August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month, so here is a comprehensive blog article featuring 12 of the most commonly asked questions about breastfeeding. So whether you’re curious about establishing a good latch, or how to build a good supply, or just want some tips for a smoother breastfeeding journey, we’ve got you covered. So make yourself a cuppa and find somewhere comfortable to sit, and get those questions answered to hopefully make breastfeeding a beautiful and rewarding experience for both you and your little one.
1. I’ve had my baby, when will my milk come in?
Immediately after birth, your breasts will produce a thick, creamy milk absolutely full of antibodies, known as colostrum. Your baby only needs a small amount of this at a time, as their tummies are teeny tiny. On days 2-5 your proper milk will come in. You’ll know when it’s in because your breasts will triple in size overnight and feel hard to the touch! They also feel hot as they are working very hard.
Do not confuse this early stage of milk production with mastitis which is inflammation of the breast usually caused by an infection. The inflammation causes pain, swelling and heat but also redness, and it can cause fever and feeling unwell too.
2. How long will my baby feed for each time?
Breastfeeding differs from bottle-feeding in that it’s done on demand. A feed may last between anything from 5 to 45 minutes, depending on the age of the baby and when they last fed. A newborn baby has a stomach the size of a marble, so feed more frequently than a baby of 3 months old. These feeds also take a longer period of time as your milk takes a few days to come in, and your baby can fatigue during feeds. As your baby grows bigger and becomes more efficient at draining your breast, the average feeding times will become shorter.
3. How do I know if my baby is taking enough milk?
With breastfeeding, some mums can become anxious about not knowing the exact volume of milk the baby is taking. Keeping track of wet and dirty nappies is a good way to see that your baby is receiving enough.
As a rule of thumb, this is what your midwife wants to see over the first week;
Day 1 – at least 1-2 wet nappies and 1 black poo (this is meconium)
Days 2/3 – at least 2-3 wet nappies and 1-2 poos (these will start to become more green in colour)
Days 4/5 – at least 4-5 wet nappies and at least 2 poos (these will be a mustard colour and may appear to have seeds in)
Days 6+ – with your mature milk now in, your baby should be producing at least 6 wet nappies in 24 hours and 2 poos
Another sign your baby is receiving enough milk is in their weight gain. If in doubt compare photos a week apart and you should be able to see the difference.
4. How often should I feed my baby?
Babies need to feed a minimum of 8-12 times in 24 hours, but a healthy baby will let you know in no uncertain terms if they’re hungry! You know that feeling, your baby starts to cry then you get the most intense tingling in your breasts as your milk starts to let down and it’s a race to put baby to breast before you leak everywhere! Some days your baby will feed a lot more than others, some babies feed very frequency throughout the evenings, some seem to like it more at night…these are all variations of normal.
5. What is cluster feeding?
Cluster feeding sessions are most common around 3 weeks and 6 weeks. A cluster feeding baby will want to feed again and again and again for hours…..it can be exhausting, it can be frustrating and it can make your nipples sore. But it is normal. It is thought that cluster feeding coincides with a growth spurt, and by frequent feeding, your baby is signalling to your breasts that they need to supply more milk, which in turn will satisfy the pending growth spurt. Sometimes this is when mums begin to worry that they are not producing enough milk, and some start to give formula in addition to breast milk or stop breast feeding altogether…but cluster feeding usually passes after a few days so if you can stick it out, things will calm down a bit afterwards.
6. How do I know when my baby has finished feeding?
If your baby has finished feeding, they usually fall off the breast themselves and look “milk drunk”. If they are still attached and flutter sucking, although a lot of people will say they are using your breast as a dummy, in actuality, they are taking in the fattiest milk and so do not remove them from your breast. If they do come off, offer the other breast as they may like a little drink of the fore milk after drinking all the fattier milk on the first side.
7. What extra things should I get in if I plan to breast feed?
There’s no equipment that is essential for you to have in order to breastfeed, but there are some things that might make your life a little easier.
Breast pads – while I’ve always been lucky and not leaked, a lot of nursing mums find that their nipples constantly dribble milk, and if the breasts have a big let down, they get soaked. Breast pads pop in your bra and soak up some of the leaked milk to keep you feeling more comfortable.
Nipple shields – these are mostly of use if mum has a particularly flat nipple, or if baby has an unrevised tongue tie. But as these can impact the transfer of milk to your baby they should only uber used as a last resort after qualified support has been given.
Breast pump – Not all mums like to use a breast pump. I’ve found a pump useful as 4 of my 5 children were premature, and got tired when breast feeding, so I’d pump in case I needed to cup feed them some extra milk to top them up after they’d had a go themselves. It was also helpful to build up a store so my husband could take over an evening feed allowing me a couple of hours of undisturbed sleep. If you do get a pump I highly recommend an electric one over a manual one. My first one was manual and my hand got tired very quickly so I switched to a Medela Swing and was much happier. Some ladies like to pump two sides at the same time, whereas other ladies like to get a hands-free pump which means they can be up and doing things while pumping. There’s a pump to suit everyone!
Nipple cream – cream won’t stop damage to your nipple if your baby’s latch isn’t right, but the right cream can help sore nipples to heal. I found lanolin cream AMAZING for those early days when it feels like your nipple has been put through a blender.
Feeding pillow – ok so not essential, but it’s a nice thing to have. Some pillows are moon-shaped and help to protect a healing c-section scar, whilst providing your arms with something to rest on during those long, early feeds. A drawback of breastfeeding pillows, however, is that it can sometimes limit the positions you can get into to breastfeed.
8. Will breastfeeding make my boobs sag?
Not at all! I’m currently breastfeeding my 5th baby and my breasts are still pretty perky. The important thing to do for your breasts is support them with a good bra; I wear a nursing bra night and day because I prefer to feel supported. But pregnancy in itself, regardless of whether you breastfeed or not, along with sudden weight loss, can both contribute to sagging breasts.
9. How soon can I feed my baby after birth?
You can feed your baby straight after birth and enjoy some skin-to-skin at the same time. If your baby has medical problems or is born early and needs to go to NICU, there is plenty of support to help you to express your milk so your baby can be fed it via an NG tube. When the baby is well enough to take it from the breast directly, there will be support to help you with that too. If you make it home and are still struggling with your baby’s latch, your community midwife and/or lactation consultant will be a brilliant help to you.
10. Will I sleep less if I’m breastfeeding?
Surprisingly no. Studies have been done comparing the sleep of breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mums, and it was found that breastfeeding mums get 7 minutes more sleep per night. This is due to the hormone oxytocin, which is released while feeding. This feel-good hormone helps both baby and mum get back to sleep quickly after a feed.
11. Can I drink alcohol if I plan to breastfeed?
Yes you can! The amount of alcohol that makes it into breast milk is negligible, so it would not adversely affect your baby at all. Therefore you don’t need to “pump and dump” if you’re planning on having a little tipple. The general rule is that if you feel safe to hold and care for your baby, then you’re safe to feed your baby. This also applies to bottle-feeding mums who have had an alcoholic drink. If you do not feel safe to hold and feed your baby, then it is better to express and get someone else to feed them. A more important point here is that if you do decide to drink alcohol, you absolutely must not share a bed with your baby until this is out of your system. A good rule of thumb here is one hour per unit of alcohol consumed, plus an extra hour to be sure.
12. How long can I store my breast milk for?
If you decide to express to save your milk and build up a store, it can be stored in a variety of ways and for different lengths of time;
- In a warm room – 4-6 hours
- In a cool bag with ice packs -24 hours to 3 days
- In the fridge but NOT IN THE DOOR – 3-8 days
- In the freezer up to -18 degrees – 3-6 months
Do not warm up your milk in the microwave as this can create hotspots. Instead, heat it in a jug of hot water or under the warm tap.
It is better to store the milk in small amounts; making up bags of 3oz means less waste than if you save it in bags of 10oz, and there’s nothing worse than seeing all that hard-earned breastmilk being tipped down the sink. Make sure your storage bags are sterile when you use them.
If you have any further questions regarding breastfeeding, there are a few resources you can check out;
National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212
La Leche League International www.llli.org
NCT infant feeding line 0300 330 0700
Your midwife, health visitor and GP can also point you in the direction of help