Breastfeeding is an amazing, natural way to nourish and bond with your little one. And whether you’re still waiting to welcome your bundle of joy into the world, or you’re working through the amazement of life with a newborn, a better understanding of the basics of breastfeeding will help you navigate any possible challenges that may come your way.
Developing a Milk Supply
About two to five days after giving birth, new mothers can expect to feel their milk starting to come in. Keep in mind, everybody is different. One mother may already start to notice her milk before delivery, and for some, it just may not arrive. However your body reacts, just know there are solutions. If you deliver at AdventHealth for Women, a lactation consultant will be available to help you through these early stages.
Newborn babies only require a few teaspoons per feeding before your milk comes in fully, so don't feel bad about not having a strong supply right away — it’s perfectly natural. Your baby will have enough from your breasts in those first few days.
Stacie Gehring, RN, is a lactation consultant who explains that once your milk comes in, you'll need to focus on building a supply for your baby. While baby may be satisfied with small amounts at first, as they get older, they’ll require more milk with new feedings. To build your supply, it’s important to offer your breast to your baby every two to four hours.
Diet and Lifestyle
A good diet and proper hydration are very important to building your milk supply, as well. While you were pregnant, your baby required you to consume about an extra 200 calories a day for their development, but once your baby has been born and you've developed a milk supply, your daily caloric requirements are even higher. AdventHealth experts suggest that breastfeeding mothers generally consume an extra 300 calories a day to keep up with milk production.
While you're breastfeeding, be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables with your proteins, fats and carbohydrates — and drink plenty of water. “Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I cannot overstate the importance of getting enough water,” says Gehring.
Don't forget that everything you consume will get passed on to your baby through your milk, so be sure to avoid an excess of things like caffeine and alcohol, as well as any medications that haven't been approved by your doctor.
If you drink alcohol, it’s recommended that you don't breastfeed until you've stopped drinking and have adequately replenished your system with water. Caffeine should be regulated to less than 25 ounces of coffee over the course of a day and not more than five ounces at a time.
Dealing with Discomfort When Breastfeeding
If your breasts become sore when your milk is coming in or while you're breastfeeding, it’s perfectly normal. Using a warm compress before feeding and a cool compress afterward should help. You may also see a bit of blood in the milk from time to time while pumping. In most cases, this is nothing to worry about.
Occasionally, a mother’s breast or breasts may become infected, which is called mastitis. Mastitis usually results in breast pain and swelling, and you may also notice having a fever and chills. This is a painful, but common problem and clears up quickly with antibiotics prescribed by your doctor that are safe for breastfeeding mothers. The important thing to remember is to make sure you seek help from your doctor right away and keep breastfeeding, as it will help clear up the infection faster and poses no risk to your baby. Gehring suggests continuing to use warm compresses to help with the discomfort.
Yeast infections are another easily treatable, common problem associated with breastfeeding. If you notice your baby's tongue is white and it doesn't wipe off like your milk normally would, then you may have a yeast infection. Your doctor will prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication that can clear it up in no time.
Breastfeeding Beyond Infancy
Time will fly through the first few months, and once you and your little one have mastered which techniques and routines work best for you both when it comes to breastfeeding, you should feel very proud and accomplished. Way to go, Mama!
There are many benefits to continue breastfeeding, even after your baby begins to enjoy solid foods. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond, and Gehring explains that even after baby starts eating solids, these foods are meant to be an addition to breastmilk, rather than the primary source of nutrition. “That’s where your baby is getting the bulk of their nutrition,” she says.
Breastfeeding is known to protect babies from infections and illness, and even serious diseases such as childhood cancers. The enzymes found in breast milk can help your baby digest fats and promote the development of their immune system. And aside from the health benefits, there are emotional benefits as well. “Being close to your baby and being able to fulfill their needs longer into their life can help strengthen your bond for years to come,” Gehring says.
Ready to Wean
While there is certainly lots of research to support the benefits of breastfeeding your little one, don’t feel badly if continuing doesn’t feel right for you. It is hard work and can be physically and mentally exhausting. Plus, the older your child gets, the more you may find yourself chasing after them — you’re going to need that energy. Whenever you decide is the best time for you to begin weaning your child from breastfeeding, here are a few tips recommended by our lactation consultants:
- Slowly decrease the amount of time you spend nursing.
- Try removing one feeding at a time, starting with the naptime feeding.
- Since breastfeeding is a form of comfort for most children, plan for extra snuggle time with your baby — maybe reading a book in your favorite rocking chair.
- Say “no” when you need to. Your child may have a hard time with that, but it’s ok to deny the breast during this process.
- Stock up on ice packs. You may feel discomfort as your milk supply slowly decreases. Ice packs and warm compresses can provide relief.
- Let yourself process your emotions. You may be relieved, sad, anxious — however you’re feeling, know that it’s ok.
Speak with a Breastfeeding Specialist
At AdventHealth for Women, we have knowledgeable lactation specialists who are by your side within the first couple of hours after delivery, and they can be there to provide advice for months, or even years, down the road. Check out this Q+A for even more breastfeeding help from Stacie Gehring.
We’re dedicated to providing you and your baby with the best possible care before and after birth. Our breastfeeding warmline is available at
Call407-303-7650 to answer questions or arrange for lactation consultations.