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Common Breastfeeding Questions

In this article Start4Life will answer some of the most common questions about breastfeeding.

Start4Life Breastfeeding FAQs

This article has been medically approved by Pharmacist Sumaiya Patel - GPhC Reg No: 2215078

When deciding how you want to feed your baby, you may have questions. In our article below, Start4Life will answer some of the most common questions surrounding breastfeeding.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breast milk is tailor made for your baby and offers:

Protection from Infection

Breast milk provides natural, germ-killing antibodies. These help your baby fight infections like tummy bugs, diarrhoea, colds, chest infections, and ear infections.

Vitamins and Nutrition

Your breast milk provides the perfect combination of vitamins and nutrition.

Reduced risk of SIDS and childhood leukaemia

Breastfeeding for at least 2 months halves the risk of SIDS but the longer you can continue the more protection it will give your baby. [1]

Breastfeeding was also found to be associated with a 21% reduction in risk of childhood acute leukaemia. This association is stronger when baby is breastfed longer. [2]

Improved long-term health

Breastfed babies are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes or become overweight when they are older. [3]

There are benefits and advantages for you too! Breastfeeding helps:

Your uterus contract to its original size

After you baby is born your uterus will gradually get smaller. This happens naturally, but breastfeeding will help speed this up.

You to bond with your baby

Breastfeeding is a lovely way to strengthen the bond between you and your baby.

Protect your health

Breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. [4,5]

Burn off calories

Exclusively breastfeeding helps to burn odd an additional 300 calories per day.

How long should I breastfeed for?

The World Health Organisation and UNICEF recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then breastfed alongside solid food up to 2 years of age or beyond. [6]

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

Your newborn will breastfeed a lot throughout the day. It might feel as though youíre feeding them all the time, but this is normal. As they get better at feeding, theyíll need to do it less often. Let your baby guide you as to how often and how long they want to feed for.

Look out for signs and clues that your baby is hungry. These include:

  • sucking their fists
  • licking their lips
  • wriggling and opening their mouths

Donít worry about feeding too often. Itís impossible to breastfeed your baby too much. Newborns tend to feed at least eight times a day for the first few weeks.

Your baby may want to feed more and for longer at night. This is because you produce more prolactin (the hormone that produces milk) then.

What is cluster feeding?

Cluster feeding usually happens during the first 3 to 4 months postpartum. Itís when your baby wants to feed more frequently (sometimes constantly) over a period of time. Itís very normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Your baby may cluster feed for a few days when theyíre going through a growth spurt but, once your supply catches up with demand, things should go back to normal.

Is my baby getting enough milk?

This is a common question, especially when you are starting breastfeeding. While you canít always tell exactly how much milk your baby is getting, there are signs you can look out for that indicate theyíre feeding well. These are:

  • Feeds begin with a few rapid sucks followed by long, rhythmic sucks and swallows with occasional pauses
  • Your babyís cheeks stay rounded, not hollow, during sucking and you can hear and see them swallowing
  • Your baby seems calm and relaxed during feeds
  • After feeds your reasts feel softer and your nipples arenít flattened, pinched, or white
  • You may feel sleepy and relaxed

In the first 48 hours after being born, your little one will likely only have 2 or 3 wet nappies. Wet nappies should then become more frequent, with at least 6 every 25 hours from the 5th day postpartum onwards.

Most babies lose 5-10% of their birth weight in the first few days, but they normally get back to birth weight and then gain weight within 2 weeks. This is another great sign that your baby is drinking enough.

Talk to your healthcare provider if youíre worried about your baby not putting on weight.

Has my baby got a tongue tie?

Tongue-tie, also known as ankyloglossia, is present in 4-11% of newborn babies. It happens when the strip of skin connecting your babyís tongue to the floor of their mouth is slightly shorter than it should be.

Some babies donít have a problem, but it can make breastfeeding harder for others as they canít move their tongue as much as they need to.

Signs your baby may have a tongue tie include:

  • Difficulty latching onto the breast and staying on for the whole feed
  • Slow weight gain (baby should be back to their birthweight within 2 weeks)
  • Being unsettled or hungry lots of the time
  • Difficulty lifting, moving, or sticking out their tongue
  • Your babyís tongue may look heart shaped when they stick it out

Tongue-tie can be hard to spot, and many of the symptoms above can be cause by something else. If you think your baby may have a tongue-tie, speak to your midwife, health visitor, or a breastfeeding specialist.

Can I breastfeed with breast implants?

Yes, itís totally possible to breastfeed with implants. However, it does depend on the size and placement of the implants, and the type of surgery you had.

If your incisions were in the fold of the breast or armpit, you should have no problems breastfeeding. If the incision was around your areola, you may have problems as thereís a chance your milk ducts have been cut.

Thereís no real way of knowing until you try breastfeeding. You may be able to produce some milk for your baby which you then supplement with infant formula.

Tell your GP or health visitor if you have had breast implants. They will be able to keep an eye on your babyís weight to make sure theyíre getting enough milk.

You may also experience some side effects due to your implants. Your breasts may become more engorged, and if you get mastitis the pain and fever may be slightly worse than other women. Discuss these symptoms with your healthcare provider if youíre worried.

What are the signs of mastitis?

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue. The breast may become painful, red, and swollen. Itís most common within the first 3 months postpartum and usually only affects one breast at a time.

Mastitis is usually quick and easy to treat, so itís a good idea to become familiar with the symptoms so you can seek treatment as quickly as possible.

Symptoms include:

  • a red, swollen breast Ė hot and painful to the touch
  • a lump or hard area on your breast
  • burning pain in your breast
  • white nipple discharge that may contain streaks of blood
  • flu-like symptoms including aches, high temperature, fatigue, and chills

What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?

While youíre breastfeeding itís important to have a healthy, balanced diet. Thereís nothing in particular that you should avoid, but there are some foods you should be aware of:

Fish: You should avoid eating oily fish like mackerel, sardines, trout, and fresh tuna more than twice a week. Seafood like shark, swordfish, or marlin should be eaten no more than once a week.

Caffeine: Caffeine can be passed through your breastmilk to your baby, so itís best to keep your intake as low as possible. It can make your baby restless and cause them to struggle to sleep.

Alcohol: Alcohol can also pass through your breastmilk to your baby. Babiesí livers are delicate, meaning alcohol can cause them harm. Itís best to avoid drinking more than 2 units of alcohol more than once or twice a week. You should also consider completely avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding for the first 3 months.

Allergens: Breast milk contains traces of the food you eat, so if you eat something your baby Is sensitive to it may affect them.

The symptoms of food sensitivity include:

  • not feeding well or putting on weight
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • red, itchy lumps
  • swollen eyes, face, or lips
  • vomiting
  • reflux
  • eczema

If youíre worried about your baby having an allergy, speak to your healthcare provider.

What birth control can I use while breastfeeding?

There are 4 methods of birth control you can use while breastfeeding:

  • male and female condoms can be used as soon as you feel ready to have sex
  • any progesterone-only birth control including the progesterone only pill, the implant, and the injection
  • intrauterine methods like the coil Ė your healthcare provider can advise you when you can have these put in
  • lactational amenorrhoea method Ė where your periods stop while exclusively breastfeeding your baby who is under 6 months old

For more information on contraception while breastfeeding, speak with your midwife, health visitor, or family planning nurse.

What medicines can I take while breastfeeding?

If youíre taking regular medication, speak to your GP or healthcare professional, ideally before your baby is born. Most medicines can be taken while breastfeeding without harming your baby.

Always check with your GP, midwife, health visitor, or pharmacist to help you make an informed decision.

Itís also safe to have dental treatments.

Illegal drugs and breastfeeding

The long-term effects of taking illegal drugs while breastfeeding are still unknown. To prevent these drugs from passing to your baby through your breastmilk, you should stop using illegal drugs while breastfeeding.

If you are using illegal drugs, talk with your midwife, health visitor, or GP. They wonít judge you; they will simply be able to help you to access the services you need to stop using drugs.

Can I have the COVID-19 vaccine while pregnant?

If you are planning a pregnancy, are already pregnant, have recently given birth, or are breastfeeding, you can still get the COVID-19 vaccine.

All adults in the UK can now book their vaccine.

[1] https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/breastfeeding/

[2] https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/infant-health-research/infant-health-research-childhood-cancers/

[3] https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/breastfeeding-reduces-child-obesity-risk-by-up-to-25-per-cent/

[4] https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/lactation-breastfeeding/

[5] https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/maternal-health-research/maternal-health-research-bone-density/

[6] https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2