Q: How long should I breastfeed my baby?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding (no additional food, water or other liquid) for six months. They recommend that babies obtain most of their nutrients from breast milk up until age one, with continued breastfeeding as long as the mother and baby want to.
Q: What should I eat while breastfeeding?
A: Your body is prepared to make a sufficient about of milk regardless of what you eat. Eating a nutritionally-balanced diet will provide your milk with essential nutrients the baby needs. It’s always better to eat a healthier diet, but a healthy diet is not a requirement for producing milk.
Q: Do I need to have a particular diet during breastfeeding? Eat certain foods and avoid others?
A: Not necessarily. Ideally you want to have variety in your diet and limit caffeine and alcohol consumption. Some breastfeeding moms find that certain foods they eat may cause discomfort or gas in their babies. If you notice discomfort in your baby, you can pay attention to your diet and try to eliminate items that may cause discomfort. Typically eating a wide variety of foods is sufficient, so an abundance of one item will not be present.
Q: Will I have to give up caffeine if I breastfeed?
A: Most mothers can consume caffeine in moderation while breastfeeding. Typically 1-2 cups of coffee (depending on the strength), tea or soda is okay.
Q: Can I drink alcohol if I breastfeed?
A: Excessive alcohol consumption will interfere with your ability to parent, and is not recommended for mothers regardless of whether they are breastfeeding or not. However, most sources say an occasional drink or two does not appear to be harmful to breastfed babies.
Q: Should I breastfeed if I smoke cigarettes?
A: It is preferable that you do not smoke cigarettes, however if you cannot quit smoking it is still better for the baby that you breastfeed. Breastfeeding is shown to counteract some of the negative effects of smoking on babies.
Q: Are there certain mothers who should not breastfeed?
A: Mothers who are HIV positive or who have tuberculosis that is not being treated, should not breastfeed. Mothers who are taking certain medications or using illicit drugs or excessive alcohol should not breastfeed. However, most medications are safe or there are safe alternatives.
Q: Should I continue to breastfeed if I get sick?
A: Very few illnesses will require you to stop breastfeeding, even if medication is prescribed. Check with your doctor to make sure your medication is safe for breastfeeding or ask for a safe alternative. In most cases, continued breastfeeding will protect your baby from getting sick too.
Q: Can I take prescription medication while breastfeeding?
A: Some prescription medications are safe while breastfeeding whereas others are not. Check with your doctor to see if your medications are safe or to see if there is a safe alternative.
Q: Can I take over-the-counter medication while breastfeeding?
A: Most over-the-counter medication is safe while breastfeeding but you should always check with your doctor before taking any medication while breastfeeding. Any medication with antihistamine (such as cold or allergy medication) may dry up your milk and should therefore be avoided.
Q: Isn’t breastfeeding harder than bottle feeding?
A: Breastfeeding can be a lot of work in the beginning to learn how to get a good latch and regulate milk supply. However, most breastfeeding moms believe that once breastfeeding is established it is easier than bottle feeding. Breast milk is free, available in an unlimited supply and is always the right temperature.
Q: How will I know my baby is getting enough milk?
A: Since you are unable to see or measure how much milk your baby is getting, you have to look to your baby for signs that he is getting enough. Generally, as long as the baby is nursing every few hours, urinating six to nine times a day, and gaining his birth weight back by two weeks, he’s getting enough milk. If you need to increase your milk supply, increase the frequency of feedings. If you supplement with formula you will decrease your own milk supply. Typically your baby will let you know when he needs more to eat by showing signs of hunger more often, therefore increasing feedings.
Q: Is formula just as good for babies as breast milk?
A: Formula is not as good for babies as breast milk. Breast milk is the optimal nutrition for babies. Breast milk contains all the vitamins and minerals your baby needs to grow and develop, and antibodies to protect your baby from illnesses. Although formula may contain most of the vitamins your baby needs, it does not contain any antibodies and therefore will not protect your baby from illness like breast milk will.
Q: Do breastfed babies need additional formula and nutritional supplements?
A: Most breastfed babies only need breast milk. As long as your baby is growing and thriving, she does not need any kind of supplement. Just be sure to feed her whenever she shows signs of hunger or every 1-2 hours.
Hector Cruz is the Founder of the global campaign “Project: BreastFeeding”. He is passionate about helping to educate men of the importance of their roles in breastfeeding support. He is married and has a beautiful daughter and two dogs.