As a mom, you get to decide whether to breastfeed. There is no need to feel guilty or ashamed if you choose not to or are unable to breastfeed your child – or if you use a combination of breast milk and formula.
Breastfeeding in Public
Some moms feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. If it’s easier, plan ahead by feeding your baby before you leave home, or even packing a bottle of your pumped breast milk.
To help you be more comfortable breastfeeding in public:
- Remind yourself that you are feeding your baby, and it is natural.
- Wear clothes that allow easy access to your breast.
- Carry a breastfeeding blanket to use around your shoulders or a nursing cover.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If it makes you more comfortable, slip into a women’s lounge or dressing room.
- Use physical barriers such as walls, booths, and tables if you need more privacy.
Breastfeeding While Sick or Taking Medication
If you are taking any medications or started using a new medication (prescription or over the counter) ask your healthcare provider if it can be used while breastfeeding.
Common illnesses such as flu, colds, or diarrhea can’t be passed through breast milk. But if you have a flu, avoid being near your infant to prevent your baby from getting infected. You can still have someone else give your baby your pumped breast milk during this time.
Breastfeeding is not advised if you have certain illnesses or are going through treatments such as:
- HIV or AIDS.
- Untreated or active tuberculosis.
- Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II.
Sexuality and Breastfeeding
With a new baby, mothers are busy fulfilling the needs of their newborn. With lots of competition for attention, and constant physical contact with babies, mothers may prefer sleep or a bath to intimate time with their partners.
Tips for partners for addressing sexual desire while the mother is breastfeeding:
- Communicate openly to each other how you feel about breastfeeding and parenthood.
- Express your sexual desire to each other.
- Offer physical signs of affection, not only sexual contact.
- Consider pregnancy as a life event, and accept it as a temporary change in your sex life.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to interfere your sex life. If your partner is supportive, you may always make some adjustments to make sex more comfortable and enjoyable for both of you.
Tips to maintain healthy physical relationship with your partner while breastfeeding:
- Estrogen levels during breastfeeding are low, so you may use water-based lubricants, or try more foreplay to be more comfortable.
- Breast leaking is common among nursing mothers, so you can try feeding your baby before sexual activity to decrease the amount.
Can I Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
Yes. While breastfeeding, you may not get regular periods. However, you are still able to get pregnant. Family planning is an important topic to discuss with your partner and your healthcare provider.
When Will My Milk Come In?
It can take a few days for your breast milk to come in. What your baby gets those first few days is a special kind of milk called colostrum, which helps to build your baby’s immune system. Colostrum is thicker than breast milk. This thickness allows your newborn baby to learn how to breastfeed by coordinating sucking, swallowing, and breathing.
You will know your breast milk has come in when you notice your breasts start to feel firmer. Colostrum is enough for babies in their first days of life. However, if you notice that your milk is delayed longer than a week after birth, talk to your healthcare provider to be sure your baby is getting enough nutrition.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
You may worry that your baby is not getting enough breast milk. With breastfeeding, it can be difficult to measure the exact amount your baby is eating.
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- Your baby nurses at least 8-12 times throughout a full 24 hours.
- You can hear your baby swallowing.
- Your baby’s urine is pale or clear, not deep yellow, orange, red, or pink.
- Your baby has adequate wet and dirty diapers.
- Your baby is gaining weight at a rate your healthcare provider is happy with.
- Your baby seems alert and appears healthy.
Difficulties Latching or Sucking
If you are having difficulty getting your baby to “latch” properly:
- Relax and create as calm an environment as you can.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin, with just his diaper on.
- Let your baby lead, which may depend on how hungry she is.
- Let your breast hang naturally.
- Touch baby’s lips with your nipple to encourage opening his mouth.
- Position your baby in a way that baby’s chin and lower jaw are firm on your breast.
- Aim baby’s lower lip far from the base of the nipple so that your baby takes a large mouthful of breast.
Signs of a good latch:
- You are comfortable and feel less pain while nursing.
- Your baby is comfortable and doesn’t have to turn her head while drinking.
- Your baby’s mouth is filled with breast tissue, not only the nipple.
- Your baby’s ears wiggle slightly.
- Your baby’s lips are turned outward (not inward).
Sometimes breast ducts can get plugged (or obstructed), which may cause discomfort and less milk. If not treated right away, obstructed ducts may lead to an infection called mastitis.
Please contact your health care provider if you notice signs of mastitis:
- Breast tenderness.
- General ill feeling.
- Breast swelling, warmth, or tenderness.
To unclog a clogged duct:
- Nurse frequently throughout the day.
- Nurse from the affected breast, which may help with unclogging.
- Apply a hot compress to the affected breast before nursing.
- Gently massage milk ducts towards the nipple while nursing.
- Drink plenty of fluids (64 ounces or 8 cups a day).
Soothing Sore Nipples
A little nipple tenderness and pain is normal when you first start breastfeeding. This usually goes away once you and your baby are working well together.
To relieve sore nipples:
- Use warm, moist compresses.
- Rub a bit of fresh breast milk on your nipple and allow it to air dry.
- Rub a bit of lanolin cream (nipple cream) or vitamin E on your nipple after feeding.
- Break suction by placing a finger in your baby’s mouth before pulling your breast out.
If soreness increases, you notice bleeding of your nipple, or your breast becomes swollen, red, and you have a fever, be sure to contact your healthcare provider with questions.
Increasing Breast Milk Supply
To increase your breast milk supply:
- Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth.
- As soon as your baby is born, have regular skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Continue regular skin-to-skin contact for at least the next 48 hours. (Room-sharing (not co-sleeping) is best for safe sleeping.)
- Make sure you are comfortable; then help your baby get comfortable.
- Nurse at least 10 minutes on each breast.
- Alternate which breast you start feeding with each time.
- Feed your baby on demand.
- Drink 64 ounces (8 cups) of water a day.
- Eat healthy and often.
- Eat lots of oatmeal.
- Drink pineapple juice.
- Find a good lactation consultant. Talk to your healthcare provider or search the International Lactation Consultant Association to see if there’s a lactation consultant in your area.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about supplements to increase your breast milk supply.
- As much as possible, relax.
Finding Breastfeeding Support
Sources of support for breastfeeding moms and those who care about them:
- Nursing staff at hospitals and birthing centers often give breastfeeding support right after delivery.
- Many hospitals offer lactation services from a certified lactation consultant or nurse who has received specialized training in breastfeeding.
- You can look for consultants in your area that are registered with the International Lactation Consultant Association.
- Public Health Nurses and many other healthcare workers are trained in lactation.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services runs a free national breastfeeding hotline (1-800-994-9662). This hotline is staffed by counselors trained by La Leche League and can be helpful if there isn’t a lactation consultant near you.
- You can reach out to other parents for emotional support.