Frequently Asked Questions About Breastfeeding
1. Why should I breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is good for babies, mothers, workplaces and the earth and is the normal way to feed babies.
Breastfeeding is good for babies because:
- Human milk (your breast milk) is the most complete form of nutrition and changes to meet your baby’s special needs.
- Human milk is easier on baby’s tummy and protects babies from many common health problems, like ear infections.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to have some long lasting health problems, such as diabetes.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies and childhood cancers.
- Breastfeeding lowers risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Human milk is even more important for babies who are born early and those with low birth weights (less than 5 ½ pounds).
Breastfeeding is good for mothers because:
- Breastfeeding helps mothers recover more quickly after giving birth.
- Breastfeeding helps mothers return to their previous weight faster than mothers who feed formula. It burns an average of 500 extra calories a day.
- Breastfeeding may help mothers avoid long lasting health problems, such as breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby.
Breastfeeding is good for everyone because:
- Breastfeeding saves families money.
- Workers who nurse their babies miss fewer days from work to care for a sick child because breastfed babies are healthier.
- Breastfeeding is good for the earth; it uses less energy and creates less waste.
2. How long should I breastfeed?
*Doctors recommend that babies receive only breast milk for the first six months of life (this means no water, juice, formula, or other milk). The longer baby breastfeeds, the greater the benefits for both mother and baby. It’s best for babies to have breast milk through the first year of life, or for as long as both mother and baby wish. Ask your healthcare provider when to offer other foods to your baby. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding for up to two years of age or longer.
*The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
3. How do I know that my baby is getting enough breast milk?
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, your baby will have fewer wet diapers. After your milk supply has increased, your baby should have more wet & dirty diapers. Baby’s stools will become runny, yellowish, and may look seedy. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about your baby's weight gain.
Baby is full when he:
- “Falls off” your breast, releasing the nipple.
- Falls asleep.
- Relaxes body and opens fists.
Milk in your breasts is produced by “supply and demand” or milk removal. As baby nurses and removes milk from your breast, more milk is made. Your body will make enough milk if you nurse your baby at least every 2 to 3 hours during the first 4 to 6 weeks. If you are not able to nurse your baby or have to miss a feeding, you can use a breast pump to keep up or even increase your milk supply.
If you watch the clock and only feed your baby at certain times, you may not make enough milk. Learn your baby’s early hunger signs, and nurse your baby when he or she is hungry. Some of the early hunger signs are smacking lips, sucking on hands or fingers, and turning to the breast.
Click here for more information about the minimum number of daily diapers for most babies.
4. Do I need to change my diet?
There is no special diet for breastfeeding. Mothers make healthy breast milk even when their own diets are lacking. Keep yourself healthy by choosing a variety of foods, and by following your MyPyramid Plan for Moms. For more tips for breastfeeding moms, view these Web sites: Breastfeeding Tips for Moms, MyPyramid in Action: Tips for Breastfeeding Moms.
Sometimes certain foods in mom’s diet may make baby fussy. Milk products, nuts, eggs, wheat, chocolate, and coffee or tea with caffeine may be the cause. Should a certain food make your baby fussy, you may need to limit that food. Your thirst is the best signal of how much fluid to drink. In fact, excess fluids can decrease the amount of milk you make. So it’s best to follow your own thirst, and have healthy drinks like water, low fat or nonfat milk, or 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice every time you nurse your baby or pump. Urine that is clear or pale yellow is a sign that you’re getting enough fluids.
5. Can I breastfeed in public?
You can breastfeed your baby wherever you feel comfortable. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed your baby. If you are away from home and need to feed your baby or pump, you can do this by wearing clothes that allow easy access to your breasts. Oklahoma and other states have laws that protect mothers who breastfeed in public.
Tips for breastfeeding in public:
- Wear loose fitting tops that you can raise up. The top can then rest around your baby’s head so your breast will not be seen. For a top with buttons, unbutton from the bottom just enough so your baby can be put to the breast.
- Practice at home in front of a mirror to see which tops work best for breastfeeding in public.
- Some mothers find baby slings, blankets, sweaters or jackets helpful.
- A nursing bra may help make nursing or pumping easier.
6. What does breastmilk look like?
Colostrum is mother’s first breast milk. It’s usually yellow in color, and can be either thick or thin. It has lots of antibodies that protect against infections. Small amounts are made during the last months of pregnancy and in the first days after birth. This meets your new baby’s need for small amounts of food often. Breast milk changes during the first two weeks from colostrum to mature milk, which has two parts, foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is thin and watery and helps to satisfy your baby’s thirst. As you nurse your baby, the foremilk changes to hindmilk, which is thicker and creamier and has more calories that help your baby to grow. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you will make.
7. Will the size of my breasts affect breastfeeding?
Normally breast size does not affect how much milk you make. Mothers with small breasts can make as much milk as those with larger breasts. If you have had breast surgery or implants, or have questions about the size or shape of your breasts or nipples, talk with your healthcare provider.
8. Can I breastfeed if I smoke?
Moms who smoke are encouraged to breastfeed and cut down on their smoking as much as possible. Be sure to smoke outside, away from your baby, and change clothes to keep baby from breathing the smoke on your clothing. Babies have a higher risk of having breathing problems and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if their moms smoke. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of both of these health problems for your baby. Heavy smoking can also decrease your milk supply.
9. Will I be able to drink alcohol if I breastfeed?
Alcohol (beer, wine, liquor) passes easily into breast milk, and even small amounts can affect how you care for your baby. If you choose to drink alcohol, it’s best to limit to one or two small drinks a week and wait at least 2 hours after you drink to breastfeed.
10. Does breastfeeding hurt?
Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, but nipples can get sore if your baby doesn’t have a good latch. If pain lasts more than a few seconds, try breaking the suction, take baby off the breast and try again. Other causes of nipple soreness include breast engorgement, breast infection, the use of creams or ointments, and the misuse of nipple shields or breast pumps. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for you and your baby, but if you continue to have pain, talk with your healthcare provider.