way to increase milk production is to pump and nurse more frequently," Spradlin says. She also adds that the popular herb fenugreek can actually impact your insulin levels and cause reflux in your baby.
2. Tropical Supply Help
What's the deal with pineapple and or pineapple juice for supply? Half of the things I read say to avoid it completely, and half say eat and drink up! Some even go as far as saying to pack pineapple juice in your hospital bag to help milk come in. Please help!
Just another food myth. "Breast milk is made from your blood supply, not your stomach contents," Spradlin says. "There is very little evidence to support any foods improving milk production. If you like pineapple juice, drink it. If you want to make more milk, nurse more than ten times per 24 hours."
3. Conceiving While Breastfeeding
I just gave birth to my miracle baby girl two months ago. I have enjoyed breastfeeding from the very start, as she has taken to it so well. I don't plan on stopping any time soon, but my husband and I have started to talk about wanting to try for another baby as soon as possible. My concern is that mostly every article I've read about conceiving while breastfeeding says that there is a "slim to none" chance. I am wondering how true this really is. Has anyone strictly breastfed their child, and was able to conceive again while doing so?
"Breastfeeding exclusively can suppress ovulation with remarkable success in the very early months," Spradlin says. "Once your baby is six months old and eating solid foods in addition to breastfeeding, your chance of ovulation begins increasing greatly." Spradlin also notes that many women lose milk production when a new pregnancy starts, so conceiving too quickly after a birth could compromise your current breastfeeding relationship. "Some mothers nurse through pregnancy and go on to tandem nurse," Spradlin says. She recommends checking out the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing for more information on birth spacing, breastfeeding, and conceiving while breastfeeding.
4. Baby Always Seems Hungry
My 3 1/2-week-old son has almost been nursing non stop since we came home from the hospital. Sometimes he gets so hungry and frustrated that he has a hard time latching and/or refuses the breast, only to hungrily root after only a few seconds. This can go on for over an hour or two before he is finally satiated, only to be hungry again within 30 minutes. I'm beginning to suspect that I haven't had enough calories or protein in my diet to make filling breast milk, because I can't think of another reason for us to be having this problem. I have given him a bottle of formula on two separate occasions and he was able to get full and not be hungry for another few hours. Does this mean I should consider supplementing?
"Your diet has very little impact on your breast milk," says Spradlin. "Feed frequency and feed volume are the only things correlated with weight gain in babies. It sounds like your baby has trouble latching and effectively transferring milk from the breast into his belly. It also sounds like you have been really attentive to him and muscled through. While I commend your power here, this isn't a long term solution and you deserve some rest. Your baby may benefit from an oral exam by a lactation specialist familiar with tongue and palate issues or an ENT who is familiar with breastfeeding. Disorganized feeding, breast refusal, and constant suck needs are all red flags for further evaluation."
5. Birth Control While Breastfeeding
My baby is EBF, and I would like to keep it that way. I've been reading up on IUDs and some women say that it diminished their supply. I've also heard that the mini pill is the best option if I want to breastfeed, but that's where I have a problem. I was never on birth control until I was out of high school and when I did finally decide to get birth control, my doctor recommended the pill and I ended up getting pregnant while on the pill. After giving birth to my first son, my doctor said the pill would be my better option and I got pregnant when my son was only five months old. I'm scared of getting the pill because I really don't want to get pregnant again, but I also don't want to lose my milk supply because we can't afford to formula feed. So I want to see if you have any advice as to which birth control is better to get while breastfeeding.
"Hormonal birth control options always come with a risk of diminished milk production," Spradlin says. "While many women are fine to use them, it's a toss of the dice. There is a non-hormonal IUD on the market that is made with copper and there is no way for it to impact breastfeeding. Barrier methods like condoms and diaphragms are also completely safe for breastfeeding. There is also the too-tired-too-many-babies-abstinence method that no one enjoys." Spradlin also recommends checking out The Infant Risk Center, a free resource on medication use for breastfeeding mothers.
6. Supplementing Calcium While Breastfeeding
Since I can't drink milk, should I be taking calcium while breastfeeding?
"Leafy greens are a great source of calcium and better absorbed than the calcium in most dairy products," Spradlin says. "Nursing mothers are advised to continue their prenatal vitamin as well."
7. Cold Medicine While Breastfeeding
I'm a first time breastfeeding mom and my baby is 1-month-old. I came down with a cold and I want to take some medicine for it. Is there any way I can take it without my baby consuming it?
"Most medications are safe for use in nursing women who are nursing a full term healthy baby," Spradlin says. "It's also important to remember that the breasts aren't a sewer system like the intestines. Some medications cannot pass into milk at all, or if they do, they can't be absorbed by the baby. The real risk with many cold medicines is that they cause a temporary decrease in milk production." Following Spradlin's recommendation, you can contact The Infant Risk Center for free information on specific medicines.
8. Increasing Milk Supply For Busy Moms
I keep being told about power pumping every hour on the hour, but I can not do that. I worry my milk's almost dried up, so I'm trying to do what I can (since she started daycare, we supplement with formula, but I really don't want to) to bring it back. I started skin to skin again at home, and I know I'll need to pump. I have mothers milk tea, but dumped a half cup of sugar in it. Help, please, if there's any to be had?
The most effective way to improve milk production is with frequent pumping and nursing, so Spradlin recommends you start from there. "When frequency isn't working, we check that mom isn't taking any medications that may interfere with milk production, that she doesn't have any underlying hormonal health issues, and that the baby is nursing well," Spradlin says. "A bad latch or ill-fitting pump can also diminish milk production over time." She also recommends skipping the teas as they often contain herbs that are linked to reflux. "Breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing," Spradlin adds. "Some working moms give formula or donor milk at daycare and then nurse in the evenings and weekends when they are together. Every family is different. You can define success on your own terms."
9. Picking Up Breastfeeding After 13 Months
I was only able to breastfeed my daughter for three and a half months. The left would only do two ounces and the right would do one ounce. My daughter hasn't breastfed for at least 13 months now. Within the last couple months, my left side has been, well, feeling strange. Tonight I finally lifted my shirt and squeezed it and some fluid was present! I just finished my period about a week ago. My daughter is cutting three molars that have broken the skin, and is a little stuffy due to allergies. Is my body wanting to feed her because she isn't 100 percent right now?
"Bodies are very unpredictable," Spradlin says. "Human milk is always safe for children. Your daughter has probably lost most of her infant feeding reflexes with growth and development. It's unlikely that she will be able to latch on, but you are her mother and can chose to offer her the breast if you decide. Some women find success re-lactating by developing a pumping regimen."
10. Sleepy Latch
am struggling a bit with my 2-day-old daughter. She is my second child and I'm very determined to make breastfeeding work this time around. But, she will latch and almost immediately fall asleep. No amount of stimulation will wake her up. She will nurse for a few minutes and only suckle a few times. Now this afternoon, she is literally fighting me to latch and crying up a storm. I don't know what to do but I have very little confidence as it is and I feel myself slipping.
"Some babies are very sleepy from jaundice, and the remedy is more breast milk," Spradlin says. "It may be easier to hand express some colostrum (newborn milk) onto a spoon and give her one to three spoons of milk every hour until she wakes up from her exciting birth day. Sometimes feeding one spoon of milk stimulates the baby to nurse more."
11. Increasing Supply Right After Delivery
My third baby comes in July and I had low supply with my previous two children. I had to pump like crazy to have some milk. I would like to know what to do in the first 24 to 72 hours to increase my supply and not have to rely on pumping.
"Skin to skin and more nursing," Spradlin says. "Low supply always has a reason. You may want to contact a lactation specialist to go over your previous experiences to tease out the reason for your low supply. Insulin disregulation, thyroid issues, obesity, and mother-baby separation are some of the most common treatable causes of low milk production."
12. Pregnant & Breastfeeding
I have a 6 month old and just found out we're pregnant! Any tips or advice for breastfeeding while pregnant?
"You may lose milk production or experience sore nipples or nothing may change at all," Spradlin says. "Watch your baby for signs of insufficient fluid intake, like firm stools. You may want to reach out to a nutritionist or lactation specialist for feeding options if your milk decreases drastically." For this type of situation, she recommends the book Adventures in Tandem Nursing again.
13. Am I Pumping Enough?
Right now I'm exclusively breastfeeding my son and I recently went back to work. When I pump at work, I get anywhere from just over an ounce to maybe three ounces per side, and I'm so worried my supply is dropping. He's only two months old and I want to keep breastfeeding him as long as possible. Is the amount I pump something I should worry about? Are there any tips you'd recommend?
Rest assured, you're doing great. "Two to four ounces total from both breasts after 20 minutes of pumping is normal milk production," Spradlin says. She also has tips on getting the most out of your pumping sessions at her website.
14. Increasing Supply With A Pump
I'm almost six weeks postpartum and I'm finding it so hard to breastfeed. I'm supplementing, but I want my daughter to get as much milk as possible. We have latch issues and she never really seems full. I've been pumping, but right now all I have is a single hand pump. I'd like an electric one, but I'm not sure on which one or if it is worth the cost. I'd really like suggestions.
Under the Affordable Care Act, Spradlin says your insurance should provide you with a pump. "You may need your OB, pediatrician, or midwife to provide you with a prescription for a double electric pump," Spradlin adds. "You may also want to rent a pump for a few weeks to get things back on track. A double electric closed system pump is ideal."
15. Lactating While Pregnant
I am 18 weeks pregnant and lactating. Should I start pumping?
"There is no medical reason to pump," Spradlin says. "The milk recycles in the breast constantly. It will be there fresh for your baby in the next 22 to 24 weeks."
16. Advice For Increasing Supply
My milk supply is slowing down. I've tried pumping and eating all the things I should, and I'm still not finding anything to help out. I'm looking for advice.
"Most moms misjudge their milk production. Pumping is not an indicator of production. Often the pump is broken, not the mother," Spradlin says. "Also, most moms start with overproduction and normalize their production to meet their baby's needs."