For new moms, breastfeeding often comes with a long list of questions, concerns and uncertainties. Learn more about what you can expect when breastfeeding by reading through the answers to frequently asked breastfeeding questions below. If you are looking for immediate help from an expert, request an appointment with one of our lactation consultants.
When can I start breastfeeding?
In most cases, you can begin breastfeeding immediately after birth.
How long should I breastfeed?
Physicians recommend you should breastfeed your baby until their first birthday if possible.
What can I do to make sure that my baby latches easily?
Skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery can help promote breastfeeding. In many cases, the skin-to-skin contact encourages babies to find the breast without any help.
Do I have to follow a special diet while breastfeeding?
Physicians recommend eating at least 300 to 400 extra calories per day of nutrient rich and high protein foods. Meat, eggs, fresh fruits, whole wheat grains and vegetables are all recommended. In addition to higher caloric needs, you’ll also need more fluids while breastfeeding. Stay hydrated by drinking as much water as possible and avoiding sugary fruit juices and sodas. Avoid alcohol, excessive caffeine (fewer than two cups a day is recommended), or any high mercury seafood while breastfeeding.
Most doctors will let you know at your postnatal appointment that you need to continue taking your prenatal vitamins as a supplement to your regular diet.
When should I start introducing my baby to solid foods?
You can exclusively breastfeed your baby until they are six months old. After that, new foods and flavors can be introduced to your baby, though breast milk should remain the main source of nutrition until their first birthday.
What should I expect during the first week and a half of breastfeeding?
Immediately After Birth
- Your baby may be easier to breastfeed at this time compared to the next couple of days.
- Frequent effective feeding will establish your milk supply.
- Your RN or lactation consultant can review proper latch techniques while in the hospital.
One to Four Days
- You can help establish a good milk supply by frequently removing colostrum from your breasts. A mother’s first milk is called ‘colostrum’, and is high in protein and contains antibodies that are a perfect way to nourish your baby. Colostrum is yellowish in color and quite viscous. Gradually, mature breast milk will replace the colostrum. Pumping or hand expression of colostrum is a good idea if you are not seeing obvious signs of effective feeding.
- Though your baby should eat at least eight times every 24 hours or once every three hours, they may rather sleep than eat. If your baby is not waking up enough on their own to breastfeed, you must wake them up.
- If you are struggling with breastfeeding, schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant.
- You know your baby is getting plenty of your milk if they are meeting the goals on the feeding record given to you at the hospital.
Three to Five Days
- You may feel engorged (tender, full) as you begin producing more milk. Engorged breasts may make it difficult for your baby to latch on. Relieve engorgement by alternating hot and cold packs and emptying the breasts frequently.
- You should begin to hear your baby suck and swallow as they eat, which is a sign of effective feeding.
- You may begin to experience nipple soreness. Use lanolin cream or hydrogel dressing for relief. Pain that makes breastfeeding intolerable or cracked and bleeding nipples are not considered normal. If you experience either of these issues, seek immediate attention from a healthcare professional familiar with breastfeeding management.
Six to 10 Days
- Any nipple soreness should be almost or completely resolved.
- Your baby should appear satisfied after feedings and your breasts may feel softer after feedings.
- Your breasts may leak in between feedings, but this should subside after a few weeks.
- Your baby should have six to eight wet diapers and three to four yellow stools per day for the first two months of life.
- While you should still be breastfeeding your baby eight to 10 times every 24 hours, your baby may begin to have one longer interval (up to five hours) between feedings.
If I have any problems, are there resources available to me?
Baptist Health offers breastfeeding moms a wide range of lactation support services through Expressly for You. Staffed by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and registered nurses, Expressly for You can help you find a breast pump, remedy issues with attachment, improve your technique and position, and more. Baptist Health Expressly for You has also partnered with the Arkansas Department of Health to offer you 24/7 breastfeeding support through the Arkansas Breastfeeding Warm Line at 501-202-7378 or 1-844-344-0408.
Caring for your newborn baby can feel daunting, but through education and an array of resources, Baptist Health helps you know what to expect when breastfeeding and beyond to give your baby a healthy, happy life. Choose from one of our monthly virtual classes!