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Commonly Asked Questions About Breastfeeding
August 5, 2020
It’s World Breastfeeding Week – and time to take the stress out of breastfeeding. We spoke with Carolyn Migliore, RN, a clinical nurse specialist with Patient Education at Weill Cornell Medicine Pediatrics, about some of the breastfeeding basics. Here she addresses many of those, and some of the questions she’s most commonly asked about nursing.
What are the health benefits of breastfeeding for babies?
Carolyn Migliore: To start, breastmilk is fully natural, does not contain artificial ingredients, and is a complete source of nutrition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has made clear the benefits of six months of breastmilk (exclusively) for newborns: It’s easy to digest, strengthens a baby’s immune system, and diminishes the risk of asthma, allergies, upper respiratory problems, and ear infections. Breastmilk even cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, childhood obesity, juvenile onset diabetes, and childhood malignancies including leukemia, lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s disease.
Are there health benefits for breastfeeding moms?
CM: Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract after delivery and burns calories because the body works hard to produce milk. It also lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, and adult onset diabetes.
How can nursing moms take good care of themselves?
CM: Nutritionally, a breastfeeding mom needs to consume about 2500 calories a day—that’s as straightforward as three healthful meals and four to five nutritious snacks. Some women have found that foods like almonds and oatmeal can boost the breastmilk supply, and that herbs including parsley, sage, and mint can shrink it.
Staying hydrated is key: moms should drink a minimum of three liters of water per day. It can help to keep water where moms nurse to keep up with water intake.
Some physicians may recommend multivitamins for breastfeeding moms, and it’s important to ask whether/which medications are safe since they can pass through breastmilk.
Partners can help take care of nursing moms by keeping the kitchen stocked, storing pumped milk, offering relief bottles, and keeping home quiet if the nursing mom needs a break.
What about some of the possible breastfeeding challenges: How do we know the baby is getting enough breastmilk? What physical discomforts do some women face?
CM: Parents can determine whether a baby is getting an adequate amount breastmilk by checking the baby’s diaper content and noting how frequently they change the baby’s diaper.
Weight gain and growth are another good way to gauge whether a baby is getting enough nutrition. Nursing is usually going well if the baby seems content after a feeding and can last an hour or two until the next one.
Women can overcome some of the physical discomforts of breastfeeding, such as nipple soreness, by air drying nipples after feedings. It also can help to rub breastmilk on the nipples after feedings before air drying them.
Lactation consultants are a great source for new nursing moms—they can guide moms through reading the baby’s hunger cues, positioning mom and baby for a comfortable latch, and solving issues such as clogged ducts. Lactation consultants are easy to find—we run an outpatient breastfeeding support program at our newborn clinic—and many insurance companies cover the cost of those visits.
Is it okay to use a breast pump, and how should breastmilk be stored?
CM: Lactation consultants typically recommend waiting until two weeks after delivery to before using a breast pump to give the baby and mom time to establish a consistent milk supply. Pumps can help fully empty the breasts after nursing, stimulate the milk supply, and allow breastmilk to be given with a bottle.
Here’s what moms need to know about storing pumped milk:
- milk that’s going to be used right away can sit at room temperature for four hours
- refrigerated breastmilk is good for four days
- frozen breastmilk can be used for up to four months (and six months for a deep freezer--but breastmilk should not be refrozen once thawed).
Write the date that the milk was pumped on the breastmilk storage bags to keep track of which milk is the oldest, and which is the newest. Give breastmilk to the babies oldest to newest.