Breastfeeding Info A to Z
This information is on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. It is general in nature and may not be pertinent to your family. It is not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, please talk directly to a La Leche League Leader who will provide you with support, encouragement, and evidence-based information. LLLI does not engage in the practice of medicine; please consult a healthcare professional on any medical issue.
Breastfeeding mothers and lactating parents often receive conflicting advice about whether alcohol consumption can have an effect on their baby. Find information here:
Food Allergies and Breastfeeding
Babies are more likely to develop allergies if there’s a history of eczema, asthma, hay fever or food allergies in the family. If your baby has a family history of these conditions, breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months will help to lower their risk.
I am having surgery
Many review articles have concluded that most patients may safely breastfeed healthy term or older children immediately after surgery.
If your baby needs to have surgery they will be given a general anaesthetic to ensure they are unconscious and free of pain during the operation or procedure.
Birth and Breastfeeding
Your birth experience can impact the initiation of breastfeeding your baby. Initiating breastfeeding is easier when birth takes place in a supportive environment where interventions and drugs are minimized.
Birth and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding After Cesarean Birth
What My Doctor Taught Me About Birth
The Birth Breastfeeding Connection
Bridging Birth and Breastfeeding
Learning to Trust My Body’s Birth & Breastfeeding Powers
During pregnancy and when your milk first comes in, you may find your breasts are enlarged. The support of a well-fitting bra can be most welcome.
Breastfeeding is the word that is most often used to describe what happens when your baby suckles your milk at the breast. Your baby actively drinks and swallows your milk. You and your body respond to your baby in a shared relationship and experience that is both physical and emotional. Feeding your own baby directly from your own breast confers the maximum benefits for both you and your baby and LLLI considers this the optimal way of feeding a baby.
Whether you give birth vaginally or by cesarean surgery, family, friends, or a La Leche League Leader can be of great assistance and support when you are beginning your feeding journey.
Chylothorax is a life-threatening situation in which chyle leaks from the patient’s lymphatic system and accumulates in the thoracic cavity. The pressure caused by this accumulation can cause severe cardiorespiratory compromise.
Human milk comes in a variety of colors. If you pump your milk you may see lots of variation in color: whereas formula milk always looks the same, the composition and appearance of human milk changes throughout the day, and even throughout a pumping session or feed.
Colostrum is the earliest human milk produced, beginning in mid-pregnancy (12-18 weeks) and is continually produced for the first few days after baby’s birth. It is thick, sticky, concentrated milk and is usually yellow, clear or white, although it could be other colors as well. It is made up of immune factors, protein, sugar, and fats.
We continue to emphasize the critical importance of breastfeeding all babies whether newly born or older and whether someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or not.
LLLI supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for breastfeeding immediately after birth even when a positive COVID-19 test has been obtained.
Please see our full media release and other articles for more information.
Full Media Release – Breastfeeding, Childbirth, and COVID-19
Media Release – Continuing to Nurse Your Baby Through Coronavirus & Other Respiratory Infections
Breastfeeding and Coronavirus – links to Media Releases in many languages, and other resources
Parenting Post COVID-19: Breastfeeding and Beyond
LLL Italia Video-intervista a Karleen Gribble – Nelle emergenze l’allattamento protegge
Many parents worry about criticism they may face while breastfeeding their baby.
Some babies are just born with a more sensitive temperament. You can help those babies the most by keeping them close.
Cup feeding can be used from birth. It is suitable for both expressed breastmilk and infant formula. You can use any clean, open cup with a smooth surface.
Cup feeding has no notable difference to bottles for average time per feed.
Drip-Drop Feeding encourages babies to suckle at the breast. It helps you produce more milk through breast-nipple stimulation and makes moving from bottle to breast easier.
Every drop of breastmilk is precious, protecting your baby against germs that can make them sick. Breastfeeding saves lives, especially during emergencies.
Watch the video here.
We have come to see engorgement as the natural follow-up to birth. But it’s more often a natural follow-up to modern expectations of age-old biology. In a nutshell, babies and breasts expect a lot more cuddling and nursing than many new mothers expect.
Whether you are used to running marathons or want to start some gentle activities to help with your fitness and/ or weight loss goals you might be wondering if your milk supply will be affected by exercise.
LINKS TO RESOURCES FOR INFANT FEEDING IN EMERGENCIES (MULTILINGUAL)
Breastfeeding can have an effect on your fertility, particularly in the early months. While for some mothers this is a benefit, it can also be a source of frustration for those hoping to grow their families.
CAN I GET PREGNANT WHILE I’M NURSING?
The simple answer is that you can get pregnant while nursing.
However, many moms experience a time of delayed fertility during breastfeeding. This is very common and is referred to in many places as the Lactation Amenorrhea Method of contraception.
As described in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the Lactation Amenorrhea Method of using breastfeeding to delay fertility needs all the following to be true:
- Your periods have not returned.
- Your baby is exclusively and frequently fed from your breasts- this is especially important to remember when your little one begins sleeping through the night. It means not just that your baby does not have bottles, but also that they do not use a pacifier, in other words that all of your baby’s sucking needs are met at your breast.
- Your baby is less than 6 months old. If your little one is older and eating solid foods, your chances of ovulating and risk of pregnancy increases. Some moms will find it takes more than six months for their cycles and fertility to return, while other mothers find that their cycles and fertility return earlier than six months. It is also important to mention that after six months, there is a higher chance that you might ovulate and possibly become pregnant before your first postpartum period. If you suspect you are pregnant, you will want to check with your health care professional.
The food any family chooses will depend on personal preference, climate, culture and finances. There are no foods you need to avoid while breastfeeding/chestfeeding (unless you’re allergic to them of course).
FAT CONTENT OF MILK
You may have heard people talking about two kinds of milk – foremilk and hindmilk. This suggests that breasts produce two distinct kinds of milk, which is not the case. The milk-making cells in your breasts all produce the same kind of milk.
Foremilk is the milk available when your baby starts feeding, hindmilk is the milk your baby gets at the end of a feed. Foremilk is not necessarily low in fat: fat content of the milk that is removed varies according to how long the milk has been collecting in the ducts and how much of your breast is drained at the time.
As milk is made, fat sticks to the sides of the milk-making cells and the watery part of the milk moves down the ducts toward your nipple, where it mixes with any milk left there from the last feed. The longer the time between feeds, the more diluted the leftover milk becomes. This ‘watery’ milk has a higher lactose content and less fat than the milk stored in the milk-making cells higher up in your breast.
This information is for birth parents with babies born at full term or close to full term and addresses the normal course of breastfeeding.
- How often should I feed my baby in the first 24 hours after birth?
- How often should I breastfeed my baby in the first few days?
- How does nursing frequently prevent my baby from becoming jaundiced or help if he/she does become jaundiced?
- How can I tell whether my baby is getting enough milk from me?
- Should I put my baby on a schedule?
- How will I know when my baby is hungry if I don’t use a schedule?
- How often should I breastfeed my baby in the first weeks?
- How often should I breastfeed my baby in the first six months?
- Do I need to breastfeed my baby at night?
- I’m not sure I’m making enough milk—my baby is fussy! How can I increase my milk supply?
- People say I’m spoiling my baby by nursing her/him too often. How often is right?
- Why does my baby suddenly want to breastfeed constantly?
Galactagogues may be considered to increase a milk supply when non-medical interventions do not help.
You can still nurse if you have had gastric bypass surgery. You will need to be extra careful about making sure you are getting enough nutrition. Your body will provide any nutrients that are in short supply to human milk first, and then to your body.
When your baby is spitting up many times a day and seems very unhappy with feedings, they may have gastroesophageal reflux disease.
It is common to wonder whether your baby is growing as they should be, and while diaper output is one good indicator of whether they is getting enough milk, progress on growth charts is also a tangible measure.
Hand expression is a useful technique, and what’s more it’s convenient and free! It’s a handy way to relieve engorgement. You can use it to stimulate milk production if you need to increase your supply, and to provide milk for your baby. You can also combine hand expressing with pumping.
Refrigerated human milk is best heated by holding the container of milk under cool running water and gradually adding warmer water until the milk is warmed to room temperature. More information here –
Many non-gestational parents—adoptive parents, intended parents (through surrogacy), parents whose partner is birthing, and transwomen—are finding out that this wonderful experience is also available to them.
Breastfeeding Without Giving Birth
Most often, babies who are being nursed remain healthy even when their parents or other family members fall ill with an infectious illness, because they benefit from the antibodies provided in the lactating parent’s milk. Read more here –
The size and shape of nipples and breasts vary from person to person and can change during their feeding journey. Read more here –
Inverted and Flat Nipples
It is quite common to wonder if your baby is truly drinking enough milk at the breast. It’s nearly impossible to measure the milk, because it can’t be seen. So, how do you tell if your baby is getting enough?
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
There is no limit on how long you should nurse your little one. You may breastfeed/chestfeed for as long as you and your baby choose.
Length of Time
Finding a lump in your breast is scary! Fortunately, most lumps in the lactating breast are either milk-filled glands or an inflammation, such as a blocked duct or mastitis. If the lump is tender, it is probably mastitis. See our Mastitis article for information on treating this condition.
Full Lumps and Imaging Article
According to Dr. Thomas Hale, author of Medications and Mother’s Milk 2017, “most drugs do not enter milk in levels that are hazardous to a breastfed infant.” Find more information here –
Full Medications Article
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications and Breastfeeding Article
Human beings have known for centuries that breastfeeding affects fertility, and this has been borne out in recent studies. The individual variations are, however, great. In general, the more often your baby is breastfed, the younger your baby is, and the less nutrition they get from other sources, the later your periods will resume. Read more here –
Human milk is the natural food for human babies, not only supporting optimal nutrition but also contributing to reaching their health potential. Yet for many reasons, not all parents are able to nurse their babies or produce enough milk to meet their needs. Read more here –
Milk Donation and Sharing
This article is under review.
The term nipple confusion or nipple preference has been used to describe an infant’s fussiness at breast or frustration when they are having problems switching from a bottle nipple and breast, before breastfeeding is well established. Read more here –
Nipple piercings have become increasingly popular in recent years and you may be wondering if it safe to breastfeed your baby if you already have pierced nipples. Read about it here –
My baby is suddenly refusing to nurse. Does that mean it’s time to wean?
Read about nursing strikes here –
Artículo Completo del Huelgas de lactancia en Español
You may make more milk than your baby need. Although this may sound like a good problem to have, too much of any good thing can cause challenges – for you and your baby. Read more here –
If you experience nipple soreness beyond a slight tenderness when your baby latches on, it may be a sign that something isn’t right with the baby’s latch, position, or suck. Our article can help –
During the early weeks skin-to-skin contact helps your baby connect to their instinctive breastfeeding skills and helps you and your baby enjoy breastfeeding. Each person discovers what works for them, and what works for one may not work for another. Read more about positoning and latch here –
There is no evidence that breastfeeding during low risk pregnancy leads to increased chance of harm to you or your baby. Read more here –
Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing Article
‘Kangeroo care’ is a practice which is used across the world and has been shown to be extremely beneficial to babies. Read more here –
Premies: Kangaroo Care and Skin-to-Skin Contact
Perhaps your baby is now strong and mature enough to begin feeding directly at your breast. It may take some time to encourage them to do it correctly. Read more here – Premies: Positioning
If your baby is not strong enough to feed at the breast, you can still give them your milk. Find resources to help with pumping for a premie baby here –
When you are pumping milk for your baby, it is important to clean your pumping accessories properly, whether at work or at home. Read more here –
Cleaning and Sanitizing Pumping Accessories
This article is under review.
The good news is relactation is possible. It requires time, patience, determination and a cooperative baby!
When your new baby arrives, sometimes your older child will feel left out. You can reassure your older child they are still loved, with plenty of hugs and kisses. Remind them that they were tiny once, and needed to be held and nursed a lot.
Smooth out your nights in a way that meets everyone’s needs well enough, get help when you need it, and remember that you and your baby are on the same side in this relationship.
Smooth out your nights in a way that meets everyone’s needs well enough, get help when you need it, and remember that you and your baby are on the same side in this relationship.
Sleep Training… or not
Babies born with Down syndrome, cleft lip or palate, cardiac problems, cystic fibrosis, a neurological impairment or other special needs will benefit from human milk even more than other babies. Read more here –
Full Special Needs Article
Starting solid foods before your baby is ready will not increase sleep at night, is not necessary for larger babies, and does not initially increase calories. Read more here –
It is essential to properly store your expressed/pumped milk to maximize its nutritional, immunological and antioxidant qualities. Find more information and storage guidelines here –
Storing Human Milk
Finding out you are pregnant does not mean you must stop breastfeeding your toddler. Read more here –
Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Tandem Nursing
No evidence exists that the use of tanning beds has any effect on human milk or breastfed babies. However some individuals have reported getting burnt nipples and breasts when using tanning beds. Read more about nursing, tanning beds and fake tan here –
Tanning Beds and Fake Tans
You may be wondering if it safe to nurse your baby if you already have a tattoo, or to get a tattoo or have one removed removed when you’re breastfeeding. Find information here –
Tattoos and Breastfeeding
Teething can present some new challenges but human milk continues to be the best food for your baby. Read more here –
When the thyroid is not functioning correctly, it can impact milk production. Read more here –
Breastfeeding and Thyroidism
Is thrush causing my sore nipples? Perhaps you recently had a baby and you have sore nipples. Perhaps your baby is a few months old and you suddenly are experiencing an uncomfortable latch. The internet, other parents, or your healthcare provider may suggest thrush as a diagnosis. But is this the most likely cause of this pain? Finding the source of discomfort is an important step in treatment.
Full Thrush Article
- Put baby to the breast to nurse as soon as possible.
- Hold baby skin-to-skin
- Avoid pacifiers
- Correct positioning and latch on are very important for preventing sore nipples.
- Break suction before taking baby off the breast.
- Offer the least sore breast first.
- Use only plain water for washing.
- Gently apply your own milk, ultra pure modified lanolin, or hydrogel pads to speed healing.
- Check with a La Leche League Leader for help.
Smoking and Breastfeeding
There are plenty of reasons to quit smoking, both for you and your baby. You’ve probably heard about lots of them from health care providers, friends, family members, or other sources. But even if you can’t quit smoking, breastfeeding your baby is still the best choice you can make.
Infants of smokers are at increased risk of colic, respiratory infections, and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). But breastfed infants are at lower risk for these diseases compared to artificially fed infants, even when their mothers continue to smoke. And breastfeeding helps to protect babies from the potential risks of environmental smoke.
Breastfeeding your toddler
Toddlers breastfeed for many of the same reasons babies breastfeed: for nutrition, comfort, security, for a way to calm down and for reassurance. Mothers breastfeed their toddlers for many of the same reasons they breastfeed their babies: they recognize their children’s needs, they enjoy the closeness, they want to offer comfort, and they understand the health benefits.
WHAT are TONGUE and LIP TIEs?
Tongue-tie or ankyloglossia is the condition where the lingual frenulum, the band of tissue that attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, restricts tongue movement. In tongue-tied infants, the “freedom” of the tongue to move is related to how tight or loose the frenulum is; or, how well the tongue is able to extend and elevate. Many tongue tied infants have difficulties initiating and maintaining a latch. Infants who are unable to latch properly have difficulty effectively transferring milk and therefore may struggle with weight gain. Mothers can experience nipple pain and, due to ineffective suckling, insufficient milk supply.
SUPPORT FOR TRANSGENDER & NON-BINARY PARENTS
La Leche League is an international, nonprofit, nonsectarian organisation.1
LLL supports everyone who wants to breastfeed or chestfeed in reaching their goals.
We at La Leche League International have all nursed our babies. If you want to do the same, whoever you are, whatever your story is, we’re here to help. LLLI is committed to serving everyone inclusive of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental ability, socio-economic status, political views, gender identity, sexual orientation, family structure, or other protected status.
Trans men, trans women, and non-binary individuals may choose to breastfeed or chestfeed their babies. You do not need to have given birth to breastfeed or chestfeed, as we can also see in the experiences of those nursing adopted babies.
Please note that some of the links in this post will take you to articles or websites where you may notice gendered language.
HOW DO I TRAVEL WITH MY BABY?
Traveling with a baby can be difficult! In many cases, babies travel well. Bringing your baby with you to a special event can be exciting… or nerve-racking!
There are a few things many families have found work when traveling with babies. As always, take what feels right for your family and leave the rest.
FOR A ROAD TRIP:
The car seat – do some research to make sure the car seat you buy for your baby suits your needs. Do you need a car seat that has a base and detachable bucket or would you prefer to have an all-in-one non-detachable seat that will serve as your baby’s seat for several developmental stages? Whichever one you choose, look for one you feel confident installing, removing, and moving around. It is also helpful to be very well acquainted with how the car seat buckles and tightens. Many families find it beneficial to practice how to get their babies into and out of their car seats from the front passenger seats and a seat on the side of the car seat. It can be difficult to take your little one out of the car seat and carry them to you in your seat – especially if it is cold or rainy outside. Practice which seat in your vehicle you are able to nurse in the best and learn how to get your baby out of and back into their car seat from your nursing seat safely. Having an additional adult on hand can help boost your confidence – and help ensure baby’s safety – while you practice.
Vitamin D, Your Baby, and You
It is a known fact that human milk is the superior infant food. Human milk is the most complete nutritionally, immunologically, and is the only food designed specifically for your baby. Given that it is expected to be “perfect,” you may be confused about why your baby’s doctor is encouraging you to give your breastfed baby vitamin D supplements.
VITAMINS AND OTHER NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR BABY
Advertisements, family members and even health professionals often urge mothers to add “something” to baby’s perfect diet of mother’s milk. According to the our comprehensive guidebook, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, if a breastfeeding mother is getting an adequate supply of vitamins in her diet, her milk will contain adequate nutrients in the perfect balance for her baby. If your baby is healthy and doing well, there is no need for vitamins, iron, or other supplements in the early months (apart from vitamin D). Furthermore, many mothers have found that vitamin or fluoride supplements may cause fussiness or colic in their infants. By treating each mother and baby as a unique pair, unnecessary supplementation can often be avoided.
Exclusively breastfed babies do not need water supplements – your body makes the perfect milk for your baby, actually changing the composition as he needs more or less water.
Giving water to newborn babies can contribute to jaundice and slow weight gain: water may fill a baby’s tummy and so reduce the amount of colostrum or breastmilk they get. Water supplements may also stop you establishing your milk supply as your baby will ask to breastfeed less.
Even in very hot weather your baby doesn’t need additional water, as long as you respond to his cues to feed he will get all the fluids he needs in your milk. This article from LLL Canada gives more information about breastfeeding and hot weather.
Weaning For Medical Reasons
If your doctor decides you need to take a drug (medicine) for a medical condition, make sure that they know how important it is for you to continue breastfeeding and check to see if a breastfeeding compatible drug can be used. You may not need to wean permanently, or at all. Do your own research, or get a second opinion from another doctor/hospital, if necessary.
Depending on the age of your breastfeeding child, and the frequency with which they breastfeed, certain drugs may have little or no effect on him.
HOW DO I WEAN MY BABY?
Are you feeling ready to wean completely? Sometimes just cutting back on the amount of times you breastfeed will make you feel better, breastfeeding can sometimes be overwhelming. Breastfeeding is a two-way street. If you resent it when you sit down to breastfeed, your child will pick up on this. If your baby is under a year (or older, sometimes), you will have to substitute a bottle feeding for a missed breastfeeding. An older baby may accept a drink from a cup, a nutritious snack, or just a distraction in the form of a game, a toy, or change of scene. Remember, the first supplemental feed, from a bottle, or of solid food, is the beginning of weaning. Weaning does not need to be all or nothing.
If weaning is your decision, it’s best for you and your baby to do it gradually, and with love. If you wean “cold turkey,” your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, and you might develop a breast infection. Your baby will probably fight the switch from your warm, soft breast to a plastic substitute. He might mourn the loss of “his” breasts.
WOULD WEANING MAKE MY LIFE EASIER?
Are you thinking about weaning? Your child may be a few weeks or months old, or may be a breastfeeding toddler. Some mothers decide to continue breastfeeding until the baby outgrows the need. This is called natural weaning or child-led weaning. In modern Western society, this is rather unusual. At a typical LLL meeting, you may find many mothers practice extended or natural weaning. You can review the Toddler Nursing article if this seems right to you.
I WANT TO WEAN
Are you still in the early weeks, and experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding?
Maybe you’d like to breastfeed longer, but feel overwhelmed or are experiencing discomfort?
We are here to help, don’t hesitate to call your local La Leche League Leader if you are having problems! They can help you with any difficulties you may experience. Sometimes just talking to an experienced parent who has “been there,” who understands what you’re going through, can be so helpful. All LLL Leaders have breasted at least one baby, for at least one year.
Were you planning on continuing breastfeeding, but your baby has other ideas? Do you worry baby is trying to wean?
First, make sure it isn’t just a nursing strike.
Common Reasons for an Early Weaning
- Bottles, pacifiers or increased solids. Try cutting down on any of these activities. If your baby is getting bottles at daycare while you are at work, and is over six months old (approximately), it’s probably time to go to the cup for the child’s feeds while away from you. With dummies, reduce use to your baby won’t be meeting his sucking needs, and will be more eager to nurse, when you are together. If you started solids early (before six months), you can always cut back on the size of these meals, gradually, of course. If baby is under 12 months of age, make sure you are offering breast before solids. Your milk supply will build back up, as the baby spends more time at the breast. Remember, your milk is by far the most nutritious food for your baby, for the first year, not to mention the immunological benefits.
You are not alone in wondering about losing weight. Many individuals are anxious to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight after childbirth. Do try to remember that your pregnancy weight wasn’t gained overnight so it won’t disappear that quickly, either.
Going back to work and leaving your baby in someone else’s care can be one of the most difficult parts of returning to work. Choosing the right person and right setting takes care. You want to find a setting that will provide the kind of care and attention you would give. You want a setting that respects breastfeeding and your expressed breastmilk. This may take some homework on your part. Visits to the locations you are considering will be important. Here are some things to consider:
IN HOME CARE WITH A FAMILY MEMBER, CLOSE FRIEND, OR NANNY
- This allows your baby to stay in your home, where all is familiar.
- It works best with someone the baby already knows or who is willing to come to your home several times before your return date.