Support for Breastfeeding Moms
When my son was born I sought support for my breastfeeding struggles and found excellent groups on Facebook and in person through La Leche League. After participating in these groups for well over a year, I’ve seen the common breastfeeding questions come up time and again. While answers to these questions are readily available on other sites like the fantastic and all-knowing Kelly Mom, I’d like to share my perspective here along with my personal experience.
Please note I am not a medical professional, and my goal here is to share my personal experiences rather than the scientific answers that are available elsewhere. In sharing my experience I hope other women can relate and perhaps have a more successful breastfeeding experience after learning what worked for me.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the typical concerns among breastfeeding moms…
10 Common Breastfeeding Questions, Answered
Do I have enough milk?
This question plagued me early on, although nearly all women do have enough milk. The best way to measure if your baby is drinking enough is to monitor their diaper output. At first I recorded each wet and dirty diaper on paper, and then started using an app to track it. This might seem obsessive to some, but it was easy to do and gave me huge peace of mind when I could easily look and see that his diaper output was normal. Find out about normal diaper output here.
My young baby is feeding constantly! Why is he always hungry?
This is a worry I hear from so many new moms, and I was concerned myself. I called my lactation consultant because my son was feeding so frequently. And then I learned about cluster feeding. His behaviour was totally normal! Cluster feeding is actually what helps build up your milk supply and it does not mean you don’t have enough milk.
My best advice is to get comfortable in your favorite breastfeeding position and just enjoy the quiet time with your baby. I didn’t think I would miss cluster feeding, but once he was older and feeding sessions were quick 5 minute affairs I did miss the longer stretches we’d spend together when he was cluster feeding. Since he tended to cluster feed every evening, I used it as a time to watch some tv.
I have cold/ flu/ upset stomach. Can I still breastfeed?
Yes, and you should! I am writing this while recovering from the flu, and I didn’t change our breastfeeding habits at all. Breast milk is an amazing liquid – by feeding during an illness you will actually share antibodies with your baby so if they do catch your ailment, the intensity and duration should be less. You cannot transfer a cold or flu through your breastmilk! (And yes, I wrote this while recovering from a flu that only I had – my son didn’t get sick).
What medicine is safe to take while breastfeeding?
This is another question I hear all the time. And, it is an important one to ask because many physicians don’t know which medications are safe during breastfeeding so it is important to be self-informed. There is an excellent database to check – Lact Med. You can also look up over the counter drugs to see if a painkiller or other medicine you’d like to take is safe while breastfeeding.
Can I drink alcohol and breastfeed?
There are huge myths around drinking alcohol around breastfeeding and ‘pump and dump’ is a common term as a result. Good news… you do not need to pump and dump! While drinking to excess will mean it is not safe to breastfeed your baby while you are intoxicated, you do not need to pump and dump because as the alcohol is metabolized out of your bloodstream it is also metabolized out of your milk.
In addition, a drink or two while breastfeeding is perfectly safe. A rule of thumb is, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. I found great peace of mind by having a glass of wine during an evening feed. This way my son was fed before I had consumed even a whole glass and then I knew I had a pretty long stretch of time to digest before he would need to be fed again. Check out these myths about breastfeeding and alcohol on Slate.
My nipples are chapped/ cracked/ bleeding. How can I treat them?
I want to share my top three favorite items for nipple pain, with affiliate links for easy shopping. First, lanolin cream. Lanolin helped heal and protect my nipples when they were chapped and cracked. It is perfectly safe to apply right before a feed and it offered a lot of protection. Second, hydrogel pads. I wore these between feeds and they were incredibly soothing, plus I think they helped my nipples heal faster. Third, Silverettes. I didn’t learn about these until I had been breastfeeding for over a year. Once I heard about them I thought they sounded like an interesting product but didn’t think I needed them. However, when my period returned my nipples became incredibly sensitive so I invested in a pair and they are wonderful to wear.
Silver has antibacterial and healing properties so they can be used in place of hydrogel pads. It is a bit of up front investment, but since I wear them at least a couple weeks each month it is totally worth it. They are also a product I can use for as long as I am breastfeeding, so I don’t have any qualms about the price. I strongly recommend Silverettes for any kind of nipple pain. Interesting note about them, they are pure sterling silver and made in Italy.
How can I get started with pumping so I have mik stored for when I return to work?
Many women are comforted by a larger freezer stash. My doula pointed out that when I returned to work all I really needed was enough milk for that day’s feed, since I’d pump enough for the next day at work. I didn’t want to cut it quite that close, but her words were reassuring and I only had about two bottles worth of milk stored in the freezer.
Going back to when to start pumping, I am personally very cautions about creating an oversupply by pumping too much or too early. I pumped a bit early on, but only to replace a direct feeding session. To start storing milk for my return to work, I would pump first thing in the morning when my breasts were fullest. I only stored about 2 ounces a day, but this added up over a couple of weeks to enough milk for my son while I was at work, with some to spare in the freezer.
What do the acronyms EBM and EBF mean? What’s an EPer?
This is a simple but useful one! EMB is expressed breast milk. EBF is exclusively breastfed. EP stands for exclusively pumping, so an EPer is someone who pumps exclusively to feed breastmilk to their child. This might be due to personal choice or latch issues that prevent direct breastfeeding.
What is typical breastfed baby weight gain?
My son has always been on the smaller side. He gained weight quickly at first but then his growth tapered off and even started dipping down below his growth curve. I realized that the best growth chart to follow for breastfed babies is the WHO chart. Once his growth was compared to the WHO charts I realized it was quite normal!
My baby won’t nurse! Is he weaning or is it a nursing strike?
I have dealt with several nursing strikes, mostly when my son was sick and it hurt to swallow (or at least I assume that was the reason because he had tonsilitis). A nursing strike might also come up if your baby develops a preference for the bottle. In most cases, especially before 1 year of age, but also well past that point, your child is most likely not weaning.
Nursing strikes are frightening and can be frustrating. My first happened before my son was on solids so I was panicked about him not getting any nutrition. My doctor eventually gave advice that helped get him back to the breast – skin-to-skin. In the meantime I pumped to keep supply and managed to get him to swallow a bit of milk by cup feeding. The skin-to-skin was almost like a reset and he resumed nursing after a few sessions. The other tip that worked wonderfully was to nurse him when he was very drowsy. I would nurse him just as he was waking up or falling asleep from a nap, and in this semi-conscious state he would feed, even if he had refused 15 minutes earlier while awake.
I hope these notes are helpful in answering common breastfeeding questions. What other questions do you have about breastfeeding, or how did you find solutions to some of these common issues? Leave a note in the comments below!
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