Breastfeeding Info for Families
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for babies, parents and our community. Human milk provides ideal nutrition and supports growth and development for infants. Breastfeeding can also help protect the baby and the lactating parent against certain illnesses and diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months and continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods as long as mutually desired by the parent and child for 2 years or beyond.
For breastfeeding families, it is a journey that often comes with ups and downs and feelings of accomplishment and frustration. On this page, you can explore a variety of topics to help you prepare for lactation, get started with breastfeeding a newborn, get help overcoming challenges, or support a lactating parent.
- Preparing for Lactation
- Breast Changes During Pregnancy
- Positions to Breastfeed My Baby
- How Do I Know if My Baby Is Getting Enough
- Can I Give My Baby a Bottle
- Six Months to a Year
- Breastfeeding Your Toddler
- Artificial Sweeteners and Caffeine while lactating
- Nutrition during lactation
- Taking Medications While Breastfeeding
- Support people
- Talk to others who have breastfed. Hearing about other's experiences both good/bad can help you prepare for your own breastfeeding journey.
- Sign up for a breastfeeding class before your 34th week of pregnancy. That way, if your baby is born early, you will have had an opportunity to learn about breastfeeding in a class setting.
- Ask your doctor or midwife to check your breasts around the 32nd to 34th week of pregnancy. If you learn that you have flat or inverted nipples, a Lactation Specialist can help you with a variety of techniques to help baby with latching.
- Go to a Moms Club or LaLeche League meeting where you will see lots of mothers nursing their infants. You will have a chance to ask questions and share the experiences of others. You will have access there to books, pamphlets, phone help and new friends who will continue to support your plans to breastfeed. You can search for LaLeche League groups on the LaLeche League website.
- Purchase a cotton nursing bra, with easy-to-detach cup fasteners. Avoid underwire if you can or look for one with a partial wire, to help prevent milk gland constriction which sometimes leads to plugged ducts. Other helpful items are washable nursing pads and Lansinoh nipple ointment.
- Learn about hand expression of breastmilk. This easy-to-learn skill (when utilized as soon as possible after baby is born) can be effective in maximizing and maintaining breast milk supply. Learn more about maximizing your breastmilk supply..
The skin on the breast becomes more elastic and the nipple and areola may become darker in color. Tiny raised bumps known as Montgomery glands on the areola secrete oil that cleanses and lubricates the nipple, keeping it soft and pliable. It also has a scent that the baby uses to locate the breast. You cannot smell it but your baby will be able to, especially right after the birth. Do not remove this oil with soaps or other drying agents such as alcohol or witch hazel. Some women may experience slight leaking from the nipples towards the end of their pregnancy.
Most people notice an increase in breast size during pregnancy. This is because the mammary glands are preparing to make milk. Swelling and tenderness are signs that the breast is changing. The amount of breast change will vary between women. If there is very little or no breast change during pregnancy, it is important to discuss it with your lactation consultant or health care provider.
Your breasts are producing colostrum during the 2nd trimester of pregnancy.
The size and shape of your breasts have nothing to do with how much milk you will make. Women of all sizes, with large or small breasts, can successfully breastfeed.
Breastfeeding your baby, like any new skill, may take some time and practice. If you are are feeling unsure about breastfeeding, you are not alone. Ask for help in the hospital or contact your WIC office to ask questions.
Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth. Colostrum is the first milk your body makes - it is thick, golden and comes in drops so as not to overfill your baby's tiny tummy. It provides many nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby from infections. It also acts as a laxative to clean out and strengthen your baby's digestive system.
Transitional milk comes a few days later. You may notice that your breasts become fuller and that your milk slowly changes to a bluish-white color. Your milk is changing to meet your baby's needs! Nursing often, removing milk and relieving engorgement will help with milk production.
About 10-15 days after birth, you start making mature milk. The nutrients are still changing to meet your baby's needs! Try to let your baby empty your first breast before switching to the other breast during a feeding. This will help your baby get the right mix of nutrients at each feeding.
Here are some other helpful tips:
- Use warm compresses on your breasts for 5 to 10 minutes to relieve swelling or take a warm shower.
- Gently massage your breasts during feedings and throughout the day.
- If you miss a feeding or baby only takes one breast, use hand expression or a pump to empty your milk.
- If you are having trouble getting baby to latch or have any questions about breastfeeding, contact a Community Breastfeeding Resource.
As your baby gets older, they will go through growth spurts - the first one is around 2 to 3 weeks. Growth spurts are times when baby needs more milk because they grow quickly in a short time. Nursing on demand satisfies baby and increases your milk production. You may notice the day after a growth spurt that the baby will sleep more and then nursing patterns return to normal. Growth spurts occur every 3 to 4 weeks.
Around 4 to 6 months baby's stooling patterns may change. Its normal for them to go less frequently. Sometimes they will go 5 or 6 days without stooling then have a large bowel movement.
There are many ways to position yourself and hold your baby while breastfeeding. What's most important is figuring out what works for you and your baby. You may even decide to use different positions for each feeding or on different sides. Learn more about the different positions at USDA WIC Breastfeeding Support. No matter what position you choose, always position baby to your nipple height, rather than leaning over your baby. That will make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and help your baby get a good latch.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants do not sleep in bed with parents and/or other children to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For more information, visit the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services page.
It doesn't take much to fill up your baby. At birth, your baby's tummy is no bigger than a toy marble. By day 10, your baby's stomach grows to the size of a ping-pong ball. Alot of people have questions about making enough milk. It's one of the most commonly asked questions by most parents!!
Babies give hunger cues such as:
- Turning their head from side to side
- Opening and closing their mouth
- Moving their fist to their mouth
- Sucking on hands or smacking their lips
Many people think crying is the only sign that their baby is hungry. But this is actually a sign of distress and a late sign of hunger. Once the baby is crying, it can be harder to get baby to latch.
- Remember that babies need night time feedings too.
You can tell if your baby is getting enough milk by listening for swallows while baby nurses. You can also count wet and dirty diapers. After three or four days, baby should have about 5 to 6 wet or dirty diapers. The dirty diapers of a breastfed baby are often yellow-ish in color and look different than the diapers of a formula fed baby. Other signs of fullness are:
- Baby releases from your breast
- Baby relaxes their body and opens their fists
TIP: Your baby helps you make milk by suckling and removing milk from your breast. The more milk your baby drinks, the more milk your body will make. Frequent breastfeeding or milk removal (8-12 times or more every 24 hours), especially in the first few days and weeks of baby's life, helps you make a good supply.
If you are still unsure about your milk supply or if there are concerns about your baby's growth, its a good idea to seek support from a lactation specialist, WIC office and/or health care provider. At Monroe County WIC we have a BREASTFEEDING WARMLINE (734-240-7901) that you can call anytime day/night and leave a voicemail with your question(s). A Lactation Specialist will call you back to help you talk through your concerns and direct you to additional resources if needed.
It can take a few weeks for you and your baby to feel happy and confident with breastfeeding. It is best if you can wait for your milk supply to be well established before introducing baby to a bottle. Holding off on bottles for about two weeks while baby is learning to breastfeed helps to avoid nipple confusion and low milk production. The more you nurse, the more milk you produce.
If a healthcare provider recommends for baby to have supplementary feedings, you can ask them for "breastfeeding-friendly" ways to do this.
Babies are ready to start solids around six months. Signs of being ready for solids are:
- Sitting up without support and holding their head up.
- They are still hungry after nursing well.
- Being more social, reaching for your food, picking up objects, leaning forward, and making chewing motions.
Start slowly with solids. Nurse your baby first to make sure they get the best food possible mom's milk! Solid foods are in addition to breast milk. Start with only a teaspoon of rice cereal diluted with a tablespoon or so of breast milk or formula. The baby may sit in a high chair or on someone's lap. Use a small spoon and put it inside the baby's lips so she can suck on the food. The first few attempts will be messy. The baby's tongue will thrust and push the food out and it takes time for them to learn to move the food to the back of their throat to swallow it. Learning to eat solids is a gradual process. As the baby's desire for more food increases, you can add more.
Try one new food at a time, waiting about a week between new foods. If they develop an allergy or become upset, you will know what food to eliminate. Other foods to introduce are strained, pureed, mashed cooked vegetables, fruit, meat, and mashed beans. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months with no additional solids. A further recommendation is breastfeeding for two years or longer so far as mom and baby agree.
Nursing beyond the first year (also known as extended breastfeeding) is normal, healthy, and common in many countries.
Nursing an older baby is completely different than nursing a younger one. The older baby is far more efficient and has less need to use you as a pacifier. A toddler will nurse less often, maybe every four or five hours. They will climb on your lap, nurse a few minutes for thirst or comfort, and then jump down and return to playing. There will be longer sessions of nursing that typically occur at bed and nap times. Though typically, they are too busy exploring the world around them to sit still for a long nursing session.
Breastfeeding can be an important source of reassurance and emotional support for your toddler. The strong connection your child feels with you while nursing will foster independence as they grow.
There are significant emotional and physical benefits to extended nursing. Also, breast milk provides concentrated immunities, vitamins, enzymes and fats that are needed for brain development.
- Caffeine: Caffeine should be limited to 2 servings or less per day. Caffeine is found in coffee, soft drinks, tea, some medications and chocolate. If your baby seems unusually fussy or wakeful you may want assess how much caffeine you are consuming.
- Artificial Sweeteners: There is no evidence that artificial sweeteners are harmful when breastfeeding. Of course, there is one exception to this rule for mothers of infants with Phenylketonuria (PKU) as aspartame contains phenylalanine. In general it is always a good idea to keep food additives to a minimum.
- Supplements and Herbs: Some supplements can affect milk supply or interact with other medications you might be taking. Its best to speak with your doctor or Lactation Specialist about any supplements you are taking.
A nutritious diet and adequate hydration is important after you have a baby for many reasons. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to heal after delivery. Proper hydration helps to regulate body temperature and blood flow. Although it is important to eat well and stay hydrated postpartum, human milk always maintains a high nutritional quality even if your diet is less than adequate.
Generally, women do not need to limit or avoid specific foods while breastfeeding, but they should try to eat a balanced, varied diet to remain healthy and energetic. More detailed nutrition information can be found on the CDC website and on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
- Medications/Drugs: Many medications are compatible with breastfeeding, but you should consult your doctor and/or lactation consultant when taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Medications and Mother's Milk: A Manual of Lactational Pharmacology by Dr. Thomas Hale Ph.D., is a current resource used by Hospital Newborn Nurseries, Lactation Consultants, and WIC agencies for validating the safety of medications while breastfeeding. Dr. Hale's manual is updated every two years. Illicit drugs are illegal, unsafe and are not compatible with breastfeeding.
- Alcohol: Since alcohol has been found to pass into human milk and can interfere with the milk ejection reflex, alcohol consumption should be avoided while breastfeeding. An occasional drink, not exceeding two ounces of alcohol, may be safe, but you should consult your health care provider about the associated risks. Some mothers report that a few sips of beer may stimulate a letdown reflex of their milk, but too much will inhibit it. Brewers Yeast, a component of beer can be taken as a supplement when let-down and milk supply is diminished. There is no evidence documenting yeast's effect on milk supply. Breast pumping and discarding breast milk is recommended when alcohol is consumed beyond the limits stated above.
- Smoking: Regardless of feeding method (breastfeeding or infant formula), maternal smoking is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other health conditions. Mothers who use tobacco or e-cigarettes should be encouraged to quit. However, breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits and breast milk remains the recommended food for an infant.
- Marijuana and CBD: Data on the effects of marijuana and CBD exposure to the infant through breastfeeding are limited and conflicting. To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, including those containing CBD, while breastfeeding. If a mother continues to use marijuana or CBD while breastfeeding, she should be encouraged to significantly reduce her intake. To minimize secondhand smoke exposure, marijuana products should not be smoked around babies or children. Marijuana use may also impair a mother or other caregiver’s judgement and ability to care for an infant.
At some point, either you or your child will be ready to stop breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through age 2 years or beyond. But the decision to wean is a personal decision and will be different for everyone. Some children will gradually start to show more interest in eating solid foods and less interest in breastfeeding. Others may want to stop breastfeeding more suddenly. You may be ready to wean at different times too. This is a personal decision.
To make the process easier for you and your child, wean over several weeks or more. As you slowly stop breastfeeding, your body will start producing less breast milk and eventually your body will no longer make breast milk.
Abrupt weaning should be avoided if possible. When you suddenly stop nursing, your breasts may become engorged and you could develop a breast infection or abscess. The sudden weaning may also cause a sharp drop in hormone levels, which may trigger the onset of depression. Abrupt weaning can be hard on the child as well. If there are medical reasons to wean suddenly, ask your healthcare provider for "breastfeeding-friendly" suggestions.
Your loved ones are probably excited to meet the baby. There are many ways they can start bonding with the baby and support you with breastfeeding. It is a good idea to talk with your friends and family about your decision to breastfeed your baby.
Here are just a few ideas for those supporting a breastfeeding mom:
- Before the baby arrives, learn the basics of breastfeeding.
- Consider taking a breastfeeding class together.
- At the hospital, focus on skin-to-skin time for both mom and support people. This is a great way to soothe and bond with the baby.
- At the hospital, remind the staff that you have chosen breastfeeding. If there are questions or concerns, ask the staff and learn together.
- At home, help with baby care. Partners can help soothe, bathe, change diapers, dress, and burp the baby.
- At home, partners can help with house chores.
- Above all, acknowledging that breastfeeding can be hard at times and letting your partner know how proud you are of them can make a big difference.