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While most parents are very aware of the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, you might be left scratching your head about some of the finer details. For instance, how are you supposed to know if they’re getting enough milk? And what in the world was that painful sensation? Every day, breastfeeding moms are going online to look for advice, so we thought we’d answer a few of their most commonly asked questions.
How often should I feed in the first few days?
In the first week, your baby will likely want to feed very often, and it could even be every hour in the first few days. Yes, every hour. They weren’t kidding when they said motherhood was tough. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. So whenever they want milk, give it to them. As a very rough guide, your baby should feed at least 8 to 12 times every 24 hours during the first few weeks. Wondering how to know when they’re hungry? They’ll usually get restless, suck their fist or fingers, make murmuring sounds, or turn their head and open their mouth (also known as rooting).
How long should my baby nurse at each feeding?
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to timing, but newborns might nurse for up to 20 minutes or longer on one or both breasts. As babies get older and more skilled at breastfeeding, they may take about 5–10 minutes on each side. There are a number of factors that might affect how long your little one is nursing, including whether your milk supply has come in (this usually happens 2–5 days after birth), your let-down reflex, and if your baby has a good latch.
How long should I breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for about the first six months. After that, they suggest continuing to breastfeed while introducing appropriate complementary foods for one year or longer. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age. They recommend that breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods continue until two years of age or longer. So, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children for at least one year. The longer an infant is breastfed, the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases. In addition, breastfeeding has benefits for your health as well.
Can I breastfeed after the COVID-19 vaccine?
As if breastfeeding wasn’t already hard enough, we now have COVID-19 to contend with. So let’s be clear – the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says there is no known risk in giving COVID-19 vaccines to breastfeeding women. That means that when you’re breastfeeding, you’ll be offered vaccination like everyone else. Although there isn’t much safety data for these specific vaccinations in breastfeeding, there’s no plausible mechanism by which any vaccine ingredient could pass to your baby through breast milk. You should, therefore, not stop breastfeeding in order to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
If I use a breast pump, how long can I store my breast milk?
Having a store of milk can be handy, especially if you’re going back to work or have social plans. But it’s not always 100% clear how long freshly expressed milk can be stored. Here are the CDC’s recommended guidelines: at room temperature (77°F or colder) for up to four hours, in the refrigerator for up to four days, and in the freezer for about six months, although anything up to 12 months is acceptable. Fascinatingly, breast milk is custom-made for your baby based on feedback from their body. Changes in composition occur as your baby grows, and even with the time of day. So you’ll want to try to feed them milk that’s as fresh as possible.
Is breastfeeding painful?
Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. If you experience pain, you should contact a health professional for tailored advice because there could be a number of reasons why you’re hurting. When your breasts are full of milk, they might feel hard or painful. This condition is called engorgement and can only be relieved by either expressing or feeding. Blocked milk ducts are also a factor in breastfeeding pain and will feel like a small lump. Again, your baby is the best solution – place them with their chin pointing towards the lump so they can feed on that part of the breast. Mastitis (that dreaded word for all breastfeeding moms) is what happens when a blocked milk duct isn’t dealt with. It makes the breast feel painful and inflamed and can make you feel very unwell with flu-like symptoms. If you don’t deal with the early signs of mastitis, it can turn into an infection, and you’ll need to take antibiotics. If you have mastitis, you’ll probably have at least two of these symptoms: a breast that feels hot and tender, a red patch of skin that’s painful to touch, a general feeling of illness, as if you have flu, feeling achy, tired and tearful, a high temperature (fever).
With 8-12 daily feedings over the first few weeks, plus the fact that getting the latch right can take time, your nipples may feel sensitive and sore. As you and your baby figure things out, you could experience discomfort ranging from slight tenderness to cracked and bleeding skin. Thankfully, this usually eases with time and practice. In the meantime, you can use nipple salves or balms like lanolin, nipple shields, or warm or cool compresses to provide some relief.
How much do I need to eat while breastfeeding?
Your body is working hard to produce all that milk! Experts estimate that it burns about 500 calories every day. Between round-the-clock feedings and trying to get some sleep, it’s easy to let mealtime take a back seat. However, in order to nourish your baby and keep your energy up, it’s important to eat well. The CDC recommends consuming an extra 450-500 calories per day, compared with how you were eating pre-pregnancy.
Still looking for answers?
We have lots more advice for breastfeeding moms on the Elvie blog. But we always recommend seeking advice from your doctor. Breastfeeding is a beautiful way to bond with your little one and is also healthy for you and your baby, so it’s worth persevering and getting your questions answered.
Elvie’s mission is to improve women’s lives through smarter technology. To that end, they’ve created the world’s first silent, wearable breast pump. Elvie Pump makes it possible to pump on your own terms. Go ahead and lead the conference call, play with your kids, cook a delicious meal, or simply enjoy some peace and quiet — all while you pump.
- “Breastfeeding: the first few days.” NHS. NHS. November 4, 2019. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/breastfeeding-and-bottle-feeding/breastfeeding/the-first-few-days/
- “Breastfeeding FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 21, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/faq/index.htm
- “COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 29, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html
- “Proper Storage and Preparation of Breast Milk.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 11, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm
- “Maternal Diet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 8, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html