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Pregnancy New Baby, New Mom Ask The Experts Tools & Resources

Questions & Answers About Breastfeeding Your Baby

  1. Why should I breastfeed?
  2. How long should I breastfeed?
  3. Is there any time when I should not breastfeed?
  4. Is it safe to take medications while breastfeeding?
  5. Can I breastfeed if my breasts are small?
  6. Will breastfeeding keep me from getting pregnant?
  7. Will breastfeeding tie me to my home?
  8. Can I still breastfeed when I go back to work?
  9. How much do breastfeeding pumps cost and what kind will I need?
  10. How can I breastfeed discreetly in public?
  11. If I decide to breastfeed, is there a right way to do so?
  12. Does breastfeeding hurt?
  13. Can I give my baby a pacifier if I breastfeed?
  14. How do I know that my baby is getting enough milk from breastfeeding?
  15. Will my partner be jealous if I breastfeed?

Why should I breastfeed?

Here are just some of the many good reasons why you should breastfeed your baby:

  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. Breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.

  • Breast milk has agents (called antibodies) in it to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Breastfed babies are more able to fight off infection and disease, such as diarrhea, ear infections, allergies and asthma. They are sick less often and have fewer visits to health care providers.

  • Nursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds of pregnancy. It also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding you might have after giving birth.

  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer and may lower the risk of ovarian cancer.

  • Breastfeeding can help you bond with your baby. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, and warm and comforted.


How long should I breastfeed?

One of the best things that only you can do is to breastfeed your baby for as long as possible. The longer a mom and baby breastfeeds, the greater the benefits are for both mom and baby. Babies should be fed with breast milk only - no formula - for the first six months of life. Ideally, though, babies should receive breast milk through the first year of life, or for as long as both you and your baby wish. Solid foods can be added to your baby’s diet, while you continue to breastfeed, when your baby is six months old. For at least the first six months, breastfed babies don't need supplements of water, juice, or other fluids. These can interfere with your milk supply if they are introduced during this time.


Is there any time when I should not breastfeed?

Some women think that when they are sick, they should not breastfeed. But, most common illnesses, such as colds, flu, or diarrhea, can't be passed through breast milk. In fact, if you are sick, your breast milk will have antibodies in it. These antibodies will help protect your baby from getting the same sickness.

A few viruses can pass through breast milk. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is one of them. If you are HIV positive, you should not breastfeed.

Sometimes babies can be born with a condition called galactosemia, in which they can't tolerate breast milk. This is because their bodies can't break down the sugar galactose. Babies with classic galactosemia may have liver problems, malnutrition, or mental retardation. Since both human and animal milk contain the sugar lactose that splits into galactose and glucose, babies with classic galactosemia must be fed a special diet that is free of lactose and galactose.

If you are breastfeeding, you should not smoke or take drugs. Some drugs, such as cocaine and PCP, can affect your baby and cause serious side effects. Other drugs, such as heroin and marijuana can cause irritability, poor sleeping patterns, tremors, and vomiting. Babies can become addicted to these drugs.

Sometimes a baby may have a reaction to something you eat, but but this doesn't mean your baby is allergic to your milk. Usually, if you have eaten a food throughout pregnancy, your baby has already become used to the flavor of this food. If you stop eating whatever is bothering your baby, the problem usually goes away on its own.


Is it safe to take medications while breastfeeding?

Most medications have not been tested in nursing women. No one knows exactly how a given drug will affect a breastfed child. Most over-the-counter and prescription drugs, taken in moderation and only when needed, are thought to be safe. You should always check first with a health care provider before taking medicine. With some drugs, you can reduce the baby's exposure by taking them just after nursing or before the baby sleeps. Even mothers who must take daily medication for conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, or high blood pressure may be able to breastfeed.


Can I breastfeed if my breasts are small?

Of course! Breast size is not related to the ability to produce milk for a baby. Breast size is determined by the amount of fatty tissue in the breast, not by the amount of milk. Most women, with all sizes of breasts, can make enough milk for their babies.


Will breastfeeding keep me from getting pregnant?

When you breastfeed, your ovaries can stop releasing eggs (or ovulating), making it harder for you to get pregnant. Your periods can also stop. But, there are no guarantees that you will not get pregnant while you are nursing. The only way to make sure pregnancy does not occur is to use a method of birth control. The safest birth control pill to use when you are breastfeeding is the "mini-pill." However, talk with your health care provider about what birth control method is best for you to use while breastfeeding.


Will breastfeeding tie me to my home?

Not at all! Breastfeeding can be convenient no matter where you are because you don't have to bring along feeding equipment like bottles, water, or formula. Your baby is all you need. Even if you want to breastfeed in private, you usually can find a woman's lounge or fitting room. If you want to go out without your baby, you can pump your milk beforehand, and leave it for someone else to give your baby while you are gone.


Can I still breastfeed when I go back to work?

Yes! You can do it! Breastfeeding keeps you connected to your baby, even when you are away. Employers and co-workers benefit because breastfeeding moms often need less time off for sick babies.

More and more women are breastfeeding when they return to work. There are many companies selling effective breast pumps and storage containers for your milk. Many employers are willing to set up special rooms for mothers who pump. After you have your baby, try to take as much time off as possible, since it will help you get breastfeeding well established and also reduce the number of months you may need to pump your milk while you are at work.

If you plan to have your baby take a bottle of expressed breast milk while you are at work, it is recommended to introduce your baby to a bottle when he or she is around four weeks old. Otherwise, the baby might not accept the bottle later on. Once your baby is comfortable taking a bottle, it is a good idea to have dad or another family member offer a bottle of pumped breast milk on a regular basis so the baby stays in practice.

Let your employer and/or human resources manager know that you plan to continue breastfeeding once you return to work. Before you return to work, or even before you have your baby, start talking with your employer about breastfeeding. Don't be afraid to request a clean and private area where you can pump your milk. If you don't have your own office space, you can ask to use a supervisor's office during certain times. Or you can ask to have a clean, clutter free corner of a storage room. All you need is a chair, a small table, and an outlet if you are using an electric pump. Many electric pumps also can run on batteries and don't require an outlet. You can lock the door and place a small sign on it that asks for some privacy. You can pump your breast milk during lunch or other breaks. You could suggest to your employer that you are willing to make up work time for time spent pumping milk.

After pumping, you can refrigerate your milk, place it in a cooler, or freeze it for the baby to be fed later. You can even leave it at room temperature for up to six hours if you don't have access to a refrigerator. Many breast pumps come with carrying cases that have a section to store your milk with ice packs.

Many employers are NOT aware of state laws that state they have to allow you to breastfeed at your job. Under these laws, your employer is required to set up a space for you to breastfeed and/or allow paid/unpaid time for breastfeeding employees. To see if your state has a breastfeeding law for employers, go to or call us at 1-800-994-WOMAN (9662).


How much do breastfeeding pumps cost and what kind will I need?

Breast pumps range in price from under $50 (manual/hand pump or battery powered pumps) to several hundred dollars (electrical and hospital grade pumps). If you're only going to be away from your baby a few hours a week, then you can purchase a hand pump, or one of the less expensive ones. If you're going back to work, it is worth investing in a good quality electric pump. You can purchase these from some retail stores or online, but most are available for purchase or rent through lactation consultants, at local hospitals, or from a breastfeeding organization.


How can I breastfeed discreetly in public?

You can breastfeed discreetly in public by wearing clothes that allow easy access to your breasts, such as button down shirts. By draping a receiving blanket over your baby and your breast, most people won't even realize that you are breastfeeding. It's helpful to nurse the baby before he/she becomes fussy so that you can get into a comfortable position to nurse. You also can purchase a nursing cover or baby sling for added discretion. Many stores have women's lounges or dressing rooms, if you want to slip into one of those to breastfeed.


If I decide to breastfeed, is there a right way to do so?

There are several tips for making breastfeeding a good experience for both you and your baby. However, you can prevent the most common challenges or problems by following the three most important tips about breastfeeding:

  1. Nurse early and often. Try to breastfeed your baby within the first hour after birth. Newborns need to nurse frequently, at least every two hours, and not on a strict schedule. This stimulates your breasts to produce plenty of milk.

  2. Nurse with the nipple and the areola (brown area surrounding the nipple) in the baby's mouth, not just the nipple.

  3. Breastfeed on demand. Since breast milk is more easily digested than formula, breastfed babies eat more frequently than bottle-fed babies. Babies nurse less frequently as they get older and start solid foods. Watch your baby, not the clock, for signs of hunger, such as being more alert or active, mouthing (putting hands or fists to mouth and making sucking motion with mouth), or rooting (turning head in search of nipple). Crying is a late sign of hunger.


Does breastfeeding hurt?

Some mothers initially experience tenderness that disappears as the days go by. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt once that tenderness has passed. Your breasts and nipples are designed to deliver milk to your baby. When your baby is breastfeeding effectively, it should be calming and comfortable for both of you. If breastfeeding becomes painful for you, seek help from a breastfeeding specialist or a lactation consultant.

After the initial tenderness, breastfeeding should not hurt. If your baby is latched on and positioned properly, you should not feel pain. The baby's mouth should be wide open, with as much of the areola as far back into his/her mouth as possible. The baby should never nurse on the nipple only. If it hurts, take the baby off of your breast and try again. The baby may not be latched on right. Break your baby's suction to your breast by gently placing your finger in the corner of his/her mouth, and re-position your baby.

If you feel pain, the baby is not latched onto your breast properly.


Can I give my baby a pacifier if I breastfeed?

Most breastfeeding counselors recommend avoiding bottle nipples or pacifiers for about the first month because they may interfere with your baby's ability to learn to breastfeed. After you and your baby have learned to breastfeed well, you can introduce artificial nipples when feeding the baby some expressed breastmilk in a bottle, or with a pacifier, if you choose.


How do I know that my baby is getting enough milk from breastfeeding?

In the first few days, when you're in the hospital your baby should stay with you in your room if there are no complications with the delivery or with your baby's health. The baby will be sleepy. Don't expect the baby to wake you up when he or she is hungry. You will have to wake the baby every one to two hours to feed him or her. At first you will be feeding your baby colostrum, your first milk that is precious thick yellowish milk. Even though it looks like only a small amount, this is the only food your baby needs. In the beginning, you can expect your baby to lose some weight. This is very normal and is not from breastfeeding. As long as the baby doesn't lose more than 7 to 10% of his or her birth weight during the first three to five days, he is getting enough to eat.

You can tell your baby is getting enough milk by keeping track of the number of wet and dirty diapers. In the first few days, when your milk is low in volume and high in nutrients, your baby will have only 1 or 2 wet diapers a day. After your milk supply has increased, your baby should have 5 to 6 wet diapers and 3 to 4 dirty diapers every day. Consult your pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby's weight gain.

This chart shows the minimum amount of diapers for most babies.
It is fine if your baby has more.

Baby’s Age Wet Diapers Dirty Diapers and their Color and Texture
Day 1 (birth) 2 1 – Thick, tarry and black
Day 2 3 2 – Thick, tarry and black
Day 3 4 3 – Greenish yellow
Day 4 5 4 – Greenish yellow
Day 5 6 4 – Seedy, watery mustard color
Day 6 6 4 – Seedy, watery mustard color
Day 7 6 4 – Seedy, watery mustard color


Will my partner be jealous if I breastfeed?

If you prepare him in advance, your partner should not be jealous. Explain that you need his support. You can tell him the important benefits of breastfeeding. Tell him he won't make bottles, so he'll get more rest. Be sure to emphasize how much money he'll save too. Tell him it will cost over $300 a month to pay for formula - money that could go to bills, savings, or a vacation. You can tell him that breastfeeding will give his child the best start at life, with benefits that can last well into childhood. He can help with changing and burping the baby, sharing chores and by simply sitting with you and the baby to enjoy the special mood that breastfeeding creates.


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This information is reproduced courtesy of the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services

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