Does breastfeeding hurt?
In short, breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt.
A new parent may encounter some discomfort or unfamiliar feelings as they get comfortable with latching the baby and experience their increase in milk production. And, beyond the breast, many new parents experience slight cramping in their abdomen as nursing stimulates contractions that both help shrink their uterus back and expel blood clots.
There is normal pain and not normal pain. In the first 10-14 days, you may feel what we refer to as initial latch-on pain. This is a mild discomfort when the baby latches for about the first minute of the feeding. If you experience excruciating nipple pain at latch or if pain persists throughout the feeding, it typically means the baby is not positioned or latched well. Also, it is NEVER normal to have scabs or cracks on your nipples. If you’re experiencing any of the NOT normal pain, this is when a visit to the Breastfeeding Resource Center (BRC) would be helpful. We can determine the reason for pain and give you the skills to get the latch comfortable!
Your surge in milk supply should occur between days 3 and 5 postpartum. Some mothers experience pain and hardness of their breasts which is called engorgement. Breast massage, frequent feedings, and cool compresses can help to relieve the discomfort. This is another reason to schedule an appointment at the BRC!
Uterine cramping during or after feedings occurs in the first few days of life. When this happens, it’s a sign that milk is flowing. This is a good pain and by day 4 or so, you won’t experience it anymore. It’s important to note that the uterine cramping is more noticeable with each new baby!
Do I have milk right away?
Your body begins to produce the first milk called colostrum during your 4th month of pregnancy. Your hormone levels keep the milk in your body. The minute the placenta is delivered, your hormone levels change, and it allows the colostrum to flow. Your baby will have it available right at birth! This first milk is a thicker, yellow-hued liquid full of antibodies and just what the baby needs in its first few days of life. It’s low in volume but chock-full of the nutrition your baby needs.
How do I know when my baby is hungry?
Newborn babies typically breastfeed every two hours in the early weeks and indicate hunger in various ways:
- “Rooting” or searching the chest of the person holding them
- Smacking or licking their lips and opening their mouth
- Sucking on hands
- Fidgeting, squirming, fussing, or crying (late hunger cues)
How can I tell the baby is getting enough?
Soiled diapers are a good guide to know if your baby is getting enough milk. Ideally, a newborn baby should produce six wet diapers per day and three stools per day after a mother’s milk comes in. Stool color is also a good indicator as to baby’s milk consumption: breastfed baby stool tends to be yellow and seedy looking in the first weeks. Additionally, if baby seems content after feedings and continues to gain weight, they are most likely feeding enough.
If you have concerns over your baby’s milk consumption, contact the Breastfeeding Resource Center for an appointment. Additionally, BRC free Support Group meetings include weight checks!
How do I know when my baby is finished eating?
Your baby is probably finished with a feeding if they feel relaxed in your arms; they may even fall asleep! And, if your breasts feel less full, baby has probably finished feeding. We encourage families to allow the baby to nurse on the first side until they’re finished, then offer the second side. How do you know they’re finished? They may pop off the breast themselves, or you’ll see their suck pattern slow. It looks more like they’re nibbling rather than strong rhythmic sucks. Some babies only need one breast and some need two. Offer both and let the baby tell you!
Is breastfeeding really THAT much better for the baby?
The answer is yes! While formula in our country is safe and babies will grow, it’s missing many fabulous qualities that they just can’t replicate. Breastmilk is alive. There are cells that fight bacterial and viral infections and it lays the groundwork for your child’s immune system.
How can my partner participate?
Feeding is just one thing the baby needs. They need walking and rocking and diaper changing and bathing and play time and well… you get the idea! Partners can care for the baby between feedings and they can also care for you. Partners can be sure you are fed, the laundry is done, and all those household duties that go to the wayside when you’re feeding a newborn. Some partners will get up in the middle of the night, change the baby, bring the baby to you, wait for the feeding to finish, then help to get the baby back to sleep. After several weeks, you can pump to collect milk and allow your partner to feed the baby occasionally.
Do I need a special diet to breastfeed?
We are learning more and more about breastfeeding every day. It makes sense that a healthy diet is good for you and consequently, good for your milk production. If you don’t have a great diet, it doesn’t mean that formula would be better for your baby. Your milk is always the best choice. There are no dietary restrictions when you’re breastfeeding. You may have heard that eating gassy foods makes your baby gassy, but that’s just not true. Gassy foods are some of the healthiest foods!
Can my baby be allergic to my milk?
Some babies may have an intolerance or allergy to a food protein that could be in your milk. Their symptoms may be one or more of the following: vomiting, stools can contain mucous or may be green, rash, colic-like behavior. The number one culprit for a food allergy is dairy. Eliminating dairy from your diet may eliminate the baby’s reaction. A consultation would be really important for this concern.
What are the guidelines for storing expressed breastmilk?
|Room temperature||60-85° F||3-4 hours optimal
6-8 hours acceptable
|Insulated cooler bag with blue ice pack||59° F||Under very clean conditions up to 24 hours|
|Refrigerator||<39° F||72 hours optimal
5-8 days under very clean conditions
|Freezer||<0° F||6 months optimal
12 months acceptable
Reference: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol #8; 2017
Where can I go for help?
The BRC is here for you! Call for an appointment or join us for support group. If you’re not in our area, you go to ILCA.org to find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant near you.