National Breastfeeding Awareness Month


August is National Breastfeeding awareness Month, and in fact this week is World Breastfeeding week.  Benefits of breastfeeding are vast including health benefits for both mother and baby from decreased childhood cancer and higher IQ’s to decreasing postpartum symptoms and helping with weight loss after pregnancy.  Breast feeding encourages a wonderful bond between mother and baby. Breastfeeding is not without it’s challenges. Every breast and every baby is just a little bit different. Ren and I compiled questions from friends and other local moms to be answered by Lisa Akers, Registered Dietitian (RD) & International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She is currently the State Breastfeeding Coordinator, Virginia Department of Health and graciously agreed to answer your questions! If an answer to one of these questions brings up another question please feel free to message it to us or leave it in comments. We will keep answering questions as they come to us throughout the month!

1. When should a mother start taking supplements/teas, etc.  before giving birth? right after giving birth? only when they feel like they need it?  The only supplement that a mother should take both during pregnancy and when breastfeeding is a general prenatal vitamin.  This is to ensure that all of the nutrient requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding are met for both the mother and the baby.  No other supplements and/or teas are recommended or needed during this time. 

2.  When should a mother start using nipple cream?  before giving birth? right after giving birth? only when they feel like they need it?  No preparation of the breasts or nipples is needed during pregnancy.  100% lanolin can be used after birth and when breastfeeding if the mother is having trouble with crack and sore nipples.  The mother’s own expressed breast milk can also be used as a healing agent for cracked and sore nipples.  If the mother chooses to use 100% lanolin, it can be purchased from a retail provider and is safe to be ingested by the infant.  All other creams, lotions, or ointments should be avoided as they are not safe for infant ingestion. 

3.  How do you know if a breastfed baby is getting enough milk?  I will feed him for what feels like forever and he is still so hungry!  but if he takes a bottle, he sucks it down and is then content.  There are many signs to look for to know if a baby is getting enough breast milk.  A baby should be breastfeeding 8-12 times in 24 hours, gaining weight, and having a consistent number of dirty diapers.  Breastfed babies do not feed on the same schedule as their formula feeding counterparts.  In fact, breast milk is digested so easily that breastfed babies often get hungrier faster than formula feeding babies.  This is a GOOD thing!  Another thing to remember is that babies have to work to obtain milk from your breast.  It doesn’t flow at a steady rate such as it does from bottles.  In fact, some babies really aren’t hungry, but because they are given a bottle with milk flowing at such a fast rate that they have no choice, but to swallow or choke.  This often leads to overfeeding.  If you feel that your baby isn’t getting enough, you should talk to a breastfeeding expert in the community to fully assess your situation.      

4.  If baby starts sleeping through the night at a fairly young age, should I wake baby up to feed?  Should baby be eating more during the day?  Don’t they need that nourishment throughout the night?  Every baby is different with regards to their feeding and sleeping schedule.  Some babies wake up every hour during the night and others sleep 4-6 hours at a time.  There may also be times where your baby, who normally sleeps for longer periods of time at night, wakes up more often when he/she is going through a growth spurt.  This is completely normal.  If your baby is over a month old and breastfeeding is going well, there is no need to wake the baby to feed at night.   There is also no need to worry about how much he/she is consuming as long as the baby is breastfeeding 8-12 times in 24 hours, gaining weight, and having a consistent number of dirty diapers.  If you are concerned that this may not be the case, you should seek advice from a breastfeeding expert in your community.    


5.  Is there a way to produce just enough milk for bedtime feeding and a middle of the night feeding?  (bottle-fed breast milk during the day)  How long can that continue if I am not pumping?  Breast milk production is based on the theory of “supply and demand.”  Therefore, if you are only demanding breast milk from your body once or twice at night, your breast milk supply will not last very long.  You may notice that it may start to dwindle with each feeding.  In order to keep up a good breast milk supply, you will need to feed more often.

6.  What is the shelf-life on thawed out breast milk? breastfeeding storage chart

7.  What is the best way to increase milk production?  Milk production is based on the theory of “supply and demand.”  This means that the more that is demanded of the body, either through direct breastfeeding or pumping, the more that the body will make.  Therefore, the best way to increase milk production is to feed or pump more often. 

8.  If you have a baby who wants to do nothing but nurse, how long should you let a baby stay at the breast?  Breastfeeding is no only nourishing, but also soothing for babies.  It is not surprising that babies always want to be close to their mothers.  You should not limit your baby’s time at your breast if he/she is indeed feeding.  You should be able to hear sucking and swallowing sounds if he/she is feeding.  If you don’t hear swallowing than it could be that your baby is just doing what we call “non-nutritive” sucking, which is normal and helps the baby to self soothe.  If this is the case, you can remove your baby from your breast by sticking a clean finger into the corner of his/her mouth and breaking the suction.   

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