Can I breastfeed when I am unwell or sick?
In most cases if you continue breastfeeding when you are ill, you are protecting your baby by passing on antibodies in your breast milk. If you are prescribed medication, ask your doctor for medicines suitable for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is encouraged even for mums who have contracted swine flu (there is medication suitable for breastfeeding mums). If your medication is not compatible, you can pump and throw away the breast milk while you are being treated to preserve your supply and give your baby formula until you can breastfeed again.
Can I breastfeed my baby when they are ill?
If your baby has a cold and/or a fever, you should continue to breastfeed. Your baby will be feeding often to quench their thirst and your breast milk will be providing them with the most easily digestible milk when they are unwell.
Does it matter what I eat or drink if I breastfeed?
A well-balanced diet including wholegrain, protein, iron, calcium and a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is recommended. To breastfeed you only need in the region of 300-500 extra calories a day (corresponding to a small sandwich). A breastfeeding supplement can help but it can’t replace a healthy diet.
You should drink plenty of fluids – at least eight glasses of water a day.
Alcohol does pass into breast milk and peaks 30-60 minutes after drinking and 60-90 minutes after alcohol taken with food. If you are planning a night out away from your baby, you can store some expressed breast milk for a feed in your fridge or freezer. If your breasts become full while alcohol is still in your system, you can hand express or pump the milk and then discard it. This is known as ‘pump and dump’.
Can I breastfeed if I’m a smoker?
If you haven’t managed to stop smoking, it’s better to breastfeed rather than not as it protects your baby from respiratory illnesses and infections. If you are struggling to quit, try cutting down cigarettes, smoke away from feeds and not in the same room as your baby. Wash your hands well after each cigarette. Nicotine patches and gums are preferable as you will be passing less nicotine on into breast milk.
Is drinking tea or coffee going to keep my baby awake?
High caffeine intake can make your baby fretful and alert, plus it lowers iron levels in breast milk. The good news is that it takes more than five cups of coffee or tea per day before your baby is affected. However, caffeine is also found in chocolate, cola and energy drinks.
Because caffeine is a diuretic, too much of it can also lead to dehydration – so limit your intake and drink your coffee or tea after feeds. While feeding, replace coffee or tea with a big glass of water.
My baby wants to nurse for comfort, is this OK?
Babies breastfeed for comfort when they are ill, in pain or upset. So if your baby is unwell, is teething (from around three months) or had a fall (when crawling or trying to walk) they may go straight to the breast. If teething is the issue, give your baby a teether to chew on and rub gel or powder on their gums.
Should I sleep with my baby if I breastfeed?
Healthcare professionals tend to discourage co-sleeping because of the risk of cot death, particularly in the first six months. However, UNICEF has issued Sharing a Bed With Your Baby, which contains guidelines for co-sleeping mothers in cooperation with the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths. If you are unsure about co-sleeping, consider moving your baby’s crib or cot near your side of the bed.
How can I move from breast to bottle?
If you wish to combine breastfeeding with bottlefeeding, experts advise introducing bottles after six weeks from the birth, unless your baby struggles to breastfeed, in which case wait a little longer. If you want to switch from breast milk to formula, you need to stop gradually to avoid pain and discomfort, replacing each dropped feed with a formula feed. If your baby is six months or older you may like to try weaning onto beakers or cups suitable for that age. These can be used in the same way as bottles – remember that it’s advisable to wean babies from bottles at one year of age to foster good dental health. Always ensure that all equipment is cleaned and sterilised thoroughly before use.
Does my baby need vitamins at six months if I am still breastfeeding?
The Department of Health recommends that all babies from birth to one year of age should receive a daily vitamin D supplement – this is essential for healthy bones. At six months babies also require more iron as their stores of iron begin to run out. You can take a supplement if you are breastfeeding and concerned about your own diet but also include iron-rich foods in your baby’s meals – for example meat, chicken and fish, eggs, green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.
How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
Breastfeeding works on demand and supply. In the early days, your breasts produce colostrum, which is low in quantity to match your baby’s tiny stomach but highly nutritious. If your baby breastfeeds well and often, your mature milk supply will come in up to six days after the birth. If your baby is not correctly latched on, this is not only painful, but it can affect your supply.
Signs your baby is getting enough milk include thriving and putting on weight, and producing four-six soiled nappies each day. Breasts are not transparent like bottles, so it’s hard to quantify how much milk your baby is taking. So another sign that your baby has had a good feed is that your hard breast will feel softer afterwards.
Many mums experience an oversupply in the early weeks, which makes breasts very full and hard to the touch – once they adjust to your baby’s needs they will become softer and make milk when needed. Talk to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your baby’s wellbeing.
When can I introduce solids?
The Health Executive advises parents to introduce solid foods from four months for formula-fed babies and from six months for breastfed babies. Solids should be introduced gradually - your baby is still getting most of their nutrition from breast milk or formula. If you decide to stop breastfeeding, you should use formula until at least one year of age, when it’s OK to use cow’s milk for drinking.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding offers great benefits for the whole family. It benefits your child’s health as studies show that breastfeeding, even for short periods, is associated with lower incidence of wheezing, prolonged colds, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Eczema is less common and milder in babies who are breastfed.
Many health benefits extend well into adulthood, such as a lower risk of respiratory illnesses, diabetes, obesity and childhood cancers. Aside boosting your child’s immune system, breast milk is very easy to digest and may even boost your baby’s IQ!
For mums, breastfeeding lowers the risk of various diseases (breast and ovarian cancers, heart disease and stroke) and defend you against osteoporosis, anaemia, diabetes and high blood pressure when you are older. It also protects you against postnatal depression and helps you bond with your child as oxytocin, the love hormone, is released in your body. Breastfeeding also helps natural weight loss by burning up to 600 calories a day, while speeding up the process of bringing your womb back to its original size.
Other important benefits include the convenience (it doesn’t run out and is portable), the lack of equipment needed and of course, it’s free. And it’s kinder to the planet too as it involves less manufacturing and transportation of products.
How do I know if my baby is latched on/sucking properly?
Your baby is correctly latched on if they take a good mouthful of breast along with the nipple. Your baby’s cheeks will be rounded and you won’t see much of the areola (the dark skin around the nipple). If your baby sucks well, they will drain your breast. If breastfeeding hurts, slip a clean finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction and release the nipple. Wait until your baby opens his/her mouth really wide and put them back on the breast. If you cannot correct a bad latch, seek support.
Why is my baby suddenly breastfeeding all day long?
Your baby might be fighting a cold or infection, they might be teething, feeling unsettled about something (being away from home, having too many visitors or any other disruption to the usual routine) or going through a growth spurt (your baby is feeding more to increase your supply).
How can I store breast milk and for how long?
Freshly expressed breast milk, placed in a sterile, closed container, can be kept at room temperature (no warmer than 26C) for up to eight hours; in a fridge (4ºC or lower) for up to five days and for six months in a chest freezer. You can freeze breast milk in containers or freezer bags. If you are freezing breast milk in batches for long periods, mark the containers or bags with the date of expressing.
Can I over-feed my baby?
A healthy baby is able to take as much milk they need from your breast. It is normal for young babies to feed often, as their stomach is tiny and breast milk is easily digested.
Is it normal for breastfeeding to hurt?
Breastfeeding will probably be uncomfortable in the early days as both you and the baby are becoming familiar with this new experience for both of you. In the first days, your breasts and nipples are tender and sensitive, so when your baby latches on, it might sting, but this feeling should pass as the feed continues and you should be able to breastfeed with no pain. If your baby has a poor latch, their tongue and gums might cause soreness to your nipples. Razor-like, stinging pains while not feeding may be a sign of thrush, while hot, painful breasts accompanied by fever are symptoms of mastitis. In either case, check it out with your GP or PHN.
Should I stop breastfeeding if my nipples are cracked and/or bleeding?
Breastfeeding can be painful if you have cracked or bleeding nipples. If you still want to give your breasts a rest, try expressing. Use breast milk and lanolin-based creams to treat your nipples (you don’t need to wash the cream off if you are breastfeeding soon after). Some mums find nipple shields useful until the nipples heal. Whatever you decide, both breasts need to be emptied through breastfeeding or expressing to avoid engorgement. Taking a shower or bath while massaging the breasts will help to relieve sore, full breasts. Untreated engorgement can trigger mastitis, which needs to be treated with antibiotics. Speak to your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
How often should I breastfeed?
At the start, most babies breastfeed 8-12 times in 24 hours – this may continue for a few months before a more regular pattern is established. Feeds might not be spaced evenly around the clock - babies tend to cluster feed in the late afternoon and evenings to be able to go through the night. Many experts advocate breastfeeding on demand, which means letting your baby decide when and how often to breastfeed. This is the best way to ensure you have an optimum milk supply for your baby. However, if your baby is sleepy and not breastfeeding enough, you will have to wake them up and offer the breast.
You might be asked by your healthcare professional how often you feed your baby – feeding intervals are counted from the time your baby starts feeding, not at the end of the feed.
Should I alternate breasts?
At each feed offer both breasts. If your baby didn’t empty one of the breasts, offer that breast first at the next feed. Both breasts need to be drained to avoid engorgement. Sometimes babies have a favourite and won’t feed as well from the other breast. Keep offering that breast first and express if necessary. If you don’t remember which breast you need to start with, be guided by their fullness. If a breast is not drained, it will feel heavy and hard.
I’m going to breastfeed our baby, will my partner feel left out and how can I involve him?
Feeding is only one aspect of baby care, so your partner can bond with the baby in other ways, such as bathing, changing nappies, playing, talking and reading stories. If you need some me time or rest, ask your partner to take the baby for a walk or a trip in the car. Looking after your baby as a united team will bring you closer as a couple.