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.
Like most aspects of parenting, breastfeeding can be incredibly fickle. One day, everything's going great — your baby is latching well, they are happy to eat and seem content, and you're no longer squeezing your boob over the sink in an effort to relieve the pain of engorgement. But the next morning, everything is up in the air as your kid no longer wants to breastfeed, has developed reflux, and cries every time they eat.
What gives? While there's no exact answer for every breastfeeding mama, some of these issues can be answered. I spoke with Stephanie Nguyen, founder of Modern Milk, a one-stop resource for moms who have questions about breastfeeding, infant sleep, and more, for her insight on some of your breastfeeding questions. Nguyen is a Registered Nurse, a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with a Master of Science in Nursing. Basically? She knows her stuff. If you want to connect with her, you can also check out her Twitter and Facebook page. Here are just a few tips she has on some of the more common breastfeeding conundrums.
1. Pumping Newbie
I am a first time mom of a 1-week-old baby. She is one hungry baby, wanting to eat every hour to two hours. I have been throwing around the idea of pumping a few times a day to help keep a little bit of storage in the refrigerator, this way it will allow me to be able to go out and about by myself or with the baby in public. Is pumping a few times while breastfeeding bad, like every three hours or so? Will it affect my supply at all in a bad way? I am not sure where to begin if it will not affect it. I am just kind of lost in all this.
"I usually tell moms to put the pump away for the first four to six weeks if baby is latching at the breast and breastfeeding is going well," Nguyen says. She adds that it often takes about four to six weeks for your milk supply to be established, and the more you can exclusively breastfeed on demand, the better it is for establishing your milk supply. "Once your milk supply is established, after about a month, then you can begin pumping to create a stash of milk. Usually once or twice a day is enough." She noted, however, that life doesn't abide by a schedule and sometime moms need more flexibility. "In this case, I would recommend pumping for every missed feeding. For example, if you are gone for three hours and baby eats once while you are away, you will want to make sure to pump once to make up for the missed feedings. This will help maintain your milk supply."
2. Fussy When Breastfeeding
My little one is 6-weeks-old and exclusively breastfed. The past couple of days he's been extremely fussy, pulling off the breast, getting impatient, and crying, but his growth is wonderful. He just absolutely will not have it if he's apart from me. I don't mind him needing me all the time. I'm his mama; that's my duty to make him feel secure. I feel kind of hopeless when we try to go out anywhere though, or visit family, etc. I just want to know if other people have dealt with something similar? Is this normal? I'm worried maybe he's in pain or something and I don't want to just keep him on my breast if something is wrong. If he'll grow out of it, any tips or tricks to help soothe him other than my nipple?
Try not to panic too much, mama. "Sometimes babies will get fussy at the breast for different reasons," says Nguyen. "It could be that the flow was not fast enough, mom has a low supply, or baby is uncomfortable at the breast for other reasons. It's hard to say what could be going on without actually observing a feeding. I would give it a couple of days, make sure baby is getting enough milk by counting wet and dirty diapers, and see if it passes. If it doesn't, I would recommend seeing a lactation consultant for an evaluation." Nguyen also notes that there's nothing wrong with a baby wanting to be near their mama all the time. "6-week-old babies like to be held. Nothing is wrong, you just have to do what you can to comfort your baby. In this circumstance, baby wearing can be very helpful. At this age, I recommend a wrap carrier because it's very comfortable for baby and mom. Most cities have a Babywearing International Chapter that can help you with babywearing if you need it."
3. Best Position For Reflux
I am new to breastfeeding and my 1-month-old baby girl was diagnosed with silent reflux. I need help figuring out the best feeding position for her. We were laying down, but I think it made the reflux worst. Also I am large chested, 40 F. So I find it difficult holding her and my breast at the same time.
"For reflux, upright feeding positions can often be helpful," says Nguyen. "If you can, try having baby straddle your legs, facing your breast, and feed in an upright, sitting position." Nguyen notes that this position can be challenging, so it might be beneficial to find a local IBCLC to help with some positioning tricks and tips.
4. Changes After Mastitis
I have had a very strong supply since my milk came in. Last week, I ended up with mastitis in both breasts, and seemed to still have a pretty healthy supply considering. I am almost finished with the medication, but I have noticed a decrease in the production. Previously, I was leaking anywhere from four to six ounces, without stimulation, on the breast that my baby was not nursing on. Now, I barely leak on the opposite side at all, and often times she gets restless while nursing. Will my supply return to normal or has that changed completely? Is there any way to keep my little one focused while nursing? It's not that the milk isn't there, as I have been able to both hand express and pump after she gets fussy. Any suggestions?
"Most likely, your supply has dropped from the mastitis and your baby is frustrated that the flow is not as fast as she is used to," says Nguyen. "However, since you were starting with a very large supply, this may actually be a good thing and can help prevent mastitis in the future. There's a good chance that your daughter will get used to the new flow. If not, and she is consistently frustrated, I would recommend seeing an IBCLC for a consultation. They can weigh your baby before and after a feeding, and see exactly how much she is getting during the feeding."
5. Cracked Nipples & Latch Pain
Is it possible to bring your milk supply back up by pumping? I feel like my milk supply has decreased and I want to make sure my daughter is getting her fulfillment out of her mommy's milk. Also, what can I do for cracked nipples to make them heal faster? I'm allergic to lanolin, and coconut oil was working for a little while, but my cracks came back more painful than before. The pain of my daughter's latch makes me not want to breastfeed, but at the same time, I love breastfeeding her and don't want to stop.
Nguyen recommends a consultation with an IBCLC if you're struggling with low supply and cracked nipples. "Most likely there is an issue with the latch, which can cause sore nipples as well as a low supply," Nguyen says. "You can definitely increase your milk supply with pumping, however, without observing a feeding and seeing exactly what is going on, it is hard to say what could be causing the low supply. If you want to continue breastfeeding, establishing a relationship with a local IBCLC can be very helpful and encouraging."
6. Prepping For Breastfeeding Twins
I currently have two boys, and I was only able to breastfeed them for a couple weeks before I dried up. I am currently 19 weeks pregnant with twin girls and am dead set on breastfeeding, but worried that I will dry up like I did with my boys. I'm just wondering if there is any way that I can make sure my breasts produce enough milk to feed both babies and be able to breastfeed for at least six months as I know how important it is and healthy it is to breastfeed.
Nguyen recommends taking a breastfeeding class, as well as speaking with a local IBCLC. "If you were not able to make enough milk for your first two children, it would be worth talking to somebody about your full medical history and breastfeeding challenges so that they can help you prepare for breastfeeding twins," Nguyen says.
7. Weaning A Reluctant Toddler
I am nursing a 16-month-old and am trying to wean him, but he just won't give it up. I've tried to just take it away, but he cries bloody murder. Someone told me to try hot sauce. I did, and all my baby boy did was look at me and say yum. He takes a sippy cup fine, but when he wants his "na-nas", there's just no convincing him otherwise. Help please!
"Weaning is a tough process, especially when either mom or baby are not ready to wean," Nguyen says. "I would take it slow and make it as easy on your baby boy as possible. Try cutting out one feeding a day for a few weeks, and then cut out another feeding for another few weeks. This can make the transition a lot easier. It also can be helpful to find a substitute for breastfeeding, like snuggling, reading a book, or a yummy drink like warm almond or coconut milk."
8. Baby Refuses To Breastfeed
I'm a first time mommy. My son is two weeks away from being 4-months-old, and I've been trying to get him to breastfeed. When I first brought him home, he breastfed and bottle fed really well and didn't have a problem going back and forth. But now, he refuses my boobs. Every once in a while, he latches, but he won't suckle. He used to nurse in the shower, now he won't even do that. How do I get my son to nurse again? I want that connection so bad.
"Keep trying and don't give up if it's important to you," Nguyen says. "Reach out to a local IBCLC and see if they can watch a feeding and help make recommendations."