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.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I had no idea what I was doing, especially when it came to breastfeeding. All I knew was that I wanted to do it, and I avoided breastfeeding books and pamphlets and classes like the plague. I was really worried that if I got myself all psyched out by the expert advice surrounding breastfeeding, I would have a difficult time and struggle more than if I had just decided to wing it.
My theory still stands — kind of. I didn't have any issues with breastfeeding, but I sure did second guess myself a lot and I made things a lot harder than they needed to be. (Like, you actually don't have to pump if you don't want to — I spent way too much time hooked up to my breast pump, causing oversupply for no good reason.) Breastfeeding may be natural, but there are so many pieces of the puzzle that it's easy to find yourself needing help.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Katy Linda agrees, and that's why she's here to answer 13 of your real breastfeeding questions. Whether you've just found out you're pregnant, are preparing to go back to work, or are breastfeeding your third baby, Linda can help with her expertise and advice. Trust your instincts, but trust your IBCLC, too.
1. Drying Up Breast Milk
My son is 5 months old and when I breastfeed him, he just wants to fall asleep, so I’m moving him to bottles — nursing seems to be more of a comfort to put him asleep. What can I do to dry up without all the pain?
According to Linda, it's actually very normal for your little one to fall asleep while breastfeeding. "It is totally normal for a baby to want to fall asleep at the breast — the hormones in breast milk are designed to put him to sleep." But if you still want to dry up your milk, Linda recommends sage and peppermint teas as gentle ways to decrease supply.
2. 6-Month-Old Wakes Up Every Two Hours
My 6-month-old is still waking up every two hours to breastfeed. She's in bed by 9, wakes up at 11 to eat, and so on. Some people are telling me she is not getting full before she falls asleep, or maybe she’s just used to that routine from when she was a newborn. Please help because this mommy is tired.
"Feeding every two hours is absolutely normal," Linda says. "Some parents find the overnight feedings to be challenging, but when they have the baby as close as possible, this can make a big difference." She notes that rooming in (having your baby in the same room as you) allows you to get your baby, feed them, and go back to sleep instead of walking to the nursery, turning on lights, fully waking up before breastfeeding, and then trying to settle back down. Hey, anything's worth a try for more sleep, right?
3. Pumping Schedule
My daughter is 6 weeks old and exclusively breastfed. I have started using my manual pump since she is sleeping through the night and I wake up in pain, so I typically pump one side while she eats. I will start to use my electric pump to begin storing soon and wanted to know the pumping schedule you recommend? She has not been introduced to a bottle yet, so pumping is purely for stock right now.
"For parents who are planning to return to work, they typically find pumping after one to two feedings per day is plenty. This allows them to have enough milk to start playing with a bottle every few days, as well as giving them a small freezer stash to have in case of emergency," Linda says. She adds, however, that it's important to remember that the goal of pumping is to pump on Monday what the baby needs on Tuesday, and so on. "Having a small freezer stash in case of an emergency (getting stuck in traffic, forgetting your pump parts) is often helpful, but there's no need to take the time to have hundreds of ounces in the freezer," Linda says.
4. Re-Latching 3-Month-Old
So my daughter had issues gaining weight after going home, and we had to start giving her formula at about 1 week old. Soon her feedings were all from the bottle, both breast milk and formula. She's now 3 months old and my question is, has it been too long to try and get her to latch again?
"Absolutely not," Linda says. "It is worth trying and seeing what happens, and from there, if you need hands-on help, find a local IBCLC who has helped families through this before."
5. Random Bleeding & Supply Tanking
I have a 7-week-old that has slept four to five hours twice in the last week. Both times, I had some random bleeding like I was starting my period and my supply completely tanked the following day, but then it stopped and the next day was normal again. Is this normal? Should I just make sure I never go more than three hours without nursing to keep my period at bay? With my two boys, I never had a period until I was weaning at 15 to 16 months and my milk dried up immediately. Then I got pregnant after one or two periods, so perhaps my body really wants to have a cycle again?
With so little information, Linda recommends having a conversation with your doctor as this is not something common or easily diagnosed.
6. Giving Cow's Milk Over Breast Milk
My son is almost 1-year-old and has slowly been weaning (which is good with me, I didn't want it to have to be a struggle). He now only nurses when he first wakes up, before naps, and at bedtime. He only takes two naps a day, sometimes only one — I have a feeling he is about to drop a nap. My question is, when should I start giving him milk to drink that's not breast milk? He will usually take a bottle of water or juice in the afternoons. Should I give him milk instead? He is gaining weight really well and looks very healthy, so I am not worried about his calories, but I just want to be sure he is getting everything he needs.
"That would be a great conversation to have with your pediatrician," Linda says. "For children under 1, the general recommendation is that breast milk and/or formula should be the bulk of their diet. Once they turn 1, things change a bit and it is generally recommended to use cow's milk if the parents are no longer feeding their baby with human milk. Discussing with your child's doctor can help ensure every child is getting exactly what they need."
7. Cutting Back On Milk Since Adding Food
I exclusively breastfeed my 8-month-old son and pump for his bottles while I'm away. His feedings have fluctuated since I’ve gone back to work — starting at about 6 months, he has been dropping feedings. We started with six feedings when I first went back to work, then five, now down to four with two of those being 6-ounce bottles while I'm at work. We've also added breakfast and dinner. Of course, I'm always worried he's not getting enough milk. Is it normal for a little one to cut back on feedings after adding food?
"This all sounds very normal," Linda says. "It sounds like there are fewer bottles, but they are larger bottles, so overall intake is about the same."
8. Baby 'Snacking' Instead Of A Full Breastfeeding Session
My 5-week-old has started 'snacking.' She will only nurse for four to seven minutes before refusing the breast, then she will want to nurse again in about an hour. This typically happens in the afternoon, and her morning feeds generally last between 12 to 20 minutes. My concern is that she is not getting the fatty hind milk because her poops are green. She seems to need the breast to calm herself. Any ideas how to break this bad habit and get her to nurse for a full session?
According to Linda, snacking isn't necessarily a concern by itself. "If baby is otherwise happy and healthy, some parents find offering the other breast is helpful. If feeding concerns persist, consulting with an IBCLC can help with specifics for why your baby needs to eat frequently," she says.
9. Evening Out Breast Size
So I have been breastfeeding for two, almost three months now, and one of my breasts is larger than the other. This is partially my fault, because when my baby was smaller, I would let her fall asleep on one breast at night. I also have a hard time pumping sometimes. How can I even out my breasts and build my milk supply? I go back to work soon, so I will need to start building a milk stash.
"It is normal to have one breast that makes more milk than the other," Linda says. "Some parents find that by offering the lower producing breast more often or always starting with that side they can help even things out. In some situations, there will always be a difference. Since we know some parents can feed a baby from just one breast, it isn't really a concern."
10. Best Way To Store Breast Milk After Pumping
Which is better after pumping? Cooling in fridge then freezing, or putting directly in a freezer after pumping?
According to Linda, there isn't enough research to give a definite answer. She notes that parents frequently do both and there isn't anything that proves one way is better than the other.
11. Drinking Apple Cider Vinegar While Breastfeeding
My baby is almost 3 months. I have not been able to lose any weight and normally with breastfeeding I lose fast. I have read that apple cider vinegar can help and to drink teaspoons in the morning with tea. Will this be harmful for my son or will it affect him any?
Nope. Linda says there is no concern with apple cider vinegar, so feel free to drink it.
12. Pumping Every 6 Hours
My daughter is 4 months old and exclusively breastfed. I feed her from one breast at a time every three hours, so each breast goes about six hours between feedings. My question is about pumping when I go back to work. If I pump the other breast at my daughter's morning feeding, could I then go six hours before pumping (and pump both breasts)? Would this mess with my supply somehow? Should I just stick with pumping one breast at a time every three hours because that's how she eats?
That's probably for the best, according to Linda. "Most parents will find going six hours between feedings and/or pumping sessions will impact their supply," she says. "Pumping both breasts every three hours would be a more typical schedule."
13. Baby Hits Herself In The Head While Nursing
My daughter is 7 months and when she’s breastfeeding, she hits herself in the head and I'm not sure why. Should I be concerned?
Nope. "Many babies move their limbs around while feeding," Linda says. "They're just exploring how their bodies work."