Rebecca Agi, MS, IBCLC is a board-certified lactation consultant and founder of Best Milk LA, a lactation consulting service. She is a nationally recognized lactation expert, who's been featured in several media outlets.
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
Breastfeeding your baby can be one of the sweetest parts of parenthood. But it's common for concerns, questions, and obstacles to arise. While some people deal with supply issues, others struggle with sore nipples. Many parents wonder how to keep breastfeeding when they have to go back to work.
Working through these challenges is well worth it since breastfeeding is the best way to nourish most babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It boosts your baby's immune system, protects them against infection, and reduces their risk for obesity. Learn how to get started and keep your baby safe, happy, and bonded while breastfeeding.
Gradually. For instance, you can drop one feeding session a week until your baby is drinking from a bottle or cup exclusively. This gentle approach will help your baby adjust and also keep your breasts from getting engorged, which can happen if you stop breastfeeding abruptly.
If universal precautions are followed by the artist, a parent can still successfully breastfeed. However, milk banks require you to wait eight days after getting a tattoo or piercing before you can donate milk. The procedure must have been done with sterile, single-use needles. If the procedure was done at an unregulated site or with multi-use needles, you cannot donate human milk for 12 months due to possible infectious disease transmission.
Yes, you can get pregnant while breastfeeding, though it's unlikely. Your odds of getting pregnant are lowest if you follow the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, which is only effective if every rule is followed carefully. If one of the rules isn't followed, it's not effective. If you want to avoid pregnancy, ask your healthcare provider about contraception methods that are safe for your baby, including intrauterine devices (IUDs), arm implants, progestin-only pills, and barrier methods (like condoms or cervical caps).
It depends how much a person is breastfeeding. Most people with a full milk supply produce between 25 and 35 ounces of breast milk per day. Producing a full supply burns roughly 500 calories each day. So a person with a full milk supply is going to burn a lot more than a person who is partially breastfeeding or in the weaning process.
You can lose weight while breastfeeding by creating a calorie deficit (burning more calories than taking in). You are expending energy just by breastfeeding. So if you take in the recommended number of calories for a non-breastfeeding parent—up to 2,000 calories per day if you're sedentary and up to 2,400 if you are active—you should lose weight gradually. Regular aerobic exercise—like vigorous walking, jogging, biking, or a cardio class—boosts fitness and heart health in people who are lactating. Feed your baby right before exercise to relieve engorgement and reduce discomfort.
Yes you can drink coffee while breastfeeding. While small amounts of caffeine do pass through milk, up to 300mg is considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is a safe choice for breastfeeding parents to relieve pain. Studies show that only trace amounts of ibuprofen get passed to babies through breast milk and infants show no ill effects from it. Ibuprofen also has a long track record of safe use in babies.
Nipple piercings can affect your milk production if nerves were severed in the process. They can also interfere with your baby's ability to breastfeed. Some babies have trouble latching or leak milk from their mouths when feeding on a pierced nipple. Remove any piercings before feedings to help you and your baby be more comfortable.
It is not recommended to take Benadryl while breastfeeding. There's some evidence that taking Benadryl in large doses for a prolonged period can reduce milk supply and may make infants drowsy. Nonsedating antihistamines are a good alternative that won't make your baby sleepy.
There aren't any data on Botox use during lactation, but the procedure is currently considered safe. Though Botox is derived from a toxin that causes life-threatening botulism when consumed in food, it's not detectable in your bloodstream after injections. Therefore it is unlikely to pass through your breast milk, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Even in instances when breastfeeding parents ingest and contract botulism, babies appear to be protected. It's best to wait a few hours after an injection before breastfeeding, though, to be safe. Only get injections by a licensed medical professional to be safe.
You shouldn't. Nicotine and other chemicals found in tobacco can limit your supply and also pass into your breast milk. Babies exposed to nicotine through breastfeeding are more likely to have sleep problems, liver and lung damage, and other issues. Also, secondhand smoke puts a baby at risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory illnesses, and ear infections.
Also known as the morning-after pill, Plan B (Levonorgestrel) is OK for a breastfeeding parent to use. Progestin-only pills like Plan B are preferable to other methods of hormonal birth control while breastfeeding. There's no evidence that Plan B hampers breast milk supply or harms babies' health. To be extra safe, experts recommend feeding your baby three to four hours after you take a dose.
Start by getting a breast pump you like. If you're planning a return to work or school, start pumping during your planned "away" hours a few weeks before your new schedule begins. You get the hang of pumping, and your baby can adjust to drinking from a bottle. When away from your baby, pump at the time you'd be feeding them if together—your body should continue to make the right amount of milk for their needs. You can freeze and store any extra.
If you don't breastfeed or pump, your body will gradually stop making milk within a week or so after childbirth. If you get engorged while waiting it out, you can hand express a little milk on occasion to relieve the discomfort. Cold packs can also help with engorgement pain and help hinder milk production. You can chill and apply cabbage leaves, which have been shown to reduce milk supply, too.
Breastfeeding helps protect your baby against asthma, certain infections, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). By breastfeeding, you lower your own risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Breastfeeding is also cheaper than formula feeding, saving you up to $1,500 in your baby's first year alone.
There's no one right way to hold your baby while breastfeeding. You may need to try a few methods to see what works best for you and change it up with the time of day or your baby's age. Some common breastfeeding positions include the cradle hold, which is a classic, common position for breastfeeding. The cross-cradle hold helps preemies latch by freeing your hand to support your breast. Football holds can avoid pressure on your belly after a C-section, while the laid-back position may help slow your flow if you have oversupply issues. Finally, side-lying position is a natural choice for nighttime feedings.
For your first feeding, ideally within an hour or two after delivery, place your baby in a comfortable breastfeeding position. The C hold, which is when you make a C shape around your breast (thumb on top, other fingers below), is helpful when latching in the football position. The U hold, which entails making a U shape to cup your breast (thumb and fingers on each side), is helpful when latching in the cradle or cross cradle. Guide your baby's head toward your nipple, and when they open their mouth, direct your nipple and at least part of the surrounding areola into it while gently pulling your baby toward you.
Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida albicans. It flourishes in moist, warm, environments like your nipple area or your baby's mouth, which is why it's a common breastfeeding problem. If you have nipple pain, redness, or itching or your baby has white patches in their mouth, it could be thrush and needs to be treated by a healthcare provider with medications.
Moderate drinking—one alcoholic drink per day—is likely safe for your baby when breastfeeding, especially if you wait at least two hours before nursing. More than that can harm your baby's development, growth, and sleep patterns and hinder good parenting judgment. The safest bet is to avoid drinking while you're still breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other top U.S. medical organizations recommend that breastfeeding people get the COVID-19 vaccine. Not only is the vaccine safe for you and your baby, the antibodies your body produces during immunization pass through your breast milk to help provide extra protection for your baby.
It's best to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, which you can pass to your infant through your breast milk and may hamper brain development. High-mercury fish include king mackerel, orange roughy, swordfish, and tuna. Some folk medicine traditions caution that sage, peppermint, and spearmint can reduce milk supply, but this has yet to be reflected in scientific literature.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About breastfeeding.
Nemours Foundation. Weaning your child.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Breastmilk donation process.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lactational Amenorrhea Method.
Cleveland Clinic. Contraception during breastfeeding.
Milkworks Community Breastfeeding Center. Exclusive pumping.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume?
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Physical activity and exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal diet.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Ibuprofen.
La Leche League International. Nipple piercings.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Diphenhydramine.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Botulin A. Revised September 21, 2000.
Primo CC, Ruela PBF, Brotto LD de A, Garcia TR, Lima E de F. Effects of maternal nicotine on breastfeeding infants. Rev Paul Pediatr. 2013;31(3):392-397. doi:10.1590/S0103-05822013000300018
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco and e-cigarettes.
National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oral levonorgestrel.
La Leche League International. Commonly asked questions about lactation after loss.
American Academy of Pediatricians. Engorgement.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Breastfeeding: Surgeon General’s Call to Action Fact Sheet.
World Health Organization. Early initiation of breastfeeding to promote exclusive breastfeeding.
Mount Sinai Health System. Thrush in newborns.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients.
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