Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
What is breast-feeding?
Breast-feeding is feeding a baby milk from the mother's breasts. You can feed your baby right at your breast. You can also pump your breasts and put the milk in a bottle to feed your baby. Doctors advise breast-feeding for 1 year or longer. But your baby benefits from any amount of breast-feeding you can do.
Breast milk is the only food your baby needs until about 6 months of age. You do not need to give your baby food, water, or juice. After that, you will gradually breast-feed less often as your baby starts to eat other foods. But keep breast-feeding for as long as you and your child want to. Your baby continues to get health benefits from breast milk past the first year.
Breast-feeding lowers your child's risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and many types of infections and allergies. Breast milk may also help protect your child from some health problems, such as eczema, obesity, asthma, and diabetes.1, 2
Breast-feeding has benefits for you too. You may recover from pregnancy, labor, and delivery sooner if you breast-feed. You may also lower your risk for certain health problems, such as breast cancer.1
Can all women breast-feed?
Almost all mothers of newborns are able to breast-feed. Even if you have a health problem, such as diabetes, or if you have had breast surgery, you can likely still breast-feed. But some women should not breast-feed, such as those who are HIV-positive or have active tuberculosis.
Breast-feeding is a learned skill—you will get better at it with practice. You may have times when breast-feeding is hard. The first 2 weeks are the hardest for many women. But don't give up. You can work through most problems. Doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists can all help. So can friends, family, and breast-feeding support groups.
How do you plan for breast-feeding?
Before your baby is born, plan ahead. Learn all you can about breast-feeding. This helps make breast-feeding easier.
- Early in your pregnancy, talk to your doctor or midwife about breast-feeding.
- Learn the basics of breast-feeding before your baby is born. The staff at hospitals and birthing centers can help you find a lactation specialist. Or you can take a breast-feeding class.
- Plan ahead for times when you will need help after your baby is born. Many women get help from friends and family or they join a support group to talk to other breast-feeding mothers.
- Buy breast-feeding equipment, such as a breast pump, breast pads, nipple cream, extra pillows, and nursing bras. You may be able to rent a breast pump from a hospital.
How do you breast-feed?
For each feeding, you go through these basic steps:
- Get ready for the feeding. Be calm and relaxed, and try not to be distracted. Also, have water or juice nearby and two or three pillows to help support your baby while he or she is nursing.
- Find a breast-feeding position that is comfortable for you and your baby, such as the cross-cradle or the football hold. Make sure the baby's head and chest are lined up straight and facing your breast. It's best to switch which breast you start with each time.
- Get the baby latched on properly. Your baby's mouth needs to be wide open, like a yawn, so you may need to gently touch the middle of your baby's lower lip. When your baby's mouth is open wide, quickly bring the baby onto your nipple and areola (the dark circle around your nipple).
- Provide a complete feeding. Let your baby nurse for at least 15 minutes. Be sure to burp your baby after each breast.
Talk to your doctor right away if you are having problems and aren't sure what to do. Don't be afraid to call even if you don't quite know what it is that is bothering you. Your doctor is used to parents of newborns calling. He or she can help you figure out if there is a problem, and if so, how to fix it.
How often do you need to feed your baby?
Feed your baby whenever he or she is hungry. In the first 2 weeks, your baby will breast-feed about every 1 to 3 hours. This schedule can make you very tired. But know that your baby will soon start eating more at each feeding, and you won't need to breast-feed as often.
Plan for times when you will be apart from your baby. Use a breast pump to collect breast milk ahead of time. You can store milk in the refrigerator or freezer for times when someone else will be taking care of your baby.
Do you need to limit what you eat and drink?
Anything you put in your body can be passed to your baby in breast milk. If you are breast-feeding, don't drink alcohol, take drugs, or smoke. Before you take any kind of medicine, herb, or vitamin, ask your doctor if it is safe.
Be sure to eat healthy, balanced meals and snacks to get enough of the vitamins and minerals you need while breast-feeding. You need to eat extra calories and may need to keep taking your prenatal vitamins.
If you have questions about what to eat and what to avoid, talk with your doctor or midwife.
Frequently Asked Questions
Learning about breast-feeding:
How to breast-feed:
Your health and nutrition:
Breast-feeding with special conditions:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
|Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.|
|Breast-Feeding: Should I Breast-Feed My Baby?|
|Actionsets are designed to help people take an active role in managing a health condition.|
|Breast-Feeding: Planning Ahead|
Benefits of Breast-Feeding
Breast-feeding is a natural way to nourish your baby. It benefits both you and your baby. But it's your decision whether to breast-feed.
Benefits for the baby
Breast milk provides your baby with vitamins and minerals for optimal growth and development. It also has the needed proteins, fats, and other substances for growth.
Breast-feeding provides health benefits for your baby, such as:
- Antibodies to strengthen your baby's immune system.
- A lower risk for many types of infections, such as ear infections.
- Fewer gastrointestinal illnesses (vomiting and diarrhea).3
- A possible lower risk of food allergies.3
- A reduced risk for certain conditions, like diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, and eczema.1, 2
- A reduced risk for becoming obese later in infancy and during childhood.1, 4
To compare, baby formula does not help protect a baby from infections and other health problems.
Benefits for the mother
Soon after your baby is born, breast-feeding helps your body recover from the stresses of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Breast-feeding also stimulates your body to release oxytocin, which helps your uterus contract, bleed less, and return more quickly to its prepregnancy size.
You may find that losing weight is easier with breast-feeding. But weight-loss rates after delivery vary among women.
Feeding your baby milk at the breast is convenient, because you have a food source that is ready at all times. You don't have to do anything to prepare.
It's your decision
Breast-feeding is a personal choice. How you feed your baby is your decision. Your thoughts and feelings about it are an important part of the decision.
Planning to Breast-Feed
With proper planning, preparation, and support, most women are able to breast-feed successfully.
At your prenatal visits, talk to your doctor or midwife about your plans to breast-feed. He or she can help guide you through the planning and get you started after the baby is born. You may also be referred to a lactation consultant.
How to Breast-Feed
To breast-feed properly and prevent problems, you will need to learn the basics of breast-feeding. You will want to get ready before each feeding and find a position that is comfortable for you and your baby. Doing this will help you get your baby to latch on, so that you can provide a complete feeding each time. If you do have trouble with breast-feeding, get support from family, friends, your doctor, or a lactation consultant.
Get ready for a feeding
Being ready for a feeding will help you relax. And being relaxed will help your let-down reflex, which occurs just before or soon after feeding begins. It's helpful to wear a loose blouse or a shirt that can be raised easily. If you want more privacy, use a lightweight blanket over your shoulder and chest to cover your breasts and your baby.
It is likely that you will have to breast-feed around other people, even strangers, when you are feeding your baby on demand. In many states and on federal property, your right to breast-feed in public is protected by law.
To get ready, you can also do things like:
- Make sure the room is quiet and warm. Keep the room darkened. Bright light makes it hard for newborns to open their eyes.
- Keep something to drink nearby. Most women get thirsty as they breast-feed. Drink enough to satisfy your thirst.
- Use one or more pillows to support your arms and the baby. Support your back with a pillow, and use a stool to raise your feet. This will help you and your baby be more comfortable during feeding.
- Make sure your baby is alert. This will help you get your baby to latch on. You may need to wake your baby.
Find a position
Breast-feeding in the proper position will help your baby latch on and breast-feed correctly. There are several breast-feeding positions, such as the cradle hold, the football hold, and the side-lying position.
As you start to breast-feed, try different positions to find those that are most comfortable for you and your baby. For example, use the cross-cradle hold at one feeding, and then use the football hold at the next. Feeding in different positions may reduce nipple soreness. Also, start each new feeding with the opposite breast you started with at the last feeding. This routine helps you to empty each breast completely.
For more help with finding the best position, see the topic Breast-Feeding Positions.
Get your baby latched on
A proper latch helps prevent problems such as sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, breast infections, and poor infant weight gain. An improper latch is painful and frustrating. It causes some women to stop breast-feeding.
The steps to get your baby latched on are about the same for all breast-feeding positions. Latching on in the cross-cradle position is an easy one to start with.
- Make sure the baby's head and body are lined up straight, not turned to one side or tilted up or down while breast-feeding. For this position, you and your baby should be tummy to tummy. Your baby's nose should be right in front of your nipple.
- Support and narrow your breast with one hand using a "U hold," with your thumb on the outer side of your breast and your fingers on the inner side. You can also use a "C hold," with all your fingers below the nipple and your thumb above it. Try the different holds to get the deepest latch for whichever breast-feeding position you use. Your other arm is behind your baby's back, with your hand supporting the base of the baby's head. Position your fingers and thumb to point toward your baby's ears.
- You can touch your baby's lower lip with your nipple to get your baby to open his or her mouth. Wait until your baby opens up really wide, like a big yawn. Then be sure to bring the baby quickly to your breast—not your breast to the baby. As you bring your baby toward your breast, use your other hand to support the breast and guide it into his or her mouth.
- Both the nipple and a large portion of the darker area around the nipple (areola) should be in the baby's mouth. The baby's lips should be flared outward, not folded in (inverted).
- Listen for a regular sucking and swallowing pattern while the baby is feeding. If you cannot see or hear a swallowing pattern, watch the baby's ears, which will wiggle slightly when the baby swallows. If the baby's nose appears to be blocked by your breast, tilt the baby's head back slightly, so just the edge of one nostril is clear for breathing.
- When your baby is latched, you can usually remove your hand from supporting your breast and bring it under your baby to cradle him or her. Now just relax and breast-feed your baby.
When your baby is done breast-feeding, you can break the latch by using your pinky finger. Place one finger into the corner of your baby's mouth. This will gently break the seal. You can also use your pinky to break the latch if you experience pain after your baby first latches on. Then you can start again. If you don't break the latch before you remove the baby from your breast, your nipples may become sore, cracked, or bruised.
Provide a complete feeding
Let your baby feed until he or she is satisfied.
- Offer the other breast when the first breast feels empty and your baby sucks more slowly, pulls off, or loses interest. Usually your baby will continue breast-feeding but for less time than on the first breast.
- To burp your baby, gently pat your baby's back to help him or her let out any swallowed air. After the baby burps, offer the breast again. Sometimes a baby will want to continue feeding after being burped.
- If your baby falls asleep before finishing breast-feeding, you may need to stimulate him or her to finish the feeding. After a while, you will learn your baby's patterns and will know whether he or she needs rousing or has fed long enough.
To learn more about babies' feeding patterns, see Feeding and Diapering Habits.
The first two weeks of breast-feeding usually are the most challenging. You may have other times when you need extra help. Know who you can contact, such as friends and family who have breast-fed or a lactation consultant. Other support is available through local hospitals or clinics and support organizations, such as La Leche League.
Your Health and Nutrition
A healthy lifestyle—including having a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and being active—is important while you breast-feed. It can help you have more energy and reduce stress. It can also help you build a healthy milk supply.
It's also important to know what to avoid. Anything you put in your body can be passed to your baby in breast milk.
Have a healthy diet
- Have a balanced diet so that you get the vitamins and minerals you need for breast-feeding. You'll need to eat extra calories compared to the amount you ate when you weren't breast-feeding. It's a good idea to continue taking your prenatal vitamins while breast-feeding.
- Avoid quick weight loss. If you want to try to lose your pregnancy weight, lose it a little at a time so you don't affect your breast milk.
Some moms notice that certain foods make their babies more fussy. You may want to keep track of what you eat and how your baby acts.
If you have special dietary needs, talk to a dietitian. He or she can help you plan healthy meals.
Balance activity and sleep
- Try to sleep and rest as well as you can. You likely will not have a normal schedule when you first start to breast-feed. But you can take naps and find time to rest for short periods throughout the day, such as when your baby sleeps.
- Be active. Exercise helps with weight loss, improves your energy level, and can help you relieve stress.
Know what to avoid
- Be careful taking medicine. Many medicines can affect your breast milk. Talk with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter or prescription medicines or herbs.
- Avoid poisonous substances, such as fish that may contain mercury, that can be passed on to your baby through breast milk.
- Avoid drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Any substance that you use while breast-feeding, including tobacco, can harm your baby.
Adjust to lifestyle changes
- Understand sexual changes. Sexual relationships with your partner can take time to begin again.
- Use birth control methods if you want to lower your pregnancy risk. Women who are breast-feeding can still become pregnant. But you are not likely to become pregnant in the first 6 months of exclusive breast-feeding (which means you are feeding your baby on demand and not using formula, food, or water to supplement his or her diet). After your baby is 6 months of age, you need to use a birth control method if you want to avoid pregnancy, regardless of whether you are breast-feeding exclusively.
Having a new baby and breast-feeding take time to get used to. Take it easy on yourself. Find ways to help yourself cope in the first few months. Learning more about how your baby will grow and change may be helpful to you too. For more information, see the topic Growth and Development, Newborn.
Feeding and Diapering Habits
Knowing your baby's feeding and diapering habits are important, especially during the first few months of breast-feeding. There are usually patterns to how often he or she feeds and how often you will change his or her diaper. You may also notice changes in how long each feeding lasts and begin to recognize signs that your baby is getting enough milk. As your baby gets older, you may add supplements and other foods and eventually you will reach the time for weaning.
How often and how long to feed
The general recommendation is to feed your baby on demand. This means that you breast-feed whenever you notice signs that your baby is hungry, such as when he or she is eagerly sucking on fingers or rooting. This strategy also helps you produce more milk and ensures that the baby is well nourished.
During the first few days or weeks, on-demand feedings usually occur every 1 to 3 hours (about 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period). You may have to wake a sleepy baby to feed in the first few days after birth. These early feedings often are short. Sometimes a newborn breast-feeds for only a few minutes on each breast or only on one breast. These feedings are important to increase your milk supply over the first few days. Try to let your baby breast-feed at least 15 minutes on a breast. This allows your baby to get the foremilk, which has water and needed nutrients, and hindmilk, which has more fat and calories to satisfy your baby's appetite. Over time, feeding sessions will become longer.
At around 3 months of age, feedings may become less frequent. Your baby is able to drink more milk at one time and your milk supply naturally increases as your baby's needs increases.
Needs typically increase during growth spurts. When your baby has a growth spurt, he or she may seem to be hungry more often. By feeding your baby on demand, you increase your milk supply. After about 2 to 4 days, you will have increased your milk supply at each feeding to satisfy your baby for a longer period. After the growth spurt, the number of feedings will then gradually decrease.
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk
It is common to wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. Most babies lose weight in the first several days after birth but regain it within a week or two. Weight gain is more rapid after mature milk is produced, about 10 to 15 days after you deliver your baby. After breast-feeding is established, your baby will also get more hindmilk, which provides additional fat and calories. Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk, such as having regular dirty and wet diapers. If you still have concerns, see When to Call a Doctor.
If you aren't sure if your baby is getting enough milk, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you to find the problem, if one exists. Don't supplement your breast-fed baby's diet with formula unless your doctor recommends it. Extra feedings with formula can interfere with your breast milk production and may lead to early weaning.
How many diaper changes to expect
By monitoring your baby's diaper habits, you can get a sense of whether he or she is getting enough breast milk. You may be surprised at the number of diapers your newborn goes through every day. Expect to change your newborn's diaper often. Breast-fed babies usually have a small stool after every feeding for about the first 4 to 8 weeks. Stools may be yellow, seedy-looking, and soft or runny. Gradually the pattern changes, and your baby will start to have larger stools. The number of diapers a newborn wets is sometimes hard to know, because disposable diapers are so effective at wicking moisture.
When to start supplements or other food
Feeding your baby will change through the first year. When your baby reaches 6 months of age, you can start adding other foods besides breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast-feeding babies for at least the first year and giving only breast milk for the first 6 months.6
Doctors usually recommend against supplementing a breast-fed baby's diet with formula, food, and/or water during the first 6 months, even during a growth spurt. Supplementing can decrease your milk production. Early bottle feedings can also make it harder for your baby to latch on to your breast.
Although breast-fed babies get the best possible nutrition, they will probably need certain vitamin or nutritional supplements (especially iron) to maintain or improve their health. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of supplements are right for your child. Vitamin D for babies is usually a liquid supplement that you add to a bottle of breast milk with a dropper or drip into your baby's mouth.
Signs of weaning
It's best for you and your baby if you breast-feed for a full year. If you keep breast-feeding beyond 1 year, your baby will continue to benefit. After the first year, look for signs that your baby is ready to wean, such as refusing to breast-feed or showing interest in drinking from a cup. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about weaning.
Whenever you decide to wean, keep in mind that suddenly stopping breast-feeding may be harder for both you and your baby than a gradual decrease in feeding frequency.
To learn more about weaning, see the topic Weaning.
Pumping and Storing
Pumping and storing your milk allows you to breast-feed while working or just getting some time away from your baby. It's a good idea to have a plan for when you'll need to pump, select the right breast pump for you, and know how to store milk safely. These will help set you and your baby up for long-term breast-feeding success.
- Plan ahead to breast-feed at work. Planning can help you sort through details, such as where you can pump and how often you'll need to pump. Regular pumping will ensure that your breasts produce enough milk and will keep your breasts from becoming uncomfortable and engorged.
- Select a breast pump. There are many types of pumps that you can rent or buy. You'll want to think about which kind is most practical for how often you'll need to use it.
- Store breast milk properly. Stored breast milk is the next best thing to fresh breast milk. But you'll need to know how to safely prepare breast milk for storage and how long you can keep it.
Pumping and your milk supply
If you often feed your baby pumped breast milk, your milk supply may decrease. This is because your body releases less prolactin than it does when you feed your baby at the breast. To help maintain your milk supply when you pump frequently:
- Breast-feed your baby whenever possible. For example, if you are working, breast-feed your baby frequently before you go to work in the morning, in the evening, and throughout the weekends.
- Keep a regular pumping schedule. Don't try to make up for missing a session by pumping longer at the next one. This can lead to breast engorgement and decreased milk production.
- Use a double electric pump, which expresses milk from both breasts at the same time.
- Talk to a lactation consultant about how to manage a decreasing milk supply.
You may sometimes doubt your ability to successfully breast-feed. It's common to have questions and struggles sometimes. You may notice that your baby is having problems. Or you may have problems during feeding or problems with your breasts. Remember, most breast-feeding issues are easily resolved when you know what to expect and have support from others, including your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.
Problems in babies
- Cold or flu. When your baby has a minor illness, such as a cold or the flu, continue breast-feeding. Breast milk is still the best nourishment.
- Digestive problems. Some foods may affect breast milk and contribute to intestinal gas or other digestive problems. If you suspect that your baby's crying gets worse after a feeding of breast milk, keep a record of what you eat and how your baby acts, especially when crying episodes occur. Some babies develop a cow's milk sensitivity. If this occurs, stop including milk and dairy products in your diet and talk to your doctor.
- Spitting up. Almost all babies spit up, especially newborns. Spitting up usually doesn't seem to cause the baby any discomfort. But if your baby spits up more often, cries, acts fussy, or has trouble eating, there may be a problem called gastroesophageal reflux.
If you have other concerns or aren't sure if you should see your baby's doctor, see When to Call a Doctor.
Feeding babies with special conditions
Some babies are born with problems that interfere with their ability to breast-feed right away. But many of these babies can be fed breast milk using special techniques, such as cup-feeding or a feeding device called a supplemental nursing system. Feeding a premature baby or a baby with cleft palate or cleft lip may be challenging. Your doctor or a lactation consultant can guide you on feeding techniques.
Problems during feeding
- Latching on. Sometimes it can be hard for your baby to latch on, but there are some techniques that can make latching on easier.
- Biting the nipple. When your baby's primary teeth start to come in, usually between 6 and 12 months of age, you both have to make a few adjustments. Your baby may have a temporary loss of appetite because his or her mouth is sore. Teething babies may bite the breast, not knowing that it causes pain. Usually, a firm "no" and a stern expression are enough to control this behavior. It may also help to stop breast-feeding when your baby is finished actively nursing and then give him or her cold teething items to chew on.
- Poor let-down. Practice some relaxation techniques, eat properly, and drink plenty of fluids. And try to breast-feed in comfortable, quiet, and familiar spots.
- Arousal during feeding. Some women notice that they become aroused during breast-feeding. Although this sensation is similar to a sexual response, it isn't sexually driven. It's your body's way of preparing for breast-feeding.
Problems in moms
- Being sick. You can keep breast-feeding when you have a minor illness (such as the flu or a cold). Try to rest as much as you can, and drink fluids. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about breast-feeding when you are sick or if you need to take prescription or over-the-counter medicines for your symptoms.
- Feeling depressed. Breast-feeding problems can be exaggerated if you have postpartum depression. Many women have some feelings of depression in the first few weeks after childbirth. This is commonly known as the "baby blues," and it usually resolves on its own. But some women's bodies respond to changing postpartum hormone levels with a lasting depression that requires treatment. Talk to your doctor if your baby is more than a few weeks old and you continue to have trouble sleeping (insomnia) or concentrating, or if you often feel sad, tearful, anxious, hopeless, or irritable.
- Breast and nipple changes. Many women notice differences in how their breasts look and feel during breast-feeding. Early changes (such as larger breasts) are related to the body's preparation for milk production. Other changes, such as a darker color and increased size of the areola (the dark circle around the nipple) and more prominent nipples, are sometimes permanent. Some women may have inverted nipples and may need help from a lactation consultant to get started with breast-feeding.
- Sore or cracked nipples. You can help relieve the pain from sore or cracked nipples by rubbing a few drops of breast milk on the nipple and areola and letting it dry completely. Try using a hair dryer on a low, cool setting to help your nipples dry more quickly. It may also help to apply pure lanolin cream on your nipples.
- Engorged breasts. You may have painful breasts and flattened nipples, making it hard for a baby to latch on for feeding. Gently massage your breasts and express or pump some milk to soften your nipple and areola before breast-feeding. This will help your baby latch deeper onto your breast, past your nipple and onto your areola. Wearing a supportive, well-fitting bra also may help. Applying cold compresses to your breasts now and then after breast-feeding may reduce swelling and pain. For more information, see the topic Breast Engorgement.
- Blocked milk ducts. Blocked milk ducts may cause a painful lump in the breast. Untreated blocked milk ducts can lead to an infection, which will require a visit to your doctor. Massage the affected area toward the nipple before breast-feeding and during feeding. This simple measure can help release the milk plug. Also, this is one time you should always feed your baby on the affected side first. Your baby is usually more eager at the start of a feeding. The stronger sucking force helps empty the breast and unblock the duct.
- Breast infections. These are treated with prescription medicines and home treatment. Infections that sometimes occur with breast-feeding include:
- A yeast infection, which may affect you and your baby. The baby often has white patches in his or her mouth (thrush) or a diaper rash, while your nipples may be extremely sore. You may also experience stabbing pains in your breast, especially as you start to breast-feed and in between feedings. You and your baby must both be treated with medicine, such as nystatin, for a yeast infection.
- Mastitis, which may cause a fever, flu-like symptoms, and pain in the breast with an inflamed, red, dimpled, or swollen area. An untreated infection may lead to an abscess, which can cause a firm, often painful mass in the breast. You may need to take an antibiotic medicine to treat the infection. For more information, see the topic Mastitis.
Most women can take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) and ibuprofen (such as Advil) while breast-feeding to help relieve discomfort from some of these problems. But talk to your doctor before taking any medicine (prescription or nonprescription).
- Leaking breast milk. Your let-down reflex may be stimulated unintentionally. Be prepared by using absorbent pads that you change frequently. You can use washable or disposable pads, but don't use pads that have a plastic backing.
- Low milk supply. More frequent breast-feeding usually helps increase the milk supply within 48 hours. You can also try pumping both breasts for 10 to 15 minutes each after you have just fed your baby. You should notice an increase in your milk supply after 2 to 4 days of the extra pumping. Other things can affect milk production, but it's rare to have a true milk deficiency. Contact a lactation consultant if you think your milk supply is too low.
- Relactation. Relactation means stimulating your body to again produce breast milk and start breast-feeding or taking measures to stimulate your body to produce breast milk when you have not been pregnant recently (such as for an adopted baby).
If you have other concerns or aren't sure if you should see your doctor, see When to Call a Doctor. For problems related to technique or positioning, you also can talk to or visit a lactation consultant.
When To Call a Doctor
Call your doctor now if you have:
- Increasing pain in one area of the breast.
- Increasing redness in one area of the breast or red streaks extending away from an area of the breast.
- Drainage of pus from the nipple or another area of the breast.
- A fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher.
Call your doctor today if you have:
- Breast problems, such as cracked and bleeding nipples or blisters on your nipples, that are not relieved by home treatment.
- A fever less than 101°F (38.3°C).
- Symptoms of postpartum depression, such as often feeling sad, tearful, anxious, hopeless, or irritable. Postpartum depression can make breast-feeding problems seem even worse.
- Swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck or armpit.
Call your doctor today if your baby:
- Is not eating well for any reason or has any of the following symptoms:
- A rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
- Fussiness or sleepiness that interferes with breast-feeding
- Weakness, listlessness, or lack of interest in feeding
- Thick, white patches in the mouth and cheeks, which are signs of a yeast infection (thrush), or signs of a diaper rash
- Shows signs of poor eating, such as:
- Not reaching his or her birth weight by 2 weeks of age or other signs of insufficient weight gain.
- Wetting fewer than 6 diapers a day.
- Passing little or no stool in the first 4 weeks, or passing stools that are dark green and contain mucus after the first few days. But it is normal for your baby to have fewer stools starting around 4 to 8 weeks of age. As long as stools remain soft and your baby is feeding well, it should not be a concern.
- Having problems latching on to the breast.
Other Places To Get Help
|American Academy of Pediatrics|
|141 Northwest Point Boulevard|
|Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098|
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a variety of educational materials about parenting, general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other organizations are also available.
|La Leche League International (LLLI)|
|957 North Plum Grove Road|
|Schaumburg, IL 60173|
La Leche League International (LLLI) offers information and encouragement—mainly through personal help—to all mothers who want to breast-feed their babies. It also offers support and information about breast-feeding babies with various disabilities, such as cleft lip or cleft palate. Call for information about a chapter in your area.
|March of Dimes|
|1275 Mamaroneck Avenue|
|White Plains, NY 10605|
The March of Dimes tries to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and early death. March of Dimes supports research, community services, education, and advocacy to save babies' lives. The organization's website has information on premature birth, birth defects, birth defects testing, pregnancy, and prenatal care.
|National Institute of Child Health and Human Development|
|P.O. Box 3006|
|Rockville, MD 20847|
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The NICHD conducts and supports research related to the health of children, adults, and families. NICHD has information on its Web site about many health topics. And you can send specific requests to information specialists.
|Office on Women's Health|
|Department of Health and Human Services|
|200 Independence Avenue, SW Room 712E|
|Washington, DC 20201|
The Office on Women's Health is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It provides women's health information to a variety of audiences, including consumers, health professionals, and researchers.
- Lawrence RM, Lawrence RA (2009). The breast and physiology of lactation. In RK Creasy et al., eds., Creasy and Resnik's Maternal-Fetal Medicine, 6th ed., pp. 125–142. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2011). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics, 128(5): 1030–1039.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Breastfeeding. In RE Kleinman, ed., Pediatric Nutrition Handbook, 6th ed., pp. 29–59. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Grummer-Strawn LM, Mei Z (2004). Does breastfeeding protect against pediatric overweight? Analysis of longitudinal data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System. Pediatrics, 113(2): e81–e86.
- Stuebe AM, et al. (2005). Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA, 294(20): 2601–2610.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding (2005). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2): 496–506.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0–3 years of age). Pediatrics, 126(5): 1040–1050. Available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/126/5/1040.
- Krebs NF, et al. (2011). Infant feeding section of Normal childhood nutrition and its disorders. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., chap. 10, pp. 277–288. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Martin RM, et al. (2005). Breastfeeding in infancy and blood pressure in later life: Systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 161(1): 15–26.
- Owen CG, et al. (2006). Does breastfeeding influence the risk of type 2 diabetes in later life? A quantitative analysis of published evidence. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84: 1043–1054.
- Stuebe AM, et al. (2005). Duration of lactation and incidence of type 2 diabetes. JAMA, 294(20): 2601–2610.
- Wagner CL, et al. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 122(5): 1142–1152.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology|
|Last Revised||October 31, 2011|
Last Revised: October 31, 2011
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