10 frequently asked breastfeeding questions answered

Posted on March 23rd, 2017

Registered midwife Philippa Hime provides advice on 10 common breastfeeding concerns.

10 frequently asked breastfeeding questions answered

Feeding your baby from your breast is one of the most natural acts in the world, but it doesn’t always come easy. These answers to the most common breastfeeding questions will boost your confidence and set you on the right path.

When will my milk come in?

For many new moms, the first few days of breastfeeding can be a confusing time, as they can feel unsure about whether their baby is getting any milk. To make matters worse, they are often told that their “milk hasn’t come in”, implying that they do not currently have any.

However, this phrase isn’t accurate, because you will produce colostrum after birth. This rich, nutritious milk is secreted in small quantities during the first few days following birth. The colostrum will begin to change to milk, which can take between three and five days to fill your breasts.

ALSO SEE: Decoding your breast milk

Is my baby actually drinking?

A newborn will nurse at the breast for more than nutritional reasons. If allowed to, some babies will stay on the breast for long periods. Babies comfort suck at the breast – they use the nipple as a pacifier and can appear to nurse for hours. Often, new moms mistake this for feeding. If you are unsure if your baby is actually drinking or “dummy” sucking, ask yourself:

  • Is he swallowing?
  • Is his jaw dropping up and down as he sucks?
  • Is the breast now drained and he still seems to be feeding?

Do I have enough milk for my baby?

As the breast isn’t translucent, and you can’t see just how much milk your baby has had, many women worry that their baby is not getting enough milk. You will know he is feeding well if:

  • Your baby has six to eight wet and/or dirty nappies a day. This usually equates to a nappy change per feed. Newborn stools are usually frequent, but may start to decrease once your baby passes the six-week mark
  • You feel your breasts fill up between feeds and then drain after a feed. In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, a feeling of fullness in your breasts will be obvious. Don’t be alarmed after a while if that feeling goes away
  • Your baby is gaining weight every week – it means he is getting his fill from the milk bar. On average, most newborns gain around 150-200g a week
  • Your baby settles after a feed for a reasonable amount of time (two to three hours) before waking for the next feed.

ALSO SEE: How to tell if you have enough breast milk

I think I have too much milk and my breasts are engorged.

You may notice that your breasts often feel hard and engorged between feeds. Milk may leak often and spray out at times, and you may be prone to blocked ducts that can lead to bouts of mastitis. Your baby may be fussy at the breast and make gulping, choking noises as the milk starts to flow, with milk pouring out of the corners of his mouth. He may come on and off the breast and pull back as an attempt to slow down the flow.
Try feeding in a “laid-back” position. This means lying all the way back with your baby lying across your body facing the breast “tummy to mummy”. This position uses gravity to slow down the flow.

ALSO SEE: How to prevent and relieve engorged breasts

How can I boost my low supply?

Your milk supply could be low for a number of reasons. If you are concerned you don’t have enough milk, try the following:

  • Feed your baby more often – the more you feed, the more you make.
  • Pump for 5-10 minutes immediately after your baby has finished feeding.
  • Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluid.
  • Try to rest as often as possible.
  • Try natural supply boosters like brewer’s yeast and fenugreek.
  • Consult a lactation consultant.

Is breastfeeding supposed to be painful? My nipples are cracked.

Breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful. You can certainly feel your baby feeding in the first few days to weeks when you start, but it shouldn’t be painful. If it is painful, your baby’s latch may be incorrect. His mouth should be wide open, taking in as much breast and areola as possible, with his lips splayed out on the breast. If your baby’s mouth is closed and the latch is shallow, he will feed off the nipple causing a great deal of pain. This can lead to cracked and sore nipples. Your local clinic or a lactation consultant can advise you if you are unsure.

ALSO SEE: How to get a good breastfeeding latch

I have painful lumps in my breast. Is this normal?

Some women can develop blocked ducts during breastfeeding. These are little milk plugs that block the flow of milk out of the breast and cause pain, because the milk doesn’t drain properly from the breast. To avoid blocked ducts, always make sure your breasts are emptied properly and avoid wearing tight or ill-fitting nursing bras. If you experience this kind of discomfort, apply a warm compress and massage your breasts to encourage them to drain.

Is there anything I can’t eat or drink while breastfeeding?

Everything in moderation is ideal for breastfeeding. There is no specific diet you should follow, but you should ideally avoid foods that cause bloating, as they could cause gripes in your baby. If you’re not used to eating spicy foods, having curry may upset your little one. Common culprits of tummy cramps in breastfed babies are dairy, wheat, chocolate, green leafy vegetables and spicy food eaten by the mom. If you notice any of these trigger a colicky spell, try avoiding or reducing your consumption of them. Limit caffeine to one cup a day.

When can I start pumping?

There are no rules when it comes to pumping, but breastfeeding should be well established first and you should build a strong supply before pumping. That said, many new moms enjoy expressing as it allows someone else to feed their baby. Some women also opt to pump to help boost their milk supply. If you do decide to express, try to do so immediately after a feed once or twice a day to build up enough stored milk for a feed. You can then express whenever your baby bottle feeds to keep up your supply.

ALSO SEE: Tips for expressing and storing breast milk successfully

How long should I breastfeed for?

It is entirely up to you. The World Health Organization recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding before introducing solids. Thereafter, infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.

Xanet Scheepers

About Xanet Scheepers

Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.