mom breastfeeding her baby

Breastfeeding can be a challenging time for new parents. But there are a lot of great benefits for everyone if you’re able to stick with it. Below are answers to some of your breastfeeding questions from our experts at UC Davis Children’s Hospital:

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mom and for baby?

Breastfeeding is great for both infant and maternal health. Breast milk is a living substance that carries immune information from mom to baby. It helps prevent babies from catching infections, including pneumonias, ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea. Breastfeeding helps prevent chronic diseases like allergies, diabetes, and certain leukemias in infants.

For mothers, it decreases their risks of heart disease, diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancers.

See more benefits of breastfeeding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

How soon should moms breastfeed after their baby is born?

The sooner breastfeeding begins, the better. If mom and baby are both healthy and able, then breastfeeding in the first hour can be very helpful to establish milk production. Infants are often alert during this time and can have a great feed before falling asleep for several hours.

How can I tell if my baby is getting enough breast milk?

In the first day, babies only need a teaspoon at a time of colostrum, which is the first form of breastmilk. At UC Davis Medical Center, nurses, lactation consultants or doctors watch the baby feed, assess the infant latching on, and ensure the baby can swallow. The birthing care team tracks how often the baby urinates and has a bowl movement. They also check the infant’s weight and behavior to ensure they’re getting enough milk.

Learn more about delivering your baby at our birthing center at UC Davis Medical Center

In the first few weeks, babies should breastfeed a minimum of 8-12 times per day. At first, each session may take up to 45 minutes. As the baby gets more efficient, feedings will likely shorten to 10-20 minutes.

What do I do if my baby is having trouble latching?

There are many ways to hold the baby. There are also strategies that can help, depending on what’s causing the issue with the latch. If your baby is struggling to latch or came home not feeding at the breast, it’s recommended that you work with a lactation consultant. If you do not have direct access to a lactation consultant, talk with your baby’s doctor or your doctor.

How many months should I breastfeed my baby?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding only (no food or drink other than breast milk) for 6 months. Breastfeeding should continue for at least two years, if possible.

Is pain normal during breastfeeding?

During the first few days after birth when new parents are trying to get a good latch, there can be some pain from damage to the nipples. This should heal and resolve. Ongoing breastfeeding is not generally painful. If you have pain, it could be several things:

  • When the breasts are overfull (engorged), that fullness can be uncomfortable.
  • If your breasts are red, that could be an infection (mastitis).
  • If the baby has too shallow of a latch due to positioning, a tongue tie, or other factors, this can lead to pain during feeding.
  • Underlying breast disease can also lead to pain.

If you’re having pain during breastfeeding, you should see your doctor and/or a lactation consultant to assess the latch and for a breast exam.

What are some helpful tips for breastfeeding moms?

Nothing beats good positioning. Get yourself a good couch, chair, or spot on the bed to breastfeed. You want a place where you can position yourself with pillows to support the baby and your arms, so you are not hunched over.

Talking with family members, colleagues, or friends who have breastfed for several months or longer can be helpful. You can check with them on the logistics of feeding, returning to work and pumping if that’s part of your plan. Find out what they’ve done that worked for them.

How do I know when to switch breasts while feeding?

You should switch breasts when the infant’s suckling has slowed down, the infant appears relaxed, and the breast feels emptied.
How do I keep my baby awake during feeding?

Use your hand to gently compress the breast tissue to stimulate faster flow of milk from that area of the breast. This can often stimulate the baby to begin sucking again. Gently touching the baby’s back or feet can help. Keeping baby unbundled and skin-to-skin contact can help keep them stay more alert.

Can I take over-the-counter medications while breastfeeding? Are vitamins ok to take while breastfeeding?

Most medications and prenatal vitamins are safe during breastfeeding. When in doubt, ask your doctor. In addition, Lactmed® is a free database kept by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. You can search any medication or herbal remedy and read its effects during lactation. The results are written for a medical audience, though, and can be a bit dense to read.

Do pacifiers hinder breastfeeding efforts?

The medical evidence is not very strong to support this. The most important things to consider are that babies show us feeding cues: they root, smack their lips, vocalize, etc. This is how they say they want to eat. If we give them a pacifier, we can block these cues, and the baby escalates to crying before getting fed. This can sometimes make it more challenging to get them to latch.

Parents should be counseled about the potential risks and benefits of early pacifier introduction. Pacifier use during sleep has been shown to be associated with a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Can beer help my milk supply? Is it ok to drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

While a beer every now and then is not harmful for you as the parent, it doesn’t improve milk supply like people once thought. Alcohol can be dehydrating, so it shouldn’t be used with the goal of increasing milk production.

You should limit alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. If you do have one drink, you shouldn’t breastfeed for about three hours. There’s no need to “pump and dump” unless it’s for comfort.

Alcohol in the milk will leave through the bloodstream as it clears your system. Alcohol levels peak about 30-60 minutes after a drink and clear in about three hours. If you drink more than one standard drink, then this takes longer. If the mother is under the influence of alcohol, a designated parent or caregiver should provide care for the infant.

What lactation support is available at UC Davis Health?

For families who deliver at UC Davis Medical Center, the labor and delivery and postpartum nurses are all trained in supporting breastfeeding. Lactation consultants in labor and delivery and postpartum are available every day of the week. You can also check out our online breastfeeding classes.

Families who are eligible for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can get lactation support through WIC. Our lactation consultants can also provide a list of to several community support groups in the Sacramento region.