Frequently Asked Questions for New Mothers
- I don't think I can make enough milk
- I've heard that breastfeeding hurts
- I don't want to change the way I eat
- I think breastfeeding might be embarrassing
- My baby's father or grandparents want to help with feeding
- I need to go back to work or school
- What does Minnesota law say about breastfeeding?
- I am taking prescription drugs or using other drugs
- I have a medical condition
- I am unable to quit smoking
Your body and breasts were made to breastfeed your baby. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk your body makes.
The amount of milk you make is not affected by:
- The size of your breasts
- Whether your mom or grandmother was able to breastfeed
- The kinds of food you eat
The amount of milk you make is affected by:
- Breastfeeding early (right after delivery) and often
- Letting your baby tell you when he is full, rather than using a clock
- Making sure your baby is latched on well to most effectively obtain milk
NOTE: If you have questions about building your milk supply or positioning your baby for breastfeeding, ask your lactation consultant, WIC staff person or your health care provider.
Making enough milk is often a concern because you can't see how much your baby is eating. Look for the following to help reassure you:
- Breastfeed your baby when he show "hunger cues" every 1 1/2 - 3 hours (8-12 times) in 24 hours or as often as your baby wants to. Some babies eat more frequently at some times of the day and less frequently at other times. (Older babies will breastfeed less often.)
- By the time your baby is 3-4 days old, in 24 hours she is having:
- 6-8 very wet diapers
- 3-5 messy diapers
- Your baby is latching on well
- You can see, feel or hear your baby swallowing
- Your baby seems content and happy after breastfeeding
- Your baby is gaining weight
Ask your WIC or health care provider for more information if you have any concerns about your baby getting enough breastmilk.
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I've heard that breastfeeding hurts
Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt.
- Make sure your baby is latching on correctly.
- Make sure to breastfeed regularly so that your breasts don't become engorged - uncomfortably full, hard or warm.
- You may feel some discomfort right after birth because breastfeeding helps your uterus shrink and reduces the amount of uterine bleeding. This is good for you. It will only last a day or so. You can ask for medication to reduce this discomfort.
If you feel pain while breastfeeding, something isn't right. Ask your health care or WIC provider for help.
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I don't want to have to change the way I eat
You don't have to eat a "special" diet to breastfeed.
- If you think something you ate made your baby fussy, wait a couple of days before eating it again.
- Eating a wide variety of foods makes your breastmilk taste different. This helps to prepare your baby for eating different foods herself.
- Even on days when you don't feel you've eaten very well, your breastmilk will be full of all the nutrients your baby needs.
- You don't need to eat extra food or drink more than usual. Just eat when you are hungry and drink when you are thirsty.
- You can drink coffee, tea and soft drinks with caffeine in moderation (about 2-3 cups per day).
- Please discuss any alcohol use with your health care provider.
I think breastfeeding might be embarrassing
A lot of places provide a private room or area for breastfeeding. If not, look for a semi-private area like a dressing room, lounge, or restaurant booth.
Try practicing these suggestions in front of the mirror to help create privacy in a public place:
- Place a blanket or shawl over your shoulder and slip your baby under it
- Wear loose-fitting or button-down shirts to allow your baby easy access
- Try a special nursing bra
- Wear a jacket or sweater to help conceal you from the sides
- Use whomever you are out with to block you from other people's sight
Remember, it is your choice. You do not have to breastfeed in front of others.
My baby's father or grandparents want to help with feeding
Other family members play a very important role by supporting your decision to breastfeed.
- Keep in mind that by breastfeeding, you are not taking anything away from them; you are giving something very special to your baby.
There are many things other family members can do for the baby to help them feel involved. Other family members can:
- Bring the baby to you for breastfeeding
- Hold and cuddle the baby
- Talk and sing to the baby
- Bathe the baby
- Clothe the baby
- Take the baby for walks
- Calm and comfort the baby when he is upset but not hungry
- Remind your family how important they are to you and how much you appreciate all of the support, help and love they give to both of you.
I need to go back to work or school
Many women continue breastfeeding when they return to work or school. Here are some ideas many breastfeeding mothers have found helpful.
- Get off to a good start. Breastfeed 8-12 times per day during the first two weeks to build up your milk supply.
- Don't offer a bottle or pacifier for 4-6 weeks so your baby doesn't get confused by the different nipples.
- Find a child-care provider who is supportive of breastfeeding.
- Talk to your health care or WIC provider about breast pumps and the possibility of expressing milk while you are away.
- About 1-2 weeks before returning to work or school, introduce a bottle of expressed breastmilk.
TIP: If possible, let someone else in your family offer the bottle so that your baby only looks to you for breastfeeding.
- Breastfeed your baby right before you leave and as soon as possible once you return from being away.
- Continue to breastfeed often when you are at home.
What does Minnesota law say about breastfeeding?
Minnesota state law requires that employers provide nursing mothers with reasonable unpaid break time to express milk and a private room or other location for milk expression, other than a bathroom or toilet stall, with access to an electrical outlet and in close proximity to the worksite. With the passage of the Women’s Economic Security Act, employers can be held accountable for damages that occur due to non-compliance with this law.
I am taking prescription drugs or using other drugs
Many prescription drugs/medications are OK to use while breastfeeding but make sure to check with your health care provider.
Here are some things you may want to talk to your health care provider about:
- Is the medication necessary?
- Is there a different medication that works in the same way but may be better for you while breastfeeding?
- Will the medication affect your breastfeeding baby?
- Does the medication have an effect on your ability to breastfeed and provide milk?
- Is there a schedule you can follow to minimize any effects of the medication (like after breastfeeding or before your baby's long nap)?
Breastfeeding mothers should not use illicit drugs (like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) because they can pass into the breastmilk and are both hazardous and addicting to your baby.
I have a medical condition
Most of the time, your medical condition won't affect your breastmilk and shouldn't stop you from breastfeeding.
In fact, breastfeeding can help your baby stay healthy and reduce her risk for serious conditions like diabetes.
- If you are HIV positive or have AIDS, you should not breastfeed.
If you are wondering if you can breastfeed, ask your health care provider.
I am unable to quit smoking
Smoking and second-hand smoke are a health risk for all family members. If you are unable to quit smoking during your pregnancy, cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day will benefit everyone.
Nicotine and its by-products will enter into your breastmilk, but studies have shown:
- The benefits of breastfeeding usually outweigh this risk.
- Although smoking puts your baby at higher risk for respiratory illnesses, the protective nature of breastmilk helps to decrease this risk.
If you smoke, you can minimize the effect it has on your baby by:
- Smoking after breastfeeding, not before.
- Cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
- Never smoking in the same room as your baby.