These most common breastfeeding questions and answers will provide you with the first
step in building a good foundation for your breast feeding future.
When I first began breastfeeding, questions popped into my head almost
constantly. And there they sat. My hospital didn't have a lactation consultant
on staff (and I couldn't afford to hire one). My mother hadn't breastfed (it was the 70's). My friends weren't having babies yet.
I was on my own.
So, in memory of those first scary days, here's my attempt to make many of the
most basic breastfeeding questions and answers available.
Unless your nipples are flat or inverted, your breasts are all ready to go.
You don't need to stretch, pull, roll, or buff the nipples to "toughen them up".
In fact, such things can actually interfere with normal lactation by
harming the delicate glands in the areola ( the darker area around the nipple). These
tiny glands secrete a milky fluid that will lubricate the nipples in preparation
Do not rub lotions, or ointments on the nipples unless they are cracked. The lotions
could clog skin pores and encourage an infection. Even
in the case of bruised or cracked nipples, certain lotions should still be avoided.
Salves containing vitamins or hormones could hurt your baby.
Such substances can be absorbed through the skin and then transmitted to your
baby through breastmilk.
It is important to wear a well-fitting and supportive bra, since your breasts will
be heavier than usual. Without good support, the additional size and weight of
your feeding breasts will stretch the ligaments and contribute to sagging later in life.
Even though there's nothing you can do to prepare your breasts for feeding,
you can check your breasts to ensure they'll function well when the time arrives.
Place your thumb and forefinger above and below the nipple on the areola and squeeze
gently. The nipple should move outward, lifting away from the tissue underneath.
If the nipple sinks down instead, you will need to purchase a breast shield
to reverse this. If it isn't fixed, you will experience bruised or
cracked nipples and a very frustrated baby.
Whether you decide to ultimately breastfeed or not, your body starts preparing
for breastfeeding as soon as you get pregnant.
The areola around the nipple gets darker
The breasts enlarge as the cells that will make milk
multiply and the ducts that will carry the milk develop.
Your body begins storing excess fat in other areas to provide extra energy needed for lactation.
Your body will be ready to produce milk as early as 16 weeks into your pregnancy.
As soon as you deliver the placenta (the last stage in labor and delivery), your body
will signal itself to begin making milk.
If your baby passes his initial tests, he will be placed on your chest for snuggling
and suckling. If your baby did not pass his tests, or was born premature, you may
have to wait a while before being able to breastfeed directly. You can get more
information about breastfeeding preemies here.
Breastfeeding in the first hour of your baby's life is ideal. Your infant will
be alert and eager to get down to business.
The first milk you will produce is colostrum. It is a thin, yellowish fluid
packed full of protein, antibodies and other healthy goodies for your infant.
It appears directly after delivery and will be your baby's first meal.
the beginning, you'll be producing only about half an ounce (15 ml) of colostrum. By
the time your mature milk comes in, you'll probably be producing about an ounce (30 ml).
Your mature milk will not come in until 3-4 days after delivery. You can speed
this up by keeping your infant on your breast as much as possible. Mature milk
looks whiter and more creamy than colostrum. It is an amazing combination of everything your baby needs.
After the first week, your
mature milk supply will be around 2-6 ounces per feeding and it will continue to increase as your baby grows.
The days before your mature milk comes in can be stressful. You will be tempted
to think you aren't making enough milk to satisfy his little tummy. Take heart,
your baby was born with extra fluid in his system that will help sustains him until your
mature milk begins to flow.
If you feel
you MUST supplement, use a supplemental nurser
to provide him with extra food
while still giving you the stimulation you need to increase your supply.
Breastmilk is very well-absorbed and easily digested. Because of this, breastfed babies
usually require more feedings than their formula-fed cousins. When it comes to feeding, there are a few situations that can really mess
with your establised and comfortable routine.
Bunch Feedings are when your infant seems to need occasional feedings very closely spaced.
They're usually in the early evening (7ish) when your baby is more
likely to feel cranky.
Growth Spurts will happen sporadically during the first year. Most babies exhibit
an increased hunger and fatigue during this time. It usually only lasts a day
Let your infant set the schedule at first. He will most likely want to eat every 2 hours (sometimes later, sometimes sooner).
It is not uncommon for babies to require a dozen feedings in the first 24 hours (that's every
The fact that your newborn seems hungry all the time isn't necessarily a sign he isn't getting enough. It is
simply a reflection of the easy digestibility of breastmilk.
Feedings will begin to spread out, probably moving towards 6-8 times
in a 24 hour period (every 4 hours or so).
You should try to wake your baby during the night every 4 hours to feed (if he isn't
awake already). Establishing your milk supply and getting his weight up is
the most important thing right now (not sleep - that comes later).
After the first
4 weeks you can begin moving him towards a more regimented schedule, encouraging
more sleeping than feeding at night. It is not uncommon for babies to sleep for 6-7 hours after 6 weeks of age. (Both my girls did!)
Nurse on each breast for 10-20 minutes. The length of the feeding will depend on
your baby's appetite. At the beginning you'll notice him swallowing after every few sucks, eventually it will slow
to a calmer rhythm until he seems to start losing interest. At that time, burp him gently, and
switch him to the other side.
Crying is one of the last ways your baby will use to communicate her hunger. Look
for other pre-signals like putting her hands to her mouth, making sucking noises, or nuzzling
against your breast.
The clock can also be a helpful tool. Using the information above, if it's getting
close to her usual feeding and she's rooting around or making noises, it's time
to bring her to breast. If you miss those early signs, check her diaper and then move her
If you delay this feeding too long, she will begin to cry harder and get more upset.
The more upset she is, the harder it will be to latch on properly.
Just as her body language will inform you when she's hungry, it will also inform you
when she's finished. She'll stop sucking and turn away from the nipple. She may
push the nipple out with her tongue or arch her back.
There are several good factors you can look for in determining whether or not your
baby is getting enough nourishment.
Sleeping is not one of them. On one hand, sleeping after eating shows he's full and content. On the other hand, babies
who aren't getting enough to eat can also be very sleepy and lethargic when
awake. If your baby is sleeping for more than 4 hours within the first 4 weeks, see
Listen and watch to see if your baby is swallowing. Just because the jaw is moving
doesn't necessarily mean your baby is getting milk. Listen carefully for a swallow
every one to four sucks. Listen for him to breathe through his nose. The puffs
of air after a swallow is just what you want to hear.
Watch for his throat to move with each swallow. Look for occasional leaking milk on the
other breast. Insert your finger in the corner of his mouth to break suction and pull
him off the breast. Does he have milk on his tongue?
Feelfor the areola to be drawn into the baby's mouth as his jaw drops down. Your
breasts should feel full and firm before feeding and soft and empty afterwards. Touch the
back of his head, does it vibrate slightly as he drinks?
In the first few weeks, your breastfeeding infant should have 6-8 wet diapers in a 24 hour period.
She should also have, typically, 2 dirty diapers a day. Some babies will pass
a little poop after every feeding.
To help you keep track, I've created a Breastfeeding Diary you can download for free.
This resource will help you keep track of breastfeeding times, a diaper counter, and a weight chart - all essential tools in evaluating your
During the first week, it is common for your baby to lose weight. Typically, it's 7-10% of his birthweight (that's 6-12 oz in a 7.5 lb full
term baby. After that initial loss, he should begin gaining weight steadily, so he's back to his birthweight by the end of the
Look for your infant to gain 2/3 ounce a day during the first 3 months. Between 3-6 months, his weight gain will taper to about a half-ounce a day.
After 6 months, it will drop even lower. If your baby is gaining less than this, speak with your doctor.
You doctor's scale will be the most accurate. But the standard bathroom scale can be used for approximates. Weigh yourself,
then weigh yourself while holding your infant. Subtract the two for your baby's current weight. If you're concerned about
his weight gain, set an appointment with your doctor for an official weigh-in.
The free Breastfeeding Diary will help you monitor his weight
gain and loss.
It is possible to start breastfeeding again after you've stopped. In fact, it's possible to breastfeed without ever even being pregnant
(which is especially exciting for the mothers of adopted babies).
A combination of medication to help stimulate lactation and repeated stimulation of the breasts, by a pump or by the baby's continual sucking, will
fool your body back into milk production. Speak with your doctor if you want to restart breastfeeding.
The younger your baby, the more likely restarting breastfeeding will be successful. Under 9 weeks is ideal. Even though you will be making
milk again, there is a strong possibility
that you will not be able to produce enough to completely satisfy her. Using
a supplemental nurser
is the best way to give her the extra formula without compromising your future milk supply.
If I've Adopted a Baby, Can I Still Breastfeed?
Yes! Follow the instructions above for restarting breastfeeding. The supplemental nurse (mentioned above) will be essential in getting your supply
Here are some additional questions you may have about breastfeeding that are answered in other
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Some of the articles referenced below may not be hyperlinked. This is because they
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Besides all these breastfeeding questions and answers, you can find other informative articles
about breastfeeding techniques, tips for the working mom, and countless other
As a new mom, breastfeeding questions and answers can be easily overwhelming. Fortunately, you don't have to remember everything. This
website is always here to help. Still looking for something? Post your question for other moms to answer.