Breastfeeding Information

Breastfeeding can be intimidating for new mothers and it’s natural to have many questions. It can sometimes be difficult for new moms to separate the facts from fiction on what’s best about the breast for babies. Your pediatrician is here to help.

Review these frequently asked questions and get advice from a network of expert pediatricians. Don’t forget, you can also contact your local CCP office for assistance with any breastfeeding issues you are experiencing.

How often should I feed my baby?

Newborns should be fed at least every 2 to 3 hours for a goal of 8 to 12 feedings per day. They may feed as frequently as every hour, also known as cluster feeding. This is normal but should not continue for more than a few feedings in a row. If your baby is asleep, you may have to wake them up to feed.

Learn more about latching, positioning, and feeding routines.

When should my milk come in?

Your breasts will first produce colostrum in small quantities. This can sometime occur prior to delivery and will continue until your full milk supply is established. Specific times for this will vary but generally 2 to 5 days is normal. For first time breastfeeding mothers, this may take a bit longer than for those who have successfully breastfed babies before. There are many variables that effect breast milk coming in, but the most important thing to do is take care of yourself by eating regularly, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. Speak to your medical provider or a lactation consultant should you have any questions or concerns.

How do I know my baby is getting enough milk?

Most parents worry their baby is not getting enough to eat. Looking for the following signs, may help you to better understand if your baby is eating enough.

  • Can you hear your baby swallow?
  • Do you see milk in the baby’s mouth?

Babies should act satisfied after they feed and remains so for 1 to 3 hours after a feeding. A nursing mom’s breasts should feel softer or emptier after feeding and the baby’s mouth should be moist. Within the first few weeks of life, babies should also have at least 6 wet diapers per day.

It is very important to have regular weight checks with your pediatrician to be sure your baby is gaining weight. Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your pediatricians.

Learn more about how to tell if you breastfed baby is getting enough milk.

What are the signs that my baby is hungry?

Babies can show a variety of signs when hungry, often going from subtle to obvious. Individual signs for each baby can be different. Early signs can be increased rooting and sucking, putting hands to the mouth, lip smacking, and tongue thrusting towards the gums/lips. Crying is considered a late sign of hunger and can often make feeding more difficult. Learning your baby’s cues may take some time but will eventually be easier to recognize.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can provide many benefits for both the mother and the infant. Here are a few of the many:

  • Antibodies are found in breast milk that protect an infant from illness.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the risk of your child developing health problems including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, obesity, and ear infections.
  • Benefits for mothers include decreased rates of hypertension, diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancers.
  • There are emotional benefits for both mom and baby including a special bond that forms from the skin-to-skin contact while breast feeding.
  • Breastfeeding is budget friendly and convenient with less supplies to buy and the ability to feed anytime, anywhere.
  • Breast milk changes as an infant grows to meet the changes nutritional needs of the infant.

Learn more from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

How do I know my baby has a good latch?

Getting your baby to latch well during breastfeeding is vital for success.  While this is not always simple at the beginning, with practice and patience both you and your baby will learn together. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Step 1: Bring the baby to your breast and wait until their mouth is open wide

Step 2: Introduce the nipple. The entire nipple and some of the surrounding dark area should be in the baby’s mouth and the baby’s lips should be flared outward. You may need to try different holds or positions to get the deepest latch possible.

Step 3: Watch and listen for your baby to swallow. This will help you to determine how well your baby is eating during the feed.

Watch this video for a step-by-step guide.

Initial pain with latching should be brief or not at all. If significant pain continues through a feeding, it is likely that the latch is not correct. Break the latch and try again. If the nipple appears pinched, the baby’s latch may be too shallow. If pain persists or you continue to have concerns about the baby’s feedings, be sure to contact your pediatric care provider for additional advice.

How do I store my pumped milk and how long can I store it for?

How best to store pumped breast milk depends on when you want to use it and what space you have to store it.

When expressing breast milk, you want to be sure your hands and storage containers are thoroughly clean. Be sure to label the containers with dates. Storing the milk in small quantities (2 to 4 oz.) helps to limit waste.

Unless you plan to use the milk within 4 hours, it should be chilled as quickly as possible.  A good rule of thumb is that breast milk can be stored for 4 hours at room temperature and in the refrigerator for 4 days.

Review these tips for freezing and refrigerating breast milk.

How long should I breastfeed for?

This is a very personal decision and will depend on how long both you and your baby want to continue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend that a baby be exclusively breast fed for 6 months, if possible, and to continue breastfeeding with appropriate complimentary foods until the child is 2 years old. The longer you breastfeed, the longer you and your baby will receive the benefits of breastfeeding. But remember, any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for you and your baby.

Are there any human milk banks here in Pittsburgh?

Why am I having pain while breastfeeding?

Mild tenderness for the first seconds or minute of a feeding can be normal, especially in the first few days. The most common cause of pain is a poor latch. Try a different feeding position and making sure the baby's mouth is wide open before latching can help reduce pain. Once latched, the baby’s lips should be flared outward, with a goal of 150 degrees from bottom to top lip to allow for sufficient breast tissue to be within the infant’s mouth. In addition to position and improper latch, other causes of pain can include infection of the breast or problems with blood supply to the nipple. It is recommended to follow up with a lactation consultant or a medical provider for ongoing pain concerns.

Learn more about sore nipples while breastfeeding.

Is it okay to give my baby formula too?

Yes. While the recommendation is for babies to receive breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months, there are times when this may not be a choice or possibility; supplementation may also be needed if a mother’s supply does not keep up with the demand of the baby. If breastmilk is not an option, iron-fortified infant formula is recommended.

Some signs that the baby may need supplementation include poor weight gain, consistently showing signs of hunger after or frustration during feedings, and/or decreased urinary or stool output. In these situations, offering supplementation with either expressed breastmilk or formula can help keep the breastfeeding journey going.

It is STRONGLY recommended that you contact your pediatrician if you are noticing any of these symptoms or have any questions or concerns about your infant’s feeding or health.

Learn more about feeding your infant.

How can I increase my milk supply?

You can increase your milk supply by continuing to feed your baby on demand. This may end up being every 2 to 3 hours with a goal of 8 to 12 feedings in 24 hours. Ensure that your baby has an appropriate latch and be sure to empty your breast fully at each feeding. If the baby is unable to fully empty the breast, pumping may be helpful. And be sure to stay hydrated and well nourished; taking care of yourself is very important for milk production and being able to provide the best care and nourishment to your baby.

Learn more about breastfeeding and your milk supply.

What type of breast pump should I use?

There are a variety of breast pumps available with each having their own benefits. It’s important to do research before buying or renting a device to ensure you are making the best selection for you.

A hospital grade electric pump is the most effective but other smaller portable electrical pumps are also available and can be effective too. Manual, battery-operated, or hands-free pump options can be more portable and convenient but may not fully empty the breast making them a good choice in certain situation but not ideal for long term or chronic use. Review the articles below for additional information.

Learn how to use a breast pump.

Learn more about choosing a breast pump.

I have reached a point where I am done breastfeeding. How do I wean my baby?

Like most things in parenting, there isn’t just one simple answer.  Weaning can be done gradually over time or abruptly all at once. How you choose to wean you baby will likely depend on when and why you are stopping and how often your baby is still breastfeeding. It’s important to maintain your child’s nutrition as you wean.

  • If your baby is less than 12 months old, formula should be given in place of breast milk.
  • If your baby is already older than a year, whole milk should be given.

The article Weaning Your Baby has more expert advice for you as you plan the “when” and “how” to start this process.

Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

Not drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is generally considered safest. Moderate consumption of alcohol (1 drink per day) has not been shown to be harmful to the infant, but alcohol levels are highest in breast milk 30-60 minutes after consumption and can continue to be detected for 2-3 hours afterward. Pumping and discarding (“Pumping and dumping”) breast milk after alcohol consumption does not reduce the amount of alcohol more quickly.

If you decide to have an alcoholic beverage, limit yourself to one drink and consider pumping before, or using stored breast milk, to feed the baby.  Also be aware that even a small amount of alcohol can impair one’s abilities. Caring for an infant while intoxicated is not safe and is never recommended.

Learn more about tobacco, alcohol, and drugs while breastfeeding.

What should I do when I am engorged?

Engorgement is the process of breast tissue overfilling with breast milk. Some fullness and firmness can be normal especially early on or when breastfeeding for the first time. If your breasts are uncomfortable, supportive measures such as warm compresses or hot shower before feedings, cool compresses between feedings and/or pain-relieving medications can be useful.  The best way to relieve engorgement is by removing milk from the breast by either feeding the baby frequently or pumping.

Prolonged engorgement can increase your risk of infection (mastitis). If you are feeling ill with a fever or redness of breast, it is best to follow up with a healthcare provider.

Learn more about breast engorgement.

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