A mother always remembers her breastfeeding experience. She holds on to the picturesque memory of her baby nuzzling in her arms seeking comfort that only she can provide. The flashbacks of her breastfeeding journey – when she looked down at her infant, so gentle and small, suckling at her breasts, have the power to evoke a concoction of motherly emotions even today!
A woman can buckle up with all the information the digital world has to offer, but she surely needs comfort and reassurance as motherhood guides her into her very own breastfeeding saga. And it all begins with the golden hour, the period that stimulates prolactin and oxytocin – the powerful formula of breastfeeding!
All organizations and medical experts give importance to breastfeeding. A mother’s milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
There is already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. New research finds that breastfeeding babies led to children scoring higher on neurocognitive tests, thus vetting the significance and need of breastfeeding infants.
Today we have lactation consultants who can guide new mothers navigate their breastfeeding journey and ensure they achieve their breastfeeding goals. For the purpose of this article, we interviewed three lactation consultants who have answered our exhaustive questionnaire with a warm smile and oodles of patience.
Ankita Malik is a CAPPA certified lactation consultant with almost 4 years of work experience in Kolkata. She is associated with well-known gynecologists and pediatricians in the city. She is a certified prenatal yoga instructor and strongly believes in a 360-degree approach to health and fitness during pregnancy, postpartum, and lactation.
What are the advantages of breastfeeding for baby and mother?
Breastfeeding provides babies with a variety of health and developmental benefits. The natural ingredients found in breast milk protect babies from illness and disease during infancy. Women who breastfeed recover from childbirth faster.
Breastfeeding helps in mother-baby bonding. Mom’s body releases oxytocin which is a hormone that makes the baby and mom feel connected. Skin to skin time or kangaroo mother care happens at this time, which again has many benefits.
What advice would you give a new mother considering breastfeeding?
Try breastfeeding your baby the minute he is born (of course under your doctor’s supervision). Every mom’s circumstances and journey are different. Therefore consult a professional and don’t compare yourself with others.
What are the basics of breastfeeding?
Establishing a good latch is the basis for a successful breastfeeding journey.
What is a proper latch? Why is it important? Does a baby still get milk with a bad latch?
A comfortable latch for the baby and mom is when breastfeeding doesn’t hurt the mom, and adequate milk transfer occurs. An incorrect latch doesn’t necessarily mean the baby is not getting milk. However, the baby could be getting less of the mom, or the baby may be uncomfortable.
What is the correct way to breastfeed? Do breastfeeding pillows make breastfeeding easier?
You are breastfeeding correctly if your latch is comfortable, your baby is getting adequate milk, you are managing to support the baby’s head, neck, and back while breastfeeding. There isn’t a by-the-book method – different things work for different moms and babies. Breastfeeding pillows are designed to lift the baby and support the mom’s back; hence they make a good purchase. However, if you’re comfortable with regular pillows or no pillows at all, it’s alright.
What problems might mothers have when breastfeeding?
Here are some common issues:
- Mom may have cracked or bleeding nipples
- The baby may be getting insufficient milk
- Mastitis/ breast infections
- Tongue-tie in baby
- Uncomfortable feeds
- Health issues
- Flat or inverted nipples
Mothers may or may not face any or few of the issues mentioned above. It is essential to get a professional opinion on these breastfeeding-related issues.
Are there any specific sleeping positions for breastfeeding moms?
Lactating mothers can sleep in any position. If a mother wants to breastfeed lying down, she has to sleep sideways to feed the baby.
Unfortunately, at least for the first few months, moms can’t sleep for long hours at a stretch, in any position, else they are at risk of engorgement. New moms tend to get up frequently to feed their new moms, so the long stretch of sleeping hours is highly unlikely.
Breastfeeding Weaning Tips
What are the ways to stop breastfeeding?
As per WHO, mothers should exclusively breastfeed babies until they are six months of age and continue breastfeeding to a minimum of two years. Six months is the bare minimum if the mom can breastfeed. Beyond that, moms should make their own decision alongside their lactation consultant.
Weaning should be a slow process. Moms should gradually stop breastfeeding. Sometimes babies self-wean themselves. Again individual guidance is important as no two mothers or babies are the same.
Alcohol with Breastfeeding
How do you view consuming alcohol while breastfeeding? What is the permissible limit? Please share the dos and don’ts
Do not consume alcohol without the permission of your healthcare provider and lactation consultant. Before you plan to drink, have a plan ready. By the book, they say if you’re sober enough to drive, then you’re sober enough to feed. You can follow this under normal circumstances, but it’s always better to consult beforehand.
Coffee while Breastfeeding
What is the limit on caffeine consumption while breastfeeding?
While breastfeeding you are allowed two small cups of tea/coffee a day. It takes much longer for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother to get rid of caffeine from her body.
Breastfeeding as Birth Control
What is the lactational amenorrhea method? What are the disadvantages and advantages?
When you exclusively breastfeed your body naturally stops ovulating. You can’t get pregnant if you don’t ovulate. No ovulation means you won’t have your period, either. That’s why breastfeeding-as-birth control is also called the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM). It is a birth control method based on the following three factors:
1) The baby is under six months old.
2) The mother hasn’t got her period yet.
3) Mom is exclusively breastfeeding.
Generally, mothers aren’t fertile as they haven’t resumed their regular ovulation cycles. This method is very effective for some, but I don’t recommend it without professional advice as you cannot be one hundred percent sure.
What foods are moms advised to avoid while breastfeeding?
More or less all foods are allowed. Don’t have anything that doesn’t suit you with the belief that it will increase lactation. Eat healthy home-cooked meals with lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
What is the role of lactation supplements such as powders and cookies? Do they work?
These products generally have natural or Ayurvedic galactagogues, which help boost milk supply. It is always recommended to have any supplement under medical supervision.
What are the home remedies/home recipes that breastfeeding moms should try to increase breast milk?
Traditional recipes have a lot of benefits.
Does comfort nursing help the milk supply?
Comfort nursing helps the baby feel comforted, and that is very important.
Can babies be on breastmilk and formula?
They can, though I always advocate breastfeeding as far as possible.
What foods help produce breast milk? Which fruits help increase breast milk?
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are best, along with lots of fluids.
How to increase breastmilk supply?
A lactating mother must have a healthy balanced diet with lots of liquids. Speak to a lactation consultant for supplements or individual diet.
How long should a breastfeeding session last?
There is no fixed time. It can last for 5 mins or 45 minutes. Let the baby feed as long as he wants.
Is a 10-minute feed long enough for a newborn? Is it normal for a baby to breastfeed for an hour?
Both instances are normal.
How to know a baby is full after breastfeeding?
A baby is most likely full after breastfeeding if he leaves the breast, doesn’t take the breast when offered, or has dozed off.
How long does it take breasts to refill with milk?
It’s a continuous cycle. When the baby suckles, it triggers a hormone to produce milk. Ideally, a letdown should only happen when the baby latches onto the breast. Please don’t wait for breasts to refill.
How much milk can a breast hold? How much breastmilk does a woman produce a day?
A lactating mother can produce as much milk as her baby wants. The more the baby feeds, the more milk is produced.
Sometimes, babies kick and squirm while breastfeeding. What does that mean?
Consult a pediatrician if you’re worried about such behavior.
What is the importance of a bra in the breastfeeding journey?
Correct bra with adequate support is crucial. I always encourage moms to buy maternity bras.
Losing Calories while Breastfeeding
Can breastfeeding lead to weight loss for moms? How many calories does breastfeeding burn?
A mom who is exclusively breastfeeding burns 500 to 600 calories a day. Weight loss differs from person to person and also on the calories consumed. Some moms even gain weight while they are breastfeeding.
Is it true that moms feel hungrier than usual when breastfeeding?
Yes, it is true, because of hormones and the added calorie that are burnt.
Is stored milk less healthy for babies as compared to fresh breast milk? How to know when breastmilk has gone bad?
Not necessarily. Use carefully and always taste and smell before feeding. Always taste and smell before feeding the baby.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do soft breasts mean a low milk supply?
No. Not at all
Do I always have to hold my breast while breastfeeding?
No, it depends on your comfort.
When breastfeeding, how do you know when to switch sides?
Let the baby drink completely from one side. You can switch in the subsequent session.
There is no compulsion to switch sides in the same session.
Do larger breasts mean more milk?
No, they don’t.
Can babies reject breast milk?
This happens rarely but depends on circumstance, age, etc.
What causes a low milk supply?
Variety of factors such as
- Poor latch
- Introduction of bottle
- Irregular breastfeeding
- Rarely it is a physiological issue
Whatever the case, it’s important to get a professional opinion.
Is a bad latch always painful? How do I get a deeper latch?
Not necessarily. It is important to seek professional advice. You need to evaluate your latch to make it work better.
Does drinking milk increase breast milk supply?
Does lack of sleep affect milk supply?
Yes, it does.
How do I know that my breast is empty?
Follow your instinct.
Is it worth breastfeeding once a day?
Yes, it is worth it. Even once will help.
How do you fix saggy breasts after breastfeeding?
Your body goes through significant changes during pregnancy and lactation. Adequate hydration, exercise (once allowed), and wearing a proper bra will help. However, it takes several months.
How much milk can a woman produce in 24 hours?
Depends from person to person.
Dr. Jui Shinde
Dr. Jui Shinde is a certified lactation educator, certified childbirth educator, and a sound healing therapist. She is certified from CAPPA-USA and has experience of eight years in this field.
Is it normal to have lumps in the breast while breastfeeding? Why is it so common?
It is not normal to have lumps while breastfeeding. There are multiple reasons as to why it’s common:
- Improper latch.
- Improper guidance during the hospital stay.
- Unnecessary recommendations of galactagogues when it isn’t required.
- Not feeding at regular intervals.
- Improper removal of breast milk.
How to massage the breast lumps while breastfeeding to remove these lumps?
Massage is mandatory, along with heat application and ice packs. But if lumps are formed, seek the advice of a lactation consultant to evaluate the whole situation.
Mastitis while Breastfeeding
What is mastitis? How can mothers identify it?
It is an inflammation of breast tissue that involves an infection. The symptoms are breast pain, swelling, warmth, redness, and sometimes fever and chills.
Can we cure mastitis at home?
Not always. I advise mothers to regularly massage their breasts and remove milk in a timely fashion. If the lumps don’t reduce in size in 48 hours, the mother should consult a lactation consultant.
Increasing Milk Supply
What advice would you give lactating mothers to increase their milk supply?
Feed more regularly and frequently. Feeding your baby consistently will increase your milk supply.
How would you advise moms to wean their baby off breastfeeding?
I believe that the baby should decide when he is ready to wean.
Breast Pump and Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
When is a breast pump needed for mothers? Can you please guide our readers on how to store expressed milk?
Mothers use a breast pump in various scenarios, such as twin pregnancies, working mothers, premature babies, sometimes the baby refuses to latch on the mother’s breast.
These are the storage guidelines:
- Room temperature: 4 hours
- Refrigerator: Upto 2 to 4 days
- Freezer: Up to 6 months
Also Read: Ajita Gopal Seethepalli: Bringing Back Joyful Parenting with Her Sleep Training Superpowers
Very often, mothers tend to doubt their supply of milk. How can mothers know if their milk supply is sufficient for their child?
We always doubt, but our body is capable of producing enough milk. There are three signs mothers should look out for – urine count, stool count, and the baby’s weight.
- The baby should pass urine at least once on day one.
- The baby should pass urine at least twice once on day two.
- The baby should pass urine at least three times once on day three.
- The baby should pass urine at least four times on day four.
- The baby should pass urine at least five times on day five.
- The baby should pass urine at least six times on day six.
The baby should have at least six completely drenched/wet cotton nappies or six fully loaded diapers from the sixth day.
Dr. Mugdha Joshi
Dr. Mugdha Joshi is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has graduated as a Homoeopath and also done her Masters in Dietetics and specialized in Pediatric Nutrition. She has been working in the field of Lactation since Feb 2013.
Signs of Decreasing Milk Supply
How does a lactating mother know if her milk supply is sufficient? What are the signs that show insufficient milk supply?
I always tell my patients to keep a check on four things:
- The latch is the key to successful breastfeeding. While breastfeeding, the mother should never experience any pain. If it is shallow, that means the baby might not be transferring milk efficiently.
- The total number of feeds in 24 hours should be at least 8.
- The Baby’s urine output should be at least 6 to 8 times in 24 hrs.
- The overall weight gain should be at least 500 grams in a month for the first three months.
(For the initial days, it’s different because they lose weight and then come back to birth weight between 8 to 15 days, and then they start gaining weight.)
But at any stage, the baby should gain 500 grams every month for the first three months. Depending on how much weight was gained earlier, the rate of weight gain may reduce.
What are the different types of breastfeeding positions? Do they change with age?
There are lots of breastfeeding positions. The commonly used positions are cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, football, clutch hold, laid back, and biological nurturing position. When the baby is small, we focus on the position of breastfeeding to get a deep latch.
You can modify the positions as long as the latch is achieved and the mother and the baby are comfortable.
I don’t personally focus on the positions, but if somebody is struggling with the position that they are using and have not achieved a deep latch, then I recommend a sitting position, a football, or a cross-cradle position. If somebody prefers having a forceful letdown, then I suggest the laid-back or biological nurturing position.
As the baby grows, we don’t focus much on technique because babies learn by conditioning. Positioning is essential when breastfeeding-related difficulties arise.
Breastmilk versus Formula
Most hospitals/nursing homes give formula to infants stating that mom’s milk will take time to come. Please share your insights on this. Does this hamper the establishment of an appropriate milk supply?
Sadly it is true. Many hospitals and nursing homes may start the baby on formula without the parent’s consent. Most mothers are lying on the bed for 24 hrs and cannot get up; that’s why formula may be given as the first feed. When we give formula as a first feed and continue giving formula every 2.5 to 3 hours, we always tend to give a little more than the baby’s requirement because it’s a different and faster method. In many nursing homes, even bottles are given to infants. We should avoid this as the baby may develop a nipple preference and prefer the bottle over the breast.
There are times when supplementations might be required. This could be when the baby is genuinely not able to achieve a proper latch.
If the mother chooses to breastfeed exclusively and doesn’t get the proper assistance to do so, the baby may not latch well. This will result in low urine output for the baby, or the mother may be in pain. The glucose level may drop, or it may cause high bilirubin levels, and pediatricians don’t want that to happen. So, to be on the safe side, they may ask the mother to supplement with formula and try feeding the baby at the same time.
Often mothers feel that giving formula to the baby means that they cannot produce sufficient milk and lose their confidence right away. In such cases, mothers should be specifically told that formula is given to the baby only to avoid any complications. Before a mother is discharged from the hospital, she should know how to breastfeed correctly.
What are the most common mistakes lactating moms make in their breastfeeding journey?
Very often, lactating mothers lose confidence and trust in their bodies. They tend to get anxious about breastfeeding, guilty about giving formula, and take a lot of stress, which affects their breastfeeding journey. Getting the right support system through a lactation consultant or mommy groups where like-minded mothers share their breastfeeding experiences helps mothers. Mothers who don’t get the proper support at the right time may end their breastfeeding journey very soon.
What is a nipple thrush? How can new moms diagnose and treat this condition?
A nipple thrush is a candida infection on the nipple or in the breast. The baby may also have some candida patches in the mouth. Symptoms for the mother are pain, burning, and itching sensation especially post feeds or in between feeds. The baby’s oral cavity also needs to be checked and treated accordingly.
I rarely see obstetricians treating pain with antifungals. They may not treat it as a candida infection unless they see something on the nipple. A lot of times, it may not be visible on the nipple. Pediatricians may give oral wash or antifungal.
What is cluster feeding? How can moms deal with this?
Cluster feeds are when the baby suddenly starts asking for feeds more frequently or latches on for a longer duration. During this time, most mothers start doubting their milk supply. There are various things that mothers can do to calm babies at this stage, such as ergonomic babywearing. When the mother gets exhausted from feeding continuously, the father can wear the baby and calm the baby.
Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression
What are the symptoms of Postpartum depression?
These are the most common symptoms of PPD – stress, anxiety, sadness, guilt, crying, being edgy, and upset all the time. PPD does affect breastfeeding.
What is post-weaning depression? Is it diagnosed and treated in India?
Post-weaning depression is a term used to describe depression that can occur after a woman stops breastfeeding. It can come as a result of hormonal fluctuations or the psychological stress of weaning. The mother and baby need to be ready to wean. This should always be a gradual process.
Covid & Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding after Covide Vaccine
Until recently, lactating women were not allowed for vaccination against Covid-19, but as the Centre has given a green signal to this group, it has clarified that it won’t affect the newborn in any way.
Breastfeeding If You Are COVID-19 Positive
If you want to know more on this topic please click here