Common Breastfeeding Questions and Challenges

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Breastfeeding your baby may feel like one of the most amazing things you’ll ever do. But as many breastfeeding parents will tell you, it isn’t always easy.

From the beginning, you’ll be brimming with a million questions—about sore nipples, latching, plugged ducts, and the age old quandary: “Is my baby getting enough?” But even once you’ve gotten the mechanics of breastfeeding down, even more questions will pop up.

This resource guide addresses the common questions that come up once breastfeeding is established, and you are looking for further guidance on your breastfeeding journey.

For example, you might be wondering or have questions about what your rights are as a working parent, what laws are in place to protect you when you breastfeed in public, or what to do if you encounter a breastfeeding challenge after the newborn phase. You might have questions about whether a particular medicine you want to take is compatible with breastfeeding, when to start solids, and when to wean your baby.

We’ve got you covered and will address those questions, and offer trusted resources you can turn to if you have further questions down the road.

Breastfeeding and Pumping at Work

Returning to work may be one of the biggest challenges you face as a breastfeeding parent. Yes, you can pump milk for your baby when you are separated from them and keep breastfeeding your baby when you are together. But pumping brings its own questions and concerns, especially about your rights at work.

What Is My Workplace Required to Provide by Law?

The good news is that the law is on your side here. The federal government passed the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law in 2010. This law is part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and guarantees that “hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees” are guaranteed reasonable time to pump and a clean and private place to pump

Your employer must give you time off to pump up to a year after your baby is born. If you use extra break time to pump your milk, however, your employer is not required to pay you extra.

Your employer must also provide you with a clean and private place to pump your milk. As the law states, this place must be shielded from view. It also must be free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor to learn more about your workplace breastfeeding rights or to file a complaint.

In late December 2022, President Biden signed two new bills into law that protect the rights of pregnant workers and nursing parents. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act expands on the rights protected in the Affordable Care Act. It requires these rights to be extended to salaried employees, not just hourly employees. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant people. It takes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act one step further, by mandating those reasonable accommodations, like allowing food and drink on the job, and providing seating when necessary.

Will I Have to Pump in the Bathroom?

The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law specifically states that the place where you pump milk must not be a bathroom. It must be private, without co-workers or others milling in and out of the room.

Although this room isn’t required to be a room used for the sole purpose of pumping milk, it must be a useable space for expressing breast milk. It must be clean, safe, and large enough for this purpose.

If you feel that your rights are being violated under the law, you can start by contacting your human resources department. If that isn’t successful, you can contact the U.S. Department of Labor or your local ACLU.

What If There Is No Place to Breastfeed or Pump at Work?

The federal law makes it clear that your workplace must provide this space for you. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. If your workplace has fewer than 50 employees, it may be exempt from the law.

According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee (a coalition working to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding), to be exempt, your employee needs to show that the law would impose an undue hardship for the company or cause them significant difficulty or expense. Even in these cases, your individual state may have protections in place to ensure that you will get a proper place to pump.

To look up your local and state breastfeeding coalitions and to learn more about workplace protections, turn to the United States Breastfeeding Committee Coalitions Directory (USBC).

Breastfeeding in Public

One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. There are no bottles to pack, no formula to prepare or warm up.

Yet many people don’t feel completely comfortable breastfeeding outside their homes. They worry about judgmental strangers or even being accused of breaking the law.

Can I Legally Breastfeed Everywhere in Public?

Parents sometimes wonder if they will be arrested or reprimanded for nursing their babies in public. Fortunately, as of 2018, breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states.

That means you can breastfeed anywhere where you legally are allowed to be—whether it’s a public park, the grocery store, a restaurant, or your local swimming pool. Additionally, you are not legally required to cover up, though you can if that makes you feel more comfortable.

What Should I Do If My Breastfeeding in Public Rights Are Violated?

These laws are in place to protect you, and you should feel free to breastfeed anytime and anywhere. However, parents still get harassed for breastfeeding in public on occasion and are even asked to leave or cover up at stores, restaurants, and other establishments—which is illegal.

If you feel that your rights are being violated while breastfeeding at work or in public, you can contact your local ACLU office for referrals and next steps.

How Can I Feel More Comfortable Breastfeeding in Public?

Though breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal, many people still don’t feel comfortable doing it. That’s okay! If you would rather breastfeed with a cover or in a private location, you should feel empowered to do so. However, you may find that that isn’t always convenient. You may gradually feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public, especially with these strategies.

Tips for Breastfeeding in Public

Start by doing a trial run at home: Breastfeed in front of a mirror. You may notice that your view of the baby and your breasts is more detailed than what onlookers will see! If it makes you more comfortable, you can also bring a friend or spouse and have them sit near you in public to help keep you more covered.

When choosing your clothing, try layering or wearing clothing specifically designed for breastfeeding (i.e., easy to pull down). This can help you avoid pulling up a shirt or tank top and exposing your midriff while you nurse.

Lastly, be confident! You are legally allowed to do this and breastfeeding a baby is normal and awesome. You can bring a copy of your state’s breastfeeding laws to show anyone who thinks otherwise or who may not know the law.

Breastfeeding an Older Baby

Once you’ve got a comfortable latch and your baby is putting on weight, you might think you’ve got breastfeeding down pat, and have nothing further to worry about. This is true in many ways—the first few weeks of establishing breastfeeding are often the hardest parts.

At the same time, plenty of questions come up as the months progress. Here are the top questions parents of older babies face, along with some tips.

When Should My Baby Start Solids?

The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months or so. After that, you can start to introduce solids.

But you shouldn’t just go by the calendar when making this decision. It is best to observe your baby and read their cues. All babies are different, but most are ready to start solids when they can sit up unassisted and can happily accept food into their mouths. They also should be able to comfortably gum and swallow the food.

What Medication Can I Take While Breastfeeding?

You may breastfeed for months or years, so there are likely to be times when you need to take medication for illness. Or, you may need to be on a medication long-term.

Many people believe they have to wean if they take medication, but the truth is that most medicines are safe for breastfeeding.

With some exceptions, very little of the medication you take makes it into your breast milk, and usually will not harm your baby. However, you should check with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant for guidance. You can also look the medication up on Lactmed, a government-sponsored database of medications and their effects on lactation.

What Do I Do If My Baby Hates Breastfeeding?

It’s very common for older babies to seem to reject breastfeeding. After 4 months or so, babies are very distractible breastfeeders, and may need to be taken to a dark, quiet room to nurse effectively.

Sometimes babies will have what is called a “nursing strike” where they refuse the breast for a few days or longer. This can be very distressing. Getting support from a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor can be very helpful. Almost all babies will go back to the breast after a nursing strike.

What Happened to My Milk Supply?

After the first month or two after birth, you may not be as engorged and you may not be constantly leaking milk between feeds anymore. This is normal, and it simply means that your body has adjusted to breastfeeding.

You are making what your baby needs. As long as you are nursing or pumping frequently and your baby is growing and gaining weight, there is likely no issue with your milk supply.

When Should I Wean?

The Academy of American Pediatrics recommends parents nurse exclusively for 6 months, and then continue breastfeeding with some complementary foods until babies are at least a year old. Beyond that, the AAP encourages nursing for as long as is mutually desired (by the baby and the parent). Breastfeeding beyond a year is normal and beneficial as well and many parents adore nursing their toddlers.

However, how long you nurse is entirely your decision and no one else’s.

There are so many factors that go into how long you decide to nurse, including whether you enjoy it, whether your baby wants to continue breastfeeding, and how it fits into your lifestyle. Go with your gut on this one.

More Breastfeeding Resources

As you move through the months, you will often need to look up information about breastfeeding and get some quick answers to common questions. But you don’t want to just trust any resource that comes up in your Google search. It’s important to look toward evidence-based, reliable sources that will give up the most up-to-date information about all things breastfeeding.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The American Academy of Pediatrics is a go-to source for all things breastfeeding and babies. Use it to answer questions about the benefits of breastfeeding, what to expect in terms of growth and development, maternal diet and medication use, and how long to breastfeed.

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM)

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a worldwide organization of doctors who are dedicated to the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. ABM offers evidence-based resources on all kinds of breastfeeding questions, from mastitis care protocols to anesthesia use for breastfeeding parents.

International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)

The ILCA has a directory of International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLCs). These consultants are the gold standard in lactation care. Contact them with any complex (or even simple!) breastfeeding questions or concerns you have.

La Leche League International (LLL)

La Leche League is one of the oldest and most trusted breastfeeding resources. Founded in 1956, during a time when breastfeeding was seldom practiced, La Leche League continues to be a leader in providing resources and compassionate care for breastfeeding parents. You can visit the site to find a volunteer breastfeeding counselor and/or support group in your area.

A Word From Verywell

While there are many reliable online resources to guide you in your breastfeeding journey, sometimes you need to connect with a real-life helper. After all, everyone's breastfeeding challenge is unique, and there is nothing better than a personalized response.

Speak with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant if you have any pressing questions about how to breastfeed or your own or your baby's health. If you have a legal question, contact your local ACLU or state and local breastfeeding coalition. And it's also valuable to connect with other breastfeeding parents, either online or in person, to share stories and exchange advice.

Most of all, keep in mind that there is almost always a solution to your breastfeeding challenge. If breastfeeding your baby is your goal, you can totally accomplish that. So keep the faith, never be afraid to reach out for help, and nurse on!

5 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.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. Break Time for Nursing Mothers.

  2. United States Congress. H.R.3110 - PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act.

  3. United States Congress. H.R.1065 - Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

  4. National Conference of State Legislatures. Breastfeeding state laws.

  5. Meek JY, Noble L. Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2022;150(1):e2022057988. doi:10.1542/peds.2022-057988

Additional Reading

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.