Mother breastfeeding baby

Breastfeeding

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to stop 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.

  • Can you get a tattoo while breastfeeding?

    With no strong research to show it's safe, many healthcare providers advise against getting new ink while you're still nursing. One concern is that tattoo needles can cause infections that could enter your bloodstream and pass to your baby. That's why you can't donate blood until 12 months after you get a tattoo. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best timing for a tattoo.

  • Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?

    Though unlikely, it's possible. Your odds of getting pregnant are lowest if you follow the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, which is only effective for the first six months after childbirth and as long as you are breastfeeding every four-to-six hours. 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).

  • How many calories does breastfeeding burn?

    You burn about 450 to 500 extra calories a day just by breastfeeding. That's because it takes a lot of extra energy for your body to make and secrete breast milk. Generally, the more frequently you breastfeed and the greater your milk supply, the more calories you are expending.

  • How to lose weight while breastfeeding?

    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.

  • Can you drink coffee while breastfeeding?

    Caffeine can pass through breast milk and may lead to sleep problems and fussiness in your baby if you consume super-high amounts (think 10 cups). It can also have a dehydrating effect, reducing your milk supply. Stick to no more than a couple of cups of coffee a day and you and your baby should be fine.

  • Can you take ibuprofen while 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.

  • Do nipple piercings affect breastfeeding?

    Nipple piercings aren't likely to affect your milk production, but they can 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.

  • Can you take Benadryl while breastfeeding?

    It's OK to take a small dose of Benadryl (diphenhydramine), especially at bedtime. But 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.

  • Can you get Botox while breastfeeding?

    Yes, it's probably fine. 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 and therefore is unlikely to pass through your breast milk, say experts. 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.

  • Can you smoke while breastfeeding?

    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.

  • Can you take Plan B while breastfeeding?

    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.

  • How to combine breastfeeding and pumping?

    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.

  • How to stop milk production if not breastfeeding?

    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.

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Page Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Nemours Foundation. Weaning Your Child. Reviewed October 2018.

  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Tattooing. Updated June 21, 2021.

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  6. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. When breastfeeding, how many calories should moms and babies consume? Reviewed January 31, 2017.

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  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maternal Diet. Reviewed September 2, 2021.

  9. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Ibuprofen. Revised January 18, 2021.

  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Nipple Piercing. Revised June 21, 2021.

  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Diphenhydramine. Revised September 20, 2021.

  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Botulin A. Revised September 21, 2000.

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  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco and E-Cigarettes. Reviewed February 16, 2021.

  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Oral Levonorgestrel. Revised June 21, 2021.

  16. Disha D, Rana A, Kaur A, Suri V. Effect of chilled cabbage leaves vs. Hot compression on breast engorgement among post natal mothers admitted in a tertiary care hospitalNursing and Midwifery Research Journal,. Published online January 9, 2015. doi:10.33698/NRF0181

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  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol. Reviewed February 9, 2021.

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