One of the most important decisions new parents will make is how to feed their baby. However, infant feeding can be a controversial topic. Even well-meaning friends or family may pressure parents into feeding choices. Having all the facts will help you gain confidence as you make an informed decision about feeding your baby. We asked moms just like you what questions they had about breastfeeding. We’re excited to share part 1 of a 3 part series with your top questions along with answers from an IBCLC and Registered Nurse on staff at The Pregnancy Network.
1. Do you recommend breastfeeding?
Absolutely! Women’s bodies are equipped to produce the perfect food for their babies. Breast milk is packed with nutrients and antibodies that scientists have not been able to recreate in a lab. The amazing benefits of breastfeeding your baby instead of using formula include lowering the risk of asthma, allergies, diabetes, some types of cancers, and much more. Breast milk is alive and constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby. While breastfeeding may be a sacrifice or inconvenience for some moms, it is a wonderful and irreplaceable gift to give to your child.
2. How soon after I have my baby should I start pumping?
If your baby is healthy and gaining weight appropriately, there is no rush to start pumping. Waiting until around 6 weeks to start pumping will allow your baby and your body to get into a confident breastfeeding rhythm. However, if you will be separated from your baby for long periods of time (think going back to work or if baby is in the NICU), pumping will need to be a part of your routine. If your baby has jaundice, low birth weight or low blood sugar, pumping may also be a necessary tool at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Partnering with an IBCLC to find the right pumping schedule for you and your baby is a great first step to take, no matter the situation. Here’s a great article on pumping to learn more.
3. Is breastfeeding painful?
Short answer: No. Painful feeding is not normal.
However, some moms go through periods of soreness. A common time for soreness is during the infant’s first two weeks of life when both mom and baby are establishing their breastfeeding relationship. Soreness is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. The culprit is often a shallow latch. When a baby latches to the breast, he or she should not just be on the nipple. The baby needs to latch onto the surrounding areola and breast to have a deep, less painful latch. Other issues that can contribute to sore nipples could be tongue ties, a poorly fitted breast pump, mastitis, and more.
If you go through periods of soreness, don’t just tough it out! Reach out to a lactation consultant who can help you solve the problem before it becomes a burden.
4. Will breastfeeding make my breasts saggy?
No. The truth is that pregnancy can cause breast sagginess. During pregnancy, the breasts expand and get heavier, causing tension on the ligaments that support the breasts. This extra stretching is the culprit to saggy breasts, not breastfeeding! Formula feeding moms and breastfeeding moms share similar experiences with sagginess after pregnancy.
5. How long should I breastfeed?
That’s totally up to you. Each mom can breastfeed for as long or little as she chooses. There are many factors that may influence your decision like going back to work, pumping, lack of support, or even enjoying breastfeeding. Many large organizations like the AAP, WHO and the CDC all recommend exclusively breastfeeding (no other food, water, cereal, or juice- only breastmilk) through the first 6 months then continuing to breastfeed for at least 1-2 years while introducing solid foods. Keep in mind that the average weaning age worldwide is between 3 and 4 years old!1
6. Should I switch to cow's milk after my baby turns 1 or will breastmilk be good enough?
Breastmilk has tons of benefits. It is alive and changes to meet the nutritional needs of your baby. It provides antibodies to help boost your baby’s immune system. Breastmilk is antimicrobial, antibacterial and has healing properties. Get this: breastmilk does not lose any nutritional value or lose its amazing benefits when your baby turns 1. If you want to continue providing breastmilk to your older baby, you should! In fact, breastmilk is a substantial source of key nutrients during this time. One study showed that breastmilk for babies between 12-23 months old contains 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein, 36% of calcium, 75% of vitamin A, 76% of folate, 94% of vitamin b12, and 60% of vitamin C requirements.2
This information is for educational purposes only. We strongly recommend following up with your healthcare team for medical guidance.