Infant feeding can be a controversial and difficult topic, and finding accurate information is a challenging task in the days of social media. To make an informed decision, you should have as much information as possible; that’s why we asked moms—just like youwhat questions they had about breastfeeding. Here’s part 2 of Answers to Your Most Common Breastfeeding Questions, written by a Lactation Consultant and Registered Nurse.
1. What's the ideal caloric intake while breastfeeding?
First off, there is a lot of information out there about nutrition while breastfeeding.
Calorie-wise, breastfeeding burns about 300-400 extra calories per day. Overall caloric intake will vary depending on your metabolism and activity level. I advise most breastfeeding women to eat normally and add an extra snack or two for a minimum total of approximately 1,800 kcal/day.
It can be beneficial to follow up with a nutritionist or dietician if you are dealing with a unique situation. Keep in mind that breast milk is made from the blood supply, not the contents of the stomach. That means if you don’t have the most amazing diet, your baby will still be getting nutrient-packed goodness from your milk! However, I do recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains because moms feel more energized, babies benefit from it, and it helps fend off postpartum depression.1
2. Will starting an exercise routine cause my milk to dry up?
Despite rumors, exercise does not cause milk to dry up. In fact, exercise has been linked to improved mood, improved immunity, and fat loss. Exercise can be a great way to regain physical and mental stamina to empower you throughout motherhood. Some moms successfully breastfeed while running marathons or powerlifting heavy amounts of weight. You can work out without fear of losing your supply!
Always start working out gradually; walking is a perfect place to start for most moms in the postpartum period. You can build up to more intense workouts when you feel ready and your doctor gives you the green light.
3. Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?
YES! You certainly can get pregnant while breastfeeding. You may have heard that you won’t get pregnant if you are breastfeeding, but that’s not the entire story. Breastfeeding does naturally suppress ovulation; when the rules are followed, it is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy.2 However, there are strict rules including the following:
- Your baby is younger than 6 months and only breastfeeding (no formula or foods).
- You breastfeed at least every four hours during the day and every six hours overnight.
- You currently are not having periods (amenorrhea).2
Reach out to a lactation consultant or midwife for more information on using breastfeeding as birth control. Please keep in mind that pregnancy is possible in the first 6 weeks postpartum, especially for those who chose not to breastfeed. Even if your menstrual cycle has not returned, you could still be fertile. Most doctors recommend waiting until after the 6 week postpartum appointment to resume intercourse. At that appointment, your provider will do a pelvic exam to check on your healing, and ask about your plans to prevent pregnancy. Birth control is a huge decision; you deserve to be fully informed about the risks and side effects of each option available to you. Come to your postpartum visit prepared with a list of questions to ask your doctor about your options.
4. I'm pregnant again. Should I stop breastfeeding my 7 month old?
That answer is up to you! There is no reason to stop breastfeeding due to a healthy pregnancy. Some pregnant women report a decrease in milk supply upon finding out they were pregnant. If this happens, put your baby to the breast more frequently to stimulate your milk production. Some women choose to tandem feed their babies. This is when a mom will continue to nurse her older child and her newborn simultaneously. Our bodies are amazing and can produce enough milk for both!
5. Can I nurse with nipple piercings?
Yes, you can. You will need to remove your jewelry during your breastfeeding journey since it is a choking hazard for your baby. It’s possible that milk may exit through the piercing holes. Milk will flow out faster from these holes and may be too fast for a new baby. If this is the case for you, don’t fret. A lactation consultant can help!
6. My baby wants to eat all the time lately. Am I making enough milk?
It’s ok and normal if your baby frequents the breast often. Babies are similar to adults; we don’t eat on a rigid schedule. Some days we eat more and snack frequently. We eat an extra piece of pizza, have a cupcake midmorning at work or have a midnight ice cream run. Eating is so much more than simply caloric intake for babies; it is cuddling and comfort. Safety and security with their favorite person on the planet.
Here’s a great list of questions to keep in mind when you ask yourself “is my baby getting enough milk?”
- Did I hear my baby swallow while at the breast?
- Is my baby gaining weight?
- Is my baby content after a feed?
- Does my baby have periods of being alert and active?
- Is my baby having enough pee and poo diapers for their age?
- Am I putting baby to the breast at least 8-12 times in 24 hours?
If the answer to these questions is yes, your baby is looking for comfort from you or maybe trying to up your milk supply. (Remember, milk is made on a supply and demand basis!) If you answer no to these questions, call your pediatrician and an IBCLC to troubleshoot what’s going on.
This information is for educational purposes only. We strongly recommend following up with your healthcare team for medical guidance.