Breastfeeding faq

Close-up of baby being breastfed, in a round up of lactation consultants most common breastfeeding q...
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Lactation Consultants Answer The Most Frequently-Asked Breastfeeding Questions

Expert advice is here.

Every new parent has experienced the steep learning curve that accompanies the first hours and weeks of caring for a newborn. Your head swims with questions and exhaustion, and if you’re breastfeeding, establishing that relationship can be a major source of your earliest new-parent questions. Am I doing this right? How can I tell if my milk has come in? Is my baby eating enough, and how can I be sure? While you’re still in the hospital, or in the care of a doula or midwife, it’s a great idea to take advantage of their expertise from the get-go. Ask them to evaluate your baby’s latch, or help explain how you’ll know if your milk has come in yet, or perhaps to help you how to try a few different breastfeeding positions to see which feels best. Once you’re home, though, it’s inevitable that some breastfeeding questions will arise. We asked five lactation consultants to share the questions they hear most often from new parents, and how they answer. Whether you’re doing some middle of the night, nursing-session Googling, or are still in the midst of pregnancy and simply trying to prepare yourself, you’ll find expert answers to your most pressing breastfeeding questions here.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

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“The number one thing I am asked is: How do we know if the baby’s getting enough to eat?” says International-Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tiara Caldwell. While it’s normal to worry and wonder about this, your pediatrician should be closely following your newborn’s weight, Caldwell assures. If there is a concern with weight, she says, your health care provider will likely recommend you get some guidance from a lactation professional. “You can’t weigh your baby every day, though, so the best thing to do is track diapers — wet and dirty diapers are a great indicator,” Caldwell suggests. “I encourage parents to trust their instincts. Usually you can tell if there’s an issue with your baby, even if you're a brand new parent.”

Chanelle Andrews, an IBCLC, agrees that this question is one that many new parents worry about. “Many believe they need to produce enough milk to feed their baby and have enough to store bags and bags of milk in the freezer, so when I let them know their newborn’s stomach can only hold a few drops, they’re shocked,” Andrews says. If there is a known medical condition that may cause a breastfeeding person to have a decreased milk supply, Andrews says that early weight monitoring of the baby may be necessary to make sure they are getting enough milk. “There are very rare instances when a parent cannot produce enough breastmilk,” she stresses. If you are worried at all, though, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to your pediatrician or health care provider, who can asses your baby’s weight gain and help measure how much milk they’re taking in during a breastfeeding session.

Will breastfeeding hurt?

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What pregnant person has not imagined breastfeeding a newborn and asked themselves how on earth that could be comfortable? And indeed, Andrews says that whether or not breastfeeding hurts is one of the most common questions she gets. “I always let them know that there is a difference between discomfort and pain,” she says, explain that there usually is an adjustment period as the breastfeeding person gets used to having a baby at their breast for so many hours a day, and that can be uncomfortable. “This is especially true for parents who have inverted nipples, multiples, and are nursing for the very first time.”

Certain moments in a breastfeeding experience may be temporarily painful, like the sudden increase of milk that usually happens around four days postpartum, or other moments of engorgement — perhaps when your newborn sleeps a bit longer than usual — but these are “biological, and things we take special care of ourselves to get through,” Andrews says. If you’re experiencing pain because of improper latching of the baby or incorrect usage of a breast pump, though, she says it’s best to have a lactation professional to help you through, as they can be avoided or corrected with proper education and support.

What is cluster feeding and is it normal?

If you’re new to the breastfeeding parents club, people who are long-time members may have warned you about the cluster feeding that often goes hand-in-hand with having a newborn. Whether all babies cluster feed and how to know if what your baby is doing is normal, is a source of anxiety for many new parents, says IBCLC Jody Segrave-Daly. “The term ‘cluster feeding’ describes a series of short feeding sessions that usually last for a period of 2-3 hours during the day,” explains Segrave-Daly. “A baby usually has this type of behavior during a fussy period, during the evening when the milk supply is a bit lower (typically in the evening) or during a growth spurt.”

However stressful these extended feedings may be, Segrave-Daly says that cluster feeding is considered normal as long as your baby is satisfied after all the other feedings of the day, gains 5-7 ounces weekly for the first 4 months, and has the appropriate amount of dirty and wet diapers.

Can someone else give my baby a bottle while I sleep through a feeding session overnight?

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Not only is it OK to ask a partner, spouse or other support person to help with one of the night feedings, it’s a great way to manage the stress and exhaustion of new parenthood. “Yes, you can always opt to have your baby take a bottle of expressed milk or formula in lieu of a feeding session with you,” says Megan Davidson, a lactation consultant and doula, adding that everyone’s body will experience the impact of a skipped feeding in a slightly different way. “Some people can skip a feed and continue to have a robust supply, some will wake up in a puddle of milk because skipping a feed makes them leak milk, some will run the risk of plugged ducts or infection, and some might find their overall supply lessens.” Figuring out what your body needs and how to make it work will be an individual process, Davidson says. “If you need more sleep to function and be a good parent, then experimenting with how to get it in a way that is safe for your body is a valuable process.”

Is it normal if my baby goes long stretches of time without having a bowel movement?

The newborn days are full of surprises, and a new-found obsession with counting dirty diapers is just one of many. If you’re nervous that your newborn hasn’t pooped in a few days, you’re in good company says Melissa Cole, IBCLC at Luna Lactation. “Irregular stooling may be common for many babies but that does not mean it is the physiological norm. Babies who are receiving enough food to be growing and developing appropriately, should also be having regular bowel movements.” Typically, one or more daily bowel movement is considered normal for breastfed babies, Cole adds. If your baby seems to be dealing with any digestive discomfort, irregular bowel movement patterns, or digestive upset, Cole suggests reach out to a board-certified lactation consultant or your pediatrician, who should be able to help address any digestive issues that your baby may be having.


Tiara Caldwell, IBCLC, owner of Crowned & Cradled

Chanelle Andrews, IBCLC, PMH-C, owner of Hey Mama Lactation and Perinatal Care

Melissa Cole, MS, IBCLC, owner of Luna Lactation

Jody Segrave-Daly, RN, MS, IBCLC, Co-Founder of The Fed Is Best Foundation

Megan Davidson, certified lactation counselor and postpartum doula