There are lots of questions that breastfeeding mums with children of all ages have. Just because your baby gets older does not mean you will not have worries and questions about what you and your baby are doing. We’ve listed a handful of common questions and answers to help you.
Having smaller breasts means that you won’t be able to produce as much milk.
Luckily not! Breast size has no correlation to how much milk you can make, and your baby will love your breasts and your milk regardless of what cup size you are! This also applies to when your breasts start to return to a normal size after a few months. Your baby is so efficient at getting milk from your breasts, and they know how much milk to make. During growth spurts or times of frequent feeding your breasts will make more milk as needed. As your baby feeds your breasts produce milk so be assured that your A cup is just as good as your best friend’s DDs!
When will my milk come in?
The first milk you produce will start to come in during your pregnancy and this is what you will feed your newborn baby with. This is a yellow substance called Colostrum that is full of antibodies to fight infection and disease and it is liquid gold. About 2-4 days after giving birth your mature milk will come in and you may find yourself a few cup sizes larger, and even possibly sore and engorged. This is completely normal and it will settle down in a short time. It might seem difficult at times, but try to feed through this stage as supplementing with formula will only make your breast pain worse.
When can I start pumping?
You can start pumping straight after birth if you want to; many women will do this if their baby is premature so that they can bring milk into the hospital to feed them. But pumping too early if unnecessary can make engorgement when your milk comes in more painful and can cause you to make more milk than is needed. Introducing a bottle whilst you and your baby are trying to get used to breastfeeding can also lead to “nipple confusion”, where babies may prefer the easier bottle over the nipple, and may have trouble latching on afterwards. If you are concerned about pumping and introducing a bottle whilst breastfeeding then ask your midwife, health visitor or a lactation consultant for advice.
The NHS recommends not introducing a bottle or dummy before your baby is 6 weeks old for the above reasons.
Don’t be worried if you don’t manage to produce a lot of milk first of all, the more you do it the more you will make! Pumping can be difficult to get used to but having milk in a bottle will give others the opportunity to help you feed the baby whilst you rest.
My breasts are engorged and extremely sore. What can I do?
Engorged breasts can be extremely tender and painful, and can make latching on difficult. Engorgement varies from woman to woman and could last a few days, or sometimes a few weeks, but there are ways to relieve it and help your baby feed. It might seem impossible at the time but try to keep feeding frequently through the pain, as stopping can make you even more engorged leading your baby to have even more trouble feeding.
Take a paracetamol and massage your breasts in a warm shower, or try to hand express a little bit of milk. Using gel pads that you can heat are also a good way of helping the milk to flow before feeds, and using cold pads after a feed can help reduce the swelling. Make sure that your bra fits correctly and is not too tight as this can make matters worse.
If you get a fever whilst engorged then seek medical advice immediately.
How often should my baby be feeding?
It’s difficult to put a number on it because each baby is different! As a general rule health professionals advise that your baby should feed about 8-12 times a day in the early days, but this can vary greatly. Some will find that they have to wake their babies to feed every 3 hours or so, and some will feed every hour if not more. As long as your baby is putting on weight and seems happy and healthy don’t worry too much about overfeeding your baby.
If you find your newborn baby is sleeping for long periods of time then waking them for a feed every 4 to 5 hours is a good idea to ensure that they don’t wake crying or miss a feed. Sometimes you can feed them without fully waking them, and then they will fall asleep whilst feeding and allow you to put them down again.
Breast milk is digested faster than formula milk and so breastfed babies will be hungrier sooner after feeding, and frequent nursing will help to boost your milk supply.
As time goes on your baby and you should naturally develop a bit more of a routine that means you won’t feel like you are feeding around the clock.
How will I know when my baby is hungry?
If your baby is crying because of hunger it can be difficult to get them to calm down in order to latch, and can be difficult if you are in public. To avoid this you can learn to recognise your baby’s hunger cues earlier.
- Fingers, fists and hands in mouth
- Rooting – moving their head and head towards you and your breasts, side to side, or rubbing their cheek up against things
- Sucking movement, or sucking on anything around him – only reliable in the newborn days
- Licking lips
- Fussy behaviour
As you both become more experienced you will start to see other individual ways that your baby has to let you know they’re ready for a feed.
How else can I increase my milk supply?
Apart of course from our delicious lactation cookies?
Feeding on demand is the best way to increase and maintain a good supply. Pumping for a little bit after feeds can also help. If you feel that you are producing too much milk then reduce pumping or try not to empty the breasts whilst doing so.
You need to drink a lot of water whilst you are breastfeeding, not just for milk supply but to keep you hydrated as making milk is hard work! It is a good idea to keep a bottle of water by you whenever you are feeding. Eating well, getting as much rest as you can and looking after yourself is also important. Stress can negatively affect your supply, so try to remain calm whilst feeding.
If you do not feed your baby for a few hours then try to pump to keep your supply and demand routine going; waiting to pump until your breasts feel and look like they are full of milk is actually quite detrimental and can reduce your supply in the long run! Make sure that your baby empties one breast before offering the other one and try to alternate breasts with feeds.
How do I store and heat breast milk?
Freshly expressed milk can stay at room temperature for about 6 hours, or can be put in a fridge at 5-10 degrees for up to 3 days, or below 5 degrees for up to a week. Always put milk in the coldest part of the the fridge, and in never in the door compartments.
In the freezer your milk can be stored for 6 to 12 months. It is best to label your milk with dates and ensure that when you do use it you are using the older stock first. Do not refreeze thawed milk.
If you have just pumped your baby can drink the milk straight away. If you want to heat it up then put it in a container of hot water which will heat it gradually. You can also buy baby bottle heaters which will ensure a a consistent temperature. Do not heat milk in the microwave as it can easily scald and cause hot-spots which will burn your baby's mouth. Avoid shaking the milk to incorporate it, instead gently swirl it.
To defrost milk leave it in the fridge until it is fully defrosted. you can also run it under warm water until it has defrosted, but again refrain from using a microwave.
What is a growth spurt?
Growth spurts are generally seen at about 2, 3 and 6 weeks, and 3 and 6 months. They are periods of time where your baby is changing and learning, and as a result will probably seen a lot fussier and clingier and will feed a lot more often whilst sleeping less. These phases will pass, but be patient as everything to them is still very new and going through these developmental changes is a lot easier with the love and support of your mummy. And also remember to take extra time to rest and take on more water and calories as these phases can be emotionally and physically draining on you too!