By Barb Carder, RN, Board Certified Lactation Consultant with Cornerstone Lactation Services

Don’t you wish your baby came with an instruction booklet? I hear this from parents of newborns all the time. As a lactation consultant, I am asked many of the same questions pretty regularly by new moms learning to breastfeed their babies. While this isn’t an instruction booklet, these FAQs (and – more importantly – answers) should help. Please comment at the end with any additional questions or concerns that you may have!

1. How do I know that my baby is getting enough milk?

Breastfed babies need to eat often, at least 8 to 10 times a day in the first weeks. Mom should feel a tug but not pain when the baby suckles. He should have one wet diaper the first day, two the second day , three the third day and so on until he is a week old when he has 6 to 7 wets (this should then become the norm). Bowel movements vary, but should occur at least once per day for the first few weeks. Many breastfed babies have several stools a day when mom’s mature milk comes in, between day 3 of 5 of baby’s life (the stools are yellow , seedy and runny). At that point, mom should hear some good swallowing. Babies are generally content at the end of feedings and in the early days hormones will make mom sleepy and relaxed. Weighing your baby will be a perfect way to determine if he is eating enough. After babies get back to birth weight (which should happen in the first 2 weeks), they should gain 4 to 7 ounces a week.

2. When can I give my baby a bottle or pacifier?

Ideally, you should wait a while so baby doesn’t become nipple-confused. The best time to introduce something new is after the baby gets really good at breastfeeding. I would wait at least 3 to 4 weeks before introducing a bottle or pacifier unless your health care provider or lactation consultant wants you to supplement with a bottle of pumped breast milk for weight gain. A pacifier can cause confusion and some babies are so sleepy, they may miss a feeding or two by waking a little, sucking on the pacifier and going back to sleep.

3. How do I know what foods I can eat?
A breastfeeding mother should eat a normal, balanced, healthy diet. She does not need to eat special foods or avoid certain foods. If a mother thinks something she has eaten has upset her baby, she should try it again at a later time to be sure before avoiding it altogether. Gassiness is very common in almost all babies.

4. How do I know what medications I can take while breastfeeding?
There are many medications that mom can safely take while nursing and very little if any pass into breast milk. Moms should check with a certified lactation consultant or health care provider to make sure a medication is safe.

5. How long should I breastfeed my baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new moms breastfeed exclusively for about 6 months. This is a good time to introduce solids. Solids are no substitute for breast milk and if mom can continue to nurse for a year, that is optimal. Moms can get off to a great start by seeking the help of a lactation consultant right from the beginning, then calling to ask questions along the way. As baby grows, breastfeeding just gets easier.

6. If I get sick, can I still give my baby my milk?
By the time a mom starts having symptoms of cold, flu, diarrhea or other illnesses, her baby has already been exposed by being near her. Common germs that cause minor illnesses do not pass into her milk. When a person becomes ill our bodies immediately start making antibodies against this illness and those do pass into the milk. Stopping breastfeeding at this point would mean that the baby would not get those critical antibodies. The mom should continue to breastfeed but needs to take some time to rest, drink plenty of fluids and keep eating even if just light meals.

Moms have many questions throughout the course of breastfeeding. It is important to be able to talk with someone who can provide answers that alleviate concerns and are medically accurate. A Certified Lactation Consultant can answer those questions and guide her through the process. Happy breastfeeding moms make for happy babies!

*Sponsored by Cornerstone Lactation Services