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.
Do you know what would be really excellent? If breastfeeding came with a manual. And I don't just mean a manual that says how to do it, but one that has a colorful index full of every single question you could ever have about nursing. Like, how do you even get started pumping? What do you do if your ducts clog while you're still pregnant? How are you supposed to get in a position to breastsleep? They say breastfeeding is natural and instinctive, but there are some breastfeeding scenarios that require more than Mother Nature to solve them. Sometimes, they require an expert.
Leigh Anne O'Connor is that expert. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with over two decades of experience, she knows her stuff and has been a La Leche League Leader since 1997. She's basically a breastfeeding manual personified. I asked her a number of real breastfeeding questions to get the answers mamas need — answers that can't always be found with instinct. When you're nursing, it helps to have someone in your corner and O'Connor is the support you need, right here with her answers.
1. How To Breastsleep
My daughter won't sleep unless it's on me and she cries the most from about midnight to 3 a.m. I'm hoping breastsleeping can help since she's pretty sleepy after a feeding. However, I tried it last night, but even with both of us on our sides, my nipple couldn't reach her mouth and was at a weird angle. I don't see how she can latch and comfortably feed. How can I figure out how to breastsleep?
Breastsleeping can help both mom and baby catch some more Zs, so it's worth it to try again. "Many moms nurse while side-lying," O'Connor says. "It works easiest to have your baby latch onto your bottom breast. Get yourself comfortable, put a pillow under your head, behind your back and between your legs — this creates good alignment for you. Have your baby lie on her side with her eyes near your nipple — this is where she can get a good latch." O'Connor notes that many images of moms nursing on their side show a baby on top of a pillow or on mom's arm, but this can make it more challenging for your baby to reach your nipple. "There should be no barrier between mom and baby," O'Connor says. "If this is still a challenge, you can sit up, put your baby on your breast then scoot down into a comfortable position."
2. Milk Production Decreasing
Why does milk production go down after it's been going well for the first three weeks? I'm taking supplements and pumping, but supply is down and my child still seems hungry.
"There can be various reasons for a supply going down after a great start," O'Connor says. "Timing feedings can reduce the amount of stimulation at the breast and limiting feedings to a specific time line, for example, every three hours as opposed to on demand, can reduce milk supply." She also notes that hormonal birth control can have a negative impact on your supply as well as an undiagnosed tongue-tie. "I recommend contacting a local IBCLC to address your supply issue," O'Connor says.
3. Creating A Pumping Schedule
I'm a first time mom and I'm both breastfeeding and pumping. I will have to go back to work soon and I was wondering what a typical pumping schedule will look like in order to feed my baby when I am away? Also, once I refrigerate my milk for a couple days, can I transfer it to the freezer to be stored?
"Many moms find that if they nurse when they are with their baby and pump about three times during the workday they can keep up," O'Connor says. "Often, about 15 minutes on the pump works well and some moms find that adding a pumping session after nursing helps to build up supply." She also says that you can freeze two day old milk that has been refrigerated. "Remember, your milk is generally good in the refrigerator for eight days," O'Connor says.
4. High Lipase Milk With First Child
If you had high lipase milk with your first kid, will it be most likely to happen again with a second child?
Not necessarily, according to O'Connor. This is a scenario that you just have to wait out and see what happens.
5. Going Back To Work
My son is 9 months old and exclusively breastfed. I'm returning to work soon and I don’t know how to feel about it. I'm excited and sad at the same time. How can I cope with returning to work?
It's totally normal to have those conflicted feelings, notes O'Connor. "You are excited about returning to your old life and your profession, you are happy to have an income, and it can be isolating if you have not formed a network of friends who are home with their babies, so you may be happy to be having more adult interactions," she says. "At the same time, you love your baby and may have guilty feelings about leaving him with someone else. These are all normal feelings." O'Connor recommends delegating other work so that when you are home, you can focus on your baby. Cooking, house cleaning, laundry — your partner, spouse, or even your baby's caregiver can help with these things.
She also notes that you should expect your baby to wake more at night in the beginning as his schedule has changed. "It will get back to normal in a couple of weeks," she says. Having sympathetic co-workers can help.
6. Cutting Dairy Out Of Diet
My baby suffers with tons of gas and I'm cutting dairy to see if that helps. How long does it take before all the dairy is out of my system and I can see if it is helping him?
"Typically it takes two to four weeks for dairy to get out of your system," O'Connor says. "If that does not make a difference, check with your local IBCLC to investigate other possible causes of gas."
7. Milk Blisters Won't Go Away
What do I do for milk blisters? Nothing, and I really do mean nothing that has been suggested has worked. (Warm, wet compresses before nursing, scrubbing with a rough washcloth in the shower, etc.) I've had it for over a month now. And now on top of it, we've dealt with thrush twice. It's getting painful to the point I'm crying and won't hold my son in my one arm in fear of dropping him cause it's that painful.
This can't be easy to deal with, mama, but it sounds like there's more to it. O'Connor says it sounds like your baby has a poor latch. "Attend a La Leche League Meeting or find a different IBCLC who can help you figure out a better position," she says.
8. Nipples Feel Cold & Painful
I'm a first time mom and I don't know if it's just me, but I feel like my nipples are cold 100 percent of the time. And it hurts. I just want to know if I'm the only one dealing with this. I use lanolin after I pump and feed and my nipples aren't cracked or bruised.
O'Connor says you could have Raynaud’s. According to Mayo Clinic, Raynaud's disease is a disease that can cause some areas of your body to feel numb and cold in response to stress or cold temperatures. "Are other extremities of your body typically cold? Your hands and feet? Lanolin will not help," O'Connor says. "For the short term, you can apply pressure after nursing and pumping, but be sure to check with your midwife or OB-GYN about Raynaud's."
9. Baby Refuses Bottle Suddenly
My 10 week old son is exclusively breastfed. I have used a Tommee Tippee bottle twice while shopping, and he has taken it. However, New Year's Eve, I decided to have a glass of wine and wanted to supplement again and he refused. I have to leave him this week for three afternoons and I'm afraid he won't take a bottle while I'm gone. What do I do to get my baby to take a bottle?
First things first, don't feel like a glass of wine has to be followed with a bottle. "If you have a glass of wine there is no need to pump and dump," O'Connor says. "But the bottle, the flow of the bottle, and the position of the baby can make a difference in a baby taking a bottle or not." She recommends keeping your baby as upright as possible so they are not "drowning" from the flow. "If the person offering the bottles gets skin to skin with the baby, he may take the bottle. Also, wearing the baby in a front facing carrier while offering the bottle can help as well," O'Connor says.
10. Hands-Free Bras For Pumping
I just started back to work and have a 30 minute window to set up my pump, pump, eat lunch, and clean up. The lunch eating has been put on the back burner, but can't last for long. I am a teacher and have no other time. I'm looking for suggestions on hands-free pumping bras that are easy and work well.
"The good news is that if you have access to a refrigerator, you can just keep your pump parts in a bag and you can pump and store it all in the bag and wash once you get home," O'Connor says. "There's no need to wash the pump after each session." She suggests trying on a few different hands-free bras to see which works best for you as there are several great ones on the market. It's a good idea to have more than one as well.
11. Supply Affected By Switching Breasts To Nurse
I have exclusively breastfed my little one for three months now. Here lately, he is spitting up a lot, even after burping, so instead of offering both breasts, I offer one and then an hour or so later, the other. Will this affect my breast milk supply since he isn't feeding both sides?
"If he is satisfied and growing well with this set up, your supply should be fine," O'Connor says.
12. Giving Baby Her First Bottle
My 3-month-old daughter's christening is this weekend. By the time we get her ready and to the church, I'm pretty sure her feeding time is going to run into mass. I'm planning to bring a bottle of pumped breast milk. This will be my first time giving her a bottle outside of the house. Do I need to keep it cold (it should be out of the fridge for about two hours)? If so, any tips for doing so? Also, will I need to warm it before giving to her?
"If the milk is fresh (not previously frozen), it is good at room temperature for eight to ten hours," O'Connor says. But she also notes that it might be worth considering wearing a wrap dress or some type of nursing clothes just in case you need to nurse her.
13. Increasing Supply
I am almost four weeks postpartum and I am only pumping half an ounce each breast. My son loves to nurse, but he also takes formula from the bottle and has no problem switching back and forth. I nurse to let him have my breasts and I am trying to power pump as well. I take brewer's yeast and fenugreek tablets because I want to produce more milk so I can just give him breast milk. Any suggestions? What is a good pumping/nursing schedule to help my milk come in more?
"If you are not already, it is best to use a rental pump to increase milk," O'Connor says. But to address your supply, she recommends seeing an IBCLC to assess your baby's latch.
14. Pumping Colostrum
I have an 8 month old and am currently 23 weeks pregnant. I stopped breastfeeding at four months due to lack of supply and knowledge on breastfeeding. I noticed a few days ago that my shirt was soaking wet, like my milk came in, but it was all clear like colostrum. So I had hand expressed it into a container and got one ounce. My question is, can I hand express the colostrum to freeze and feed when baby gets here? Is it OK to pump?
"Many moms hand express colostrum prenatally," O'Connor says. It's fine to do and the only reason not to express milk prenatally is if you are at risk for preterm labor and have been advised to refrain from intercourse. "You can also share this milk with your older baby," she says.
15. Transitioning Breastsleeping Babies To Their Own Bed
I have 9-month-old twin girls who have been breastsleeping with me since they came home from the NICU at 1 month old. They are exclusively breastfed and I want to keep breastfeeding, but would like to transition them to a pack and play. Any suggestions?
"Let them practice napping during the day," O'Connor says. "Before moving them to their crib, be sure they are fully asleep as moving a baby too soon after falling asleep can disturb them and they may wake." She also suggests keeping the pack and play next to your bed at first to help make the transition easier.
16. Clogged Duct While Pregnant
I am 24 weeks pregnant and think I may have a clogged duct. How do I handle this?
Strange as it sounds, thiss does happen to some women. "You can try massaging gently if it bothers you and you may also want to apply ice to the area to loosen up the plug," O'Connor says.
17. Finding Time To Pump
My newborn is going on 6 weeks old. I am attempting to prepare to go back to work, but I am struggling to find time to pump. She typically feeds every two and a half to three hours and always eats from both sides.
If you are returning to work soon, you can try to pump right after she nurses, suggests O'Connor. "You may not collect much at first, but it will accumulate and in time your body will be able to make more," she says. "When you are at work, you will be pumping at a time that she typically nurses so you will be able to get more milk out."
18. Breastfeeding, But Not Pumping
Am I the only mom who exclusively breastfeeds and doesn't pump at all? How will it affect my milk supply? My baby is 2 months old and I'm not a pumper. I'm wondering how far I'll likely get continuing this method.
No worries, mama. O'Connor says many women exclusively breastfeed without pumping. "If you do not need to be away from your baby for long periods of time, you will do well — chances are you will nurse as long as you want to. Pumps are a relatively new invention," she says.
19. Painful Lump From Pumping
My son will not latch so I am exclusively pumping. My right boob was sore the other day, but I took a hot shower and it stopped. Today it's sore again, but pretty bad, and there's a lump. I've added heat and massaged it, but nothing is helping. What can I do?
"It sounds like you may have a clogged milk duct and possibly mastitis. Have you tried icing the area? This will reduce inflammation making it easier to for the milk to flow," O'Connor says. She recommends that you avoid wearing tight bras and tops and try not to sleep with a bra. If you develop a fever, you should see your doctor.
20. Birth Control Affecting Supply
Will the birth control shot hurt my milk supply?
"Hormonal birth control can have a negative impact on your milk supply," O'Connor says. "If you want to try the pill first to see how you react, that is safer because the shot has longer effects."
21. Breast Pumps Under $200
I will eventually have to go back to work, so I need a pump. Which brand or pump has worked best for other moms that wasn't $200 or more?
"Often your insurance will cover the cost of a pump," O'Connor says. "See if there is a breastfeeding shop in your area where you can try different pumps. Many moms do best with a hospital grade rental pump."
22. Baby Nurses To Sleep Every Night
My baby girl is 5 months old and we've been co-sleeping. I want to wean her into her bassinet, but my issue is that she's used to falling asleep with my breast in her mouth. I can't get her to sleep without nursing and she won't take a bottle or pacifier. What do I do?
"After she falls asleep and is in a deep sleep, you can gently move her to the bassinet. It is easiest if the bassinet is right beside your bed," O'Connor says.
23. Transitioning To Solids
My baby is 5 months old and adjusting to her new diet, including baby food. She gets maybe one to two ounces per day. But, I'm afraid it'll hinder my supply since I'm not nursing as much at night anymore. I woke up with plugged ducts one day last week and am afraid it's going to happen again. Any tips for a better transition?
Starting solids are exciting, but O'Connor notes that it's important to remember that the first year of your baby's life, your milk is the bulk of your baby's nutrition. Continue to nurse as often as your baby wants, even while introducing solids.
24. Building A Freezer Stash
I am breastfeeding and pumping to bottle feed my baby, but it is just barely enough to get around and we already had to supplement with formula a few times. I really would like my daughter to only get breast milk. How can I increase my supply enough to build a freezer stash?
"Not everyone needs to fill their freezers," O'Connor says. "If you truly need to, you may want to use a hospital grade pump and try pumping after nursing. You may not get a lot, but with frequency, you can collect more and your body should respond to the stimulation." She also recommends nursing more frequently to drive up your supply.