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Saint John Breastfeeding Alliance

Frequently Asked Questions

Most people know that breastmilk is best for baby. It is extremely rare that a mother cannot breastfeed her baby, but she may have concerns that keep her from even trying. Let's address some of these questions...

Please Note: These answers are intended as general information and are not meant to take the place of your doctor's guidance.

TopicSee Question #
Bonding with Father2
Catching a Cold4
Good Milk Supply5
Healthy Eating6
Hunger Cues7
Length of Feedings8
Money Saved10
Nipple Preparation11
Pablum in Bottle12
Sleepy Baby15
When Milk Comes In18
Nursing Older Babies20
Increasing Your Milk Supply22
Low Milk Supply23
Storing Breastmilk24

If you have a question you would like answered, e-mail Heather McBriarty with it.

1.Q:"I have heard that breastfeeding is a lot better for the baby, but why?"
A:Breastfeeding has many benefits for your baby. Some of the major advantages are that it is rich in easily digested nutrients and helps protect baby against infections, colds, viruses, and allergies. Baby's diapers don't smell as bad, breastmilk doesn't stain clothing, and baby won't be as gassy. Breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother. It's clean and simple; there are no bottles to wash and sterilize or formula to mix. You will save a lot of money. It may reduce your chance of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and ovarian cancer. It can help you lose the extra weight faster. Most importantly, it will help make more time for you to be close to your baby.
2.Q:"If I breastfeed does that mean that my husband won't get to bond with our baby because he can't feed her?"
A:Your husband should feel proud that your baby is getting the best nutrition possible because you are breastfeeding your daughter. You are right that especially in the early stages of breastfeeding it is not a good idea to give bottles. At around 4 weeks an occasional bottle, preferably filled with expressed breastmilk, will allow your husband to help with feeding. Baby will associate dad with getting food if she knows he will take her to her mother when it is time to breastfeed. Don't forget there are lots of other important ways that fathers can bond with their babies. Dad can cuddle and comfort baby and as she gets older he can spend quality time talking/reading/playing with her. Babies appreciate the person who gives them a nice clean, dry diaper and dad can also be in charge of bath time. When it is time to start giving solid foods a father can play an important role in this too. At times it may seem like a baby wants to be with her mother more than father, but this is usually just a phase. As she gets to know her parents better she will begin to appreciate what both of them do for her.
3.Q:"Why do they say not to give a newborn baby a bottle if you are breastfeeding?"
A:Giving a healthy baby a bottle before 4 weeks old can interfere with successful breastfeeding. Formula or glucose water may fill the baby and make him/her lose interest in breastfeeding. If plain water is given, the new baby is more likely to develop jaundice. Babies who are prone to allergies are more likely to develop a cow's milk allergy if they receive formula as a newborn. Breastfeeding requires a different type of suck than bottle feeding and there is no such thing as an artificial nipple that is just like breastfeeding. Babies can get confused if they get a bottle while learning how to breastfeed and may refuse the breast. Supplemental bottles may lead to engorgement (painfully full breasts) because the baby won't be feeding as much. Less time at the breast also interferes with developing a good milk supply. Source: The Breastfeeding Answer Book, LaLeche League International, 1997
4.Q:"If I have a cold will my baby catch it from my breastmilk?"
A:A baby that is breastfed is less likely to catch a cold or other illness from its mother than one that is formula fed. When you have a cold your body starts to build up antibodies. Through the breastmilk the antibodies will help your baby fight off the illness. If your baby does get your cold, breastfeeding may help keep the symptoms from being as severe. Good hygiene, including regular handwashing, is essential to help prevent the spead of the illness regardless of how you feed your baby.
5.Q:"How will I know if my baby is getting enough milk?"
A:In the beginning you may wonder if your baby is getting enough breastmilk. One sign that your baby is getting enough milk is plenty of wet diapers (about 6 per day) and regular bowel movements (about 2-5 per day). Another sign of a well fed baby is a healthy weight gain. If you are not sure if your baby is gaining well you can check with your doctor. Babies have their own natural sense of hunger and fullness to guide them during breastfeeding. As you become more confident with breastfeeding you will learn to trust your baby to tell you how much he or she needs.
6.Q:"I don't eat healthy, so doesn't that mean my milk won't be nutritious enough for my baby?
A:Eating healthy during breastfeeding is the same as during your pregnancy. Your own health may suffer from eating poorly but your breastmilk will still be the most nutritious food for your baby. Think of mothers in developing countries who do not have access to enough food. Their milk is still the best nourishment their babies can receive. To reassure yourself you can take a prenatal multivitamin-mineral pill once a day. It won't take the place of a healthy diet, but it may help if you are not eating well.
7.Q:"How will I know when my son is hungry?"
A:If you watch your baby closely you will know when he is hungry by certain movements or "cues". These include rapid eye movements, waking and stretching, looking all around, putting a hand in his mouth, and making movements with his mouth such as sucking or licking. It is best to offer the breast before your baby becomes anxious and starts crying. A baby who has already reached this stage may have a hard time calming down enough to start feeding. As you and your baby get to know each other better you will find it easier to recognize these cues.
8.Q:"How long should I nurse the first time I breastfeed my baby?"
A:It is recommended that the first feeding be as soon as possible after birth. There is no specific amount of time that a baby should nurse for; every baby is different. Once your baby has latched on properly he/she will feed until he/she has had enough from that breast and then will come off the breast or fall asleep. Then you can burp the baby and offer the other breast. At this first feeding the baby may only suck for a few minutes on each side. Feeding soon after birth also means there will be a nurse close by to help you get started.
9.Q:"Can I breastfeed even if I have to take medication?"
A:You should ask your doctor about whether your medication is safe for the baby and if it could affect your milk supply. You will find that most drugs are alright to use while breastfeeding. If your medication is not, ask your doctor if there is a similar medication you could take instead. There is usually something that will help your condition while allowing you to continue providing your baby with the best possible nutrition - your breastmilk. For more information, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a page outlining drugs that are considered compatible with breastfeeding (see Table 6) at:
10.Q:"You said that breastfeeding saves money - how much?"
A:A recent survey by the Newfoundland and Labrador Healthy Baby Clubs estimated that to formula feed your baby for 6 months using concentrated formula will cost about $665.00. If your baby requires a special formula it will cost you even more. Breastfeeding is free. Even if you decide to use breast pads or buy equipment for pumping, the savings are still huge. The Healthy Baby Clubs say that breastfeeding for 6 months saves more money than it costs to buy groceries for a family of four for about 5 weeks or to buy a new TV and VCR. I'm sure new mothers can think of lots of other ways to spend $665.00...
11.Q:"Do I need to do anything special to prepare my breasts for breastfeeding before my baby is born?"
A:People used to think that you needed to toughen your nipples ahead of time. Recent research does not support nipple toughening, nipple rolling, expressing colostrum before baby is born, using breast shells, or the application of lotion or creams. In fact, some of these can actually cause soreness. There is nothing special you need to do; your nipples will adjust in the early stages of breastfeeding.
12.Q:"My cousin is breastfeeding her 6 week old baby. It seems like he is always eating. Shouldn't she be putting pablum in a bottle to fill him up?"
A:Whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, professionals now feel it is best to wait until a baby is 4 to 6 months old before starting solid foods. Your cousin's baby is just breastfeeding more often because he is going through a growth spurt (usually occur at 2 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months). Her milk supply will increase with these frequent feedings and soon he will probably go back to a more regular schedule. Starting solid foods too early, including pablum, can cause baby to gain too much or too little weight, prevent mother from making enough milk, and increase the risk of allergies and choking. Studies show that feeding cereal in a baby's bottle does not help baby sleep through the night, and it doesn't help him learn to eat solid foods. Breastmilk is the best and only nourishment a healthy growing baby needs until at least 4 to 6 months of age.
13.Q:"I know that breastfeeding is good for my baby, but won't it hurt me?"
A:Breastfeeding should not hurt! You may feel some tenderness in the beginning for about two to four days, but this should soon disappear. If it doesn't improve or you are feeling pain, do not suffer in silence - talk to an expert such as a LaLeche League volunteer or the Breastfeeding Clinic (648-6379) at the Saint John Regional Hospital. Once you solve the problem you and your baby will both enjoy the nursing experience.
14.Q:"Is it true that you should nurse your baby every 4 hours?"
A:You should not impose a schedule on your baby. Babies will decide for themselves how often to feed. Typically a newborn will feed about every 2-3 hours during the day and once or twice through the night. This equals about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Because of medication during delivery, some babies do need to be wakened for feedings until they start to follow their own patterns (just in the first 36-48 hours). Source: National Breastfeeding Guidelines for Heale Providers, 1996
15.Q:"What if my new baby doesn't feed as much as she should?"
A:A newborn should feed at least 8 times in 24 hours. Some babies may not wake often enough in the early stages of breastfeeding (medications used during labour could be part of the reason). Some things you can try to wake a baby who doesn't feed enough include: change baby's diaper; hold the baby against your chest as though you are burping her, skin to skin; give baby a massage or bath; try wiping her forehead and cheeks with a cool damp cloth; circle her mouth with your fingertip; or express several drops of colostrum onto baby's lips and tongue. If these tips do not help, you should seek the advice of a professional immediately. Sources: National Breastfeeding Guidelines for Health Care Providers and La Leche League's "The Breastfeeding Answer Book"
16.Q:"I am a smoker. Can I breastfeed?"
A:Even if you smoke breastfeeding is still the best way to nourish your baby. Hopefully during your pregnancy you have cut back on the number of cigarettes you smoke. Just like when you were pregnant, it is important to think about how much you are smoking while breastfeeding. Heavy smoking can cause lower milk production. If you do smoke, do it after you have fed the baby so there is less nicotine in the milk. If you smoke less than 20 cigarettes a day the baby is at less risk from the nicotine. At 20 to 30 cigarettes you and your baby are at a greater health risk. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, second-hand smoke increases baby's risk of pneumonia, bronchitis, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Always smoke outside or in another room. At least try to cut down, or better yet find a support group to help you quit.
17.Q:"Is it O.K. to give my baby a soother if I breastfeed?"
A:If you choose to breastfeed it is probably best to avoid the use of soothers. Just like giving a bottle too early, sucking on a soother can confuse babies and prevent them from breastfeeding well. Using a soother too often means the baby may not get to feed as often. Less time spent breastfeeding can decrease milk production and lead to poor weight gain. Overuse of a soother can also make it a difficult habit to break when your child gets older. (Misuse can lead to poor weight gain and dependence in bottle fed babies too). If you do wish to offer your baby a soother it is best to wait until breastfeeding is going well. As long as you do not use it to delay or replace feedings, baby should continue to nurse and gain well.
18.Q:"How many days after the birth of my baby will my milk come in?"
A:Your baby will get milk at the first feeding. This early milk is called colostrum. It is golden in colour and is only produced in very small amounts. Some mothers worry that it is not enough for their babies, but it is all a healthy baby needs. Colostrum is important for a newborn because it is rich in nutrients and helps to protect the baby from illness. Frequent unrestricted feedings will build up your milk supply. After about 2-3 days you will notice that your body is producing more milk along with the colostrum. Over the next 3-10 days this transitional milk will change completely to mature milk. Source: National Breastfeeding Guidelines, 1996
19. AQ:"I am trying to wean my baby. Can you give me more information on how to go about it?"
A:The easiest way to wean for you and your baby is gradually. Done too quickly, you will find yourself painfully engorged with a cranky, upset baby on your hands. Start by cutting down on one nursing at a time. Offer a bottle or cup, or a snack to an older toddler. Dad can help by feeding or playing with your baby or toddler. After a few days, cut out another nursing session as you did the first. Be prepare for this process to take a few weeks. It is a big change for you and your body, not to mention your baby. You may find your baby needs extra cuddles, hugs and rocks in the familiar nursing position. Many times babies want to nurse for comfort only, so you may not need as many bottles per day. The key is go slowly and be flexible.
19. BQ:"How long will it take for my milk supply to dry up?"
A:Weaning gradually you wonít notice much. As the demand for milk drops, so will your supply. You may stop feeling a strong let-down and your breasts may become softer. If you wean suddenly, on the other hand, you may find you have a number of weeks of discomfort, leaking and engorgement.
20.Q:"What benefits are my fourteen month old getting from breastfeeding?"
A:Your toddler will still be getting some protection immunologically from your breastmilk until at least 18 months, perhaps longer. Even though she may be eating a well balanced diet, she can still benefit from the vitamins and enzymes in your milk. As well she stills needs the closeness and comfort emotionally that can be provided by nursing.
21.Q:"Recently my son has been full of gas. What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?"
A:Each baby is different. Some babies will react to milk or foods in their mothers diet, while others donít. Some other possibilities are some vitamins, drinks with artificial sweeteners or large amounts of caffeine. Experiment by cutting out different foods in your diet. You may find the what is bothering him.
22.Q:"Is there any way to increase my milk supply?"
A:Number one: nurse frequently! You need to spend 24 - 48 hours doing nothing but nursing and resting. Good time for Dad to help out! Be sure you offer both breasts at each feeding. In fact, switching back and forth between breast a couple of times during a feeding will increase the stimulation to your breasts. Avoid supplements and pacifiers during this time. They interfere with nursing and your supply. REST, eat well and drink plenty of fluids.
23. AQ:"I have been told I canít produce enough milk for my baby. How can I tell?"
A:This is very rare. Ninety-five percent of women can successfully breastfeed their babies. Some mistaken signs of low milk production are: a baby who is nursing more frequently or longer than before; is fussy; isnít following a "normal" schedule for weight gain or sleeping; breasts that donít leak or are suddenly softer; no let-down sensation. As long as your baby is really wetting his diapers, gaining about a pound a month, nursing often and well, is alert, active and filling out, you are okay. If you feel your supply is low, try the above steps for increasing your production.
23. BQ:"I really am not producing enough milk for my baby, but I really want to breastfeed him. What can I do?"
A:If you want to have the closeness and benefits of breastfeeding, you might try a Supplemental Nursing System. This is a small bag of formula that hangs over your shoulder, with a thin tube that is taped to your breast. The baby takes your nipple and the tube into his mouth while nursing. He then gets whatever breastmilk you can produce, supplemented by formula. This is also a great way to nurse an adopted baby! Call a Lactation Consultant for more information.
24.Q:"I was just wondering if I have expressed milk and refrigerated it and then warmed it how long can I keep it out before discarding it?"
A:Breastmilk has an antibacterial property which makes it safe to sit at room temperature for 6 - 10 hours. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 - 5 days and in a freezer for up to four months. It is important to label and date your milk so you use the oldest first.

We would like to hear your comments or questions. Please write to: SJBA, c/o Public Health Nutritionists, Department of Health and Community Services, P.O. Box 93, Saint John, NB, E2L 3X1 or fax to 658-3067. In Sussex please fax 432-5524 and in Hampton 832-6075.

Return to the main Saint John Breastfeeding Alliance page.

Author: Thomas Wetmore
Last Updated: Thursday, March 2, 2000