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.
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, but it's also one of the most controversial. Workplaces don't want to give you the time to pump, partners may not be supportive, and trying to plan ahead for your breastfeeding journey can be really difficult. It's not like there's a manual to follow (unless you're reading the one that came with your breast pump) and, sometimes, well-meaning doctors and pediatricians may give you conflicting information.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Kristin Gourley is the expert every breastfeeding mom needs. Gourley works with Lactation Link which offers in-home consultations in the greater Utah Valley area, but she also teaches online, on-demand, comprehensive video classes that cover everything you could possibly think of. She's answering your real questions about spousal support, permanent birth control, and nursing twins to make sure you're getting the best advice you can. You can like Lactation Link's Facebook or Instagram for even more breastfeeding help.
1. Taking Sprintec While Breastfeeding
I am looking for input on which birth control is best to take while breastfeeding. My son is 2 months old and my doctor prescribed Sprintec. It has both hormones and I’m concerned it will affect my supply.
Gourley explains that Sprintec has both estrogen and progesterone, which is only a concern for breastfeeding moms. "Birth control methods with both of those hormones have been shown in research to reduce milk supply and are not recommended for breastfeeding mom's because of that," Gourley says. "Progesterone-only birth control methods like the mini pill, arm implant, IUD, and the quarterly shot are considered less likely to affect supply, but moms sometimes report that they do, and that is especially true if started before six to eight weeks postpartum." Gourley recommends to moms who want a more permanent type of birth control, like the arm implant or IUD, to try a few months of the mini pill first to monitor the issue because it's easy to stop taking it if you notice a decrease in your supply. "If you have no issue, then you can choose the exact method you'd like without needing to worry."
2. Saving Breast Milk When Baby Eats Often
I'm a mom to a 2 week old, and I am looking for some advice on a pumping schedule or ideas on how to start accumulating some extra milk for day when I am not with my son for longer than two hours. At this point, he is eating every two to two and a half hours and eating from each side, almost complete emptying each breast. How do I start to save some milk for nights when I'm away?
"Start by introducing a pumping session or two in between nursing sessions," Gourley says. "Don't worry that you might not get much milk at first — your supply is fine for your baby that you're nursing full time, but you'll have to increase it some to pump extra milk. Over time, you'll make more milk and pump more and build up a bit of a stash to use if you need to be away from baby."
3. 6 Week Growth Spurt
How do I deal with a growth spurt of a 6 week old? She's constantly nursing and I can't keep my supply up. She's also constantly fighting sleep and is fussy and cranky from it. In the end, I have major headaches and completely exhausted. How do I manage going through this?
"Growth spurts can be very tiring, but don’t worry that you can’t keep your supply up — her nursing frequently is to increase your supply as she grows to meet her needs," Gourley says. "If you continue to nurse on demand, your supply will keep up." She also notes that it’s not uncommon for babies to fight sleep as they go through developmental milestones — six weeks and again at around 12 weeks are pretty big ones. You just have to ride it out.
4. Baby Unlatches & Won't Re-Latch Until Later
I have an almost 3-week-old son. He never eats from both sides so I usually just pump and freeze the other side, but now he will eat, unlatch, and after burping him he won’t re-latch, so I think he's done. Then less than an hour later, he's hungry again as if he never ate. Is this a normal problem? How do I handle it?
According to Gourley, this isn't too uncommon. "Remember that breast milk is providing all the drinks and meals and snacks for baby," she says. "So sometimes he may just want a drink, and then not too long after may want a meal." Gourley notes that this kind of cluster feeding can also be baby’s way to stock up before a long sleep. If you continue to follow baby’s lead, everything will even out.
5. Partner Isn't Supportive Of Breastfeeding
My husband constantly tells me, “Wouldn’t it have been easier to just bottle feed?” He was OK with me breastfeeding until I actually started doing it. Every time we are out and I have to feed the baby, he says it, or when we are home and I'm doing something and she gets hungry, he says it. How do I make him stop? I've tried telling him it upsets me and it’s better for the baby, but he gives me an attitude.
Gourley says that adding a baby to the family can really shake things up, so open communication can help. "Have you asked him why he feels that bottle feeding would have been easier? It’s possible he wishes he was able to feed baby too or he wishes he was getting a little more attention from you," she says. "Just telling him to stop won’t help the feelings behind what he’s saying, so hopefully trying to figure out what is really the matter will help."
6. Increasing Pumping Output
I’ve been pumping for about a month now, once I started working again. I pump four to five times a day and feed my 3 month old from the breast at night. It was going great at first, but this past week my supply has noticeably dropped off. I was getting 3 to 5 ounces each session and I'm now barely able to get 2 ounces. I'm worried I'll have to stop all together because we've been dipping into my small supply of frozen milk to keep up with baby. I'm not able to increase my sessions due to my workload, so what can I do to start pumping more again?
If you aren't using hands-on pumping, Gourley says it's worth giving a try as it can really help get more milk out faster as well as elicit more let-downs. "Research has shown moms who hand express for a few minutes after pumping have higher supplies, so you could try hand expressing directly into the pump flange for a few minutes after you turn off your pump," she says. "If you still don’t see improvement and aren’t able to increase the number of pumping sessions at work, you can try pumping once or twice at home in between nursing sessions to add to your stash."
7. 3 Month Old Refuses Breast & Isn't Gaining Weight
I've nursed my baby from day one. She's 3 months old now and is starting to refuse my breast and she's not gaining weight regularly. I'm looking for advice on how I can fix this issue. All I want is to continue to breastfeed her, and for her to be healthy above all else.
"Sounds like she may be going through a nursing strike," Gourley says. "It’s also not uncommon for babies at that age to get so distracted and not want to latch on. Will she nurse at all? If she will, but is reluctant sometimes, it might help to try when she’s sleepy, when she’s already asleep, in a baby carrier, in a dark room, or in the bathtub." You do have to make sure she’s being fed even if she won’t nurse, so Gourley suggests seeing if your baby will take a bottle and notes that it's important to express milk to keep your supply up if your baby won't nurse regularly.
8. Using Formula Increase Need Of Formula
Can the use of formula be increasing the need of formula? It occurred to me that a human body evolves and changes based on environment. So if Grandma used formula, then mom, now the next generation, their body has learned it doesn't need to make milk. Is it possible the biological make up changes to stop milk production after birth?
"I have not read any research to this effect at all, and have not seen it played out in practice, either," Gourley says. "Evolution takes a long time and many, many generations so perhaps that’s why. There can be genetic conditions and components that affect milk production (like thyroid disorders or PCOS that can be hereditary), but otherwise, just because mom and grandma weren’t able to nurse doesn’t mean you won’t be able to."
9. Increasing Milk Supply
My little girl is almost 5 months old and only nursing or a bottle of pumped milk while I'm at work. Right now she is eating more than I'm pumping at work and I'm unable to feed her my freezer stash from the first few months. I found out when she's about 6 to 8 weeks old that she has a cow's milk protein allergy. What can I do to increase my milk production so I don't have to use the Rx formula?
"Most babies take about the same amount of milk from 1 to 6 months old (or when solids are introduced). Moms tend to find baby needs about 1 to 1.5 ounces per hour that she is away," Gourley says. "So, if you are away for eight hours at work, she would probably need 8 to 12 ounces split into about three feedings. It’s not uncommon for daycare providers or nannies to feel that baby wants more milk when it’s not necessary." Gourley recommends trying hands-on pumping and adding in another pumping session so you can add more to your freezer stash.
10. Baby Won't Take Milk In A Bottle
My daughter is almost 9 months old. She has been on solids since she was 4 months old and has been breastfed from day one. She will drink water or juice from a bottle, but not milk. Our doctor has told me to put her on it now as there is no point in going to formula at this point in the game. I have tried different bottles, sippy cups, and real cups, and she will not take it from any source, including her dad. Everyone tells me that she will eventually take it if there is nothing else available, but I'm not one for letting her cry it out. Is this normal?
"Are you trying to feed her breast milk or whole milk from a cup? If it’s whole milk, she may not be used to the taste, but continuing to try will help," Gourley says. "If it’s breast milk, just keep trying. It can take a while for baby to get used to something new. Since she’ll take water or juice, you know she gets the concept so now it’s all about practice, practice, practice." According to Gourley, milk isn’t always necessary as long as baby is getting enough nutrition, fat, and calcium from other sources, but the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend breast milk or formula for at least 12 months.
11. Breasts Feel Less Engorged
I have an almost 5 week old and he is exclusively breastfed. Normally my breasts feel engorged every morning and about 20 minutes before he eats (he's been eating around every two hours). Just within the last few days, he's been sleeping anywhere from five to seven hours at night. This morning when I woke up (for the first time), my breasts didn't feel engorged and haven't felt engorged at all today. Is my body just regulating itself or is my supply decreasing now that he doesn't eat as often at night?
"It sounds like your body is regulating supply," Gourley says. "It usually happens between 4 to 6 weeks. Continue to feed him on demand while he is awake and your supply should stay right where it needs to be to meet his needs." She also suggests keeping an eye on his diapers to make sure he is having at least six wet ones each day and that he continues gaining weight well. If that's the case, all is well.
12. Re-Latching Baby
I need help with my baby re-latching. She breastfed for four weeks exclusively then she got sick and the doctors urged me to bottle feed her because it would be easier. So I did. She is now 10 weeks old, and I am trying to breastfeed again. At first she was getting extremely upset with me and would refuse. Now she will just sit there and smile the whole time. Any suggestions?
"It sounds like you may benefit from a consult with an IBCLC," Gourley says. "It can be tricky getting baby back to the breast after a long period of time away." But to encourage latching, Gourley notes that any amount of interest in the breast is good, even if your baby is just mouthing the nipple. "Keep her skin to skin as much as you can so there is access to the breast, and try taking a bath with her and offering to nurse while in it. Patience is the name of the game when trying to get baby back to breast."
13. Baby Won't Sleep Unless She's Latched To Breast
I have a 6 week old baby who won't sleep unless she's latched. I've tried using a pacifier to get a break, but she just screams and spits it out. Is there anything else I can try?
"Babies tend to know where they’re most comfortable — sucking nice and close to mom," Gourley says. "Have you tried using a baby carrier? That can often help baby sleep comfortably near you while giving your nipple a break." Gourley also suggests that you practice unlatching her while she’s deep asleep too. She’ll get used to it over time.
14. Toddler Wants To Nurse To Sleep
My baby is 15 months old. Between 11 to 13 months, she didn't need nursing a whole lot. Now, it's completely the opposite. I feel like she uses me as a pacifier for naps and bedtime and throughout the night. How do I stop this habit without dealing with crying all night? I'd like to be weaned within a few months but I'm not sure how that's going to happen.
According to Gourley, this isn't uncommon. If you have a partner to help she notes that it's often helpful for another caregiver to go in and help soothe your child back to sleep. "Baby may cry, but it is different for baby to be crying while being attended to by a loving caregiver than baby crying by himself. Make sure that you’re offering lots of solid food meals and snacks and cups of water to make up for the calories that baby is getting used to getting by nursing, as well," Gourley says.
15. 4 Month Old Is Constipated
My cousin's 4 month old is exclusively breastfed, and he gets constipated. I know breastfed babies can go a long time without a bowel movement, but this baby is actually constipated. His stools are hard and he cries a lot when it is passing. They were supposedly told by their pediatrician that it's normal, but I don't believe that. Can you please give me possible causes so that I can give them some info?
"If his stools are hard, then something is not right," Gourley says. "Breastfed babies can go many days without stooling, but when it comes, it should be soft like toothpaste. If it’s not, baby may have a food allergy or need to be nursing more often. Your cousin may want to see an IBCLC as well as talk to a pediatric GI doctor."
16. Tubes Getting Tied Affect Breastfeeding
I'm having a C-section and then getting my tubes tied right after?Will having my tubes tied affect breastfeeding?
"Having your tubes tied should not affect breastfeeding," Gourley says. "It’s totally possible to breastfeed after a C-section, too. Some doctors and hospitals will allow you to nurse right in the operating room." Gourley suggests asking your doctor about nursing or at least skin-to-skin time in the operating room. Once you're in recovery, she recommends keeping your babies skin-to-skin as much as you can.
"Many moms find the football hold to be great after a C-section because it doesn’t put pressure on the incision. You can also use the football hold on both sides to nurse both babies at one time," Gourley says. "Nursing twins can seem like all you do for the first few months, but offering and nursing often will help your supply meet their needs. I’d recommend seeing an IBCLC soon after birth to make sure everything is going well."
17. Emotional About Weaning
My baby will be 10 months old next week. I've breastfed him up until a week ago, and I've been pretty emotional and really sad about it. I ask myself if I should have gone longer. Is it normal to feel this way?
"Weaning is hard," Gourley says. "Some moms experience some hormonal swings and all-over-the-place emotions after weaning. It should pass in a few weeks, but that may be playing into your feelings. It’s hard not to second guess ourselves as parents with so many different decisions." She suggests that if you want to try breastfeeding again, you may be able to rebound your supply and get baby back to breast with the help of an IBCLC. "But it’s OK to stay weaned and to enjoy your new relationship with your baby Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s not as close," Gourley says.
18. Extra Calories For Breastfeeding
I have been breastfeeding my baby for two months now and I heard that breastfeeding moms need to eat extra calories to keep up with the milk supply. But I don't get hungry that much, I usually just eat breakfast and dinner. I do drink a lot of water. Will my milk supply be OK even if I don't eat the extra calories?
"Moms all over the world, even in famine conditions, are able to meet their babies’ needs, so you probably don’t need to worry about your supply," Gourley says. "That said, your health is important and you should eat more than two meals per day. Lack of hunger could be a symptom of postpartum depression, so you may want to evaluate if you have any other symptoms." Being a new mom takes up lots of time, and it can be hard to fit in meals, so Gourley recommends stocking up on one-handed snacks like granola bars, cheese sticks, and cut up veggies to help you eat when it seems like you don’t have time.
19. Weaning Because Of Pregnancy
I have a 9-month-old that I am breastfeeding exclusively. He has begun to eat solid foods ,but has never been fed formula. I am also seven weeks pregnant, and when I went to the doctor for the first consultation, she told me I needed to stop breastfeeding ASAP because of the hormones needed to progress my pregnancy. I have never heard of this and have seen nothing about it on the internet. I would really like to continue breastfeeding until my son is 12 months old.
"Breastfeeding can cause contractions, but the hormones of pregnancy trump the hormones of lactation," Gourley says. "Your supply is likely to lower in the next few weeks, but the pregnancy shouldn’t be affected. Most moms find they can breastfeed through pregnancy without any issue as long as it’s healthy and they are not at risk for preterm labor." According to Gourley, orgasms cause the same release of oxytocin and subsequent uterine contractions as breastfeeding, so if you haven’t been told that you should avoid sex or orgasm, you should be okay to continue nursing as well.
20. Determining Ounces For Infant
My baby is 3 weeks old and I've been pumping since she was 1 week old. How many ounces should she be eating?
"At 3 weeks old, baby will probably take about 2 to 3 ounces every two to three hours," Gourley says. "At one month old, she will probably have increased that amount to 3 to 5 ounces per feeding, which will keep steady until she's about 6 months old, or whenever solid foods are introduced. Smaller amounts more frequently are better for baby’s tummy than bigger amounts more spread out."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.