8 Breastfeeding Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask
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8 Breastfeeding Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask

Can you really pump and dump? And can you drink caffeine and breastfeed?

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By Olivia DeLong

Among the host of questions new mothers face, many revolve around breastfeeding. And it’s worth getting up to speed on the ins and outs, since breastfeeding is the recommended feeding method for most moms and babies.

You may be wondering if you’ll have to change your diet to enhance the quality of your breast milk, if as an adoptive mother you can breastfeed—or if you can have a glass of wine while nursing.

We talked with lactation consultant and childbirth educator Teresa Merritt, RN, of Parkridge Health System in Chattanooga, Tennessee to get the answers to your most pressing questions, whether you’re a new mom or mommy-to-be.

Can you really pump and dump?

2 / 9 Can you really pump and dump?

If you’re eager to have a glass of wine after abstaining for nine months, you’ve probably heard the term “pump and dump,” which refers to the process of expressing your breast milk, then discarding it if you’ve had alcohol to drink.

But is doing so really necessary?

It depends, says Merritt.

The alcohol level in your milk is about the same as the level in your blood, therefore pumping and dumping doesn’t speed removal of alcohol from milk. If you have one drink, you’ll need to wait two hours before it clears your body and you can safely breastfeed your baby, but it’s unlikely you’ll need to pump and dump.

However, if, you do have multiple drinks or you have alcohol right before you need to express your milk, you may need to pump and discard your milk, says Merritt. When your breasts fill with milk, it may become painful as you approach your typical expression schedule, so you’ll want to pump. Keep in mind that having two or more drinks would take about 4 to 5 hours to clear the body. Consuming more than one alcoholic beverage per day is not recommended since it has the potential to hamper an infant’s growth and development.

Avoiding alcohol while breastfeeding is the safest option, but if you do choose to drink, it’s important that you do so responsibly and keep track of how long it’s been since you had something to drink when compared to your feeding schedule.

Can you breastfeed and drink caffeine?

3 / 9 Can you breastfeed and drink caffeine?

As is the case with consuming caffeine during pregnancy, having moderate amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding may be okay for most women. However, your doctor may recommend you avoid caffeine (or significantly limit it) right after your child is born or if your child was born premature.

If you do have caffeine, stick to 200 milligrams (about 2, 8-ounce cups of coffee) or less per day and talk with your doctor to be sure it’s okay for you and your baby, as some babies are more sensitive to caffeine than others and experience irritability or sleeping problems.

How should moms handle breastfeeding around other kids?

4 / 9 How should moms handle breastfeeding around other kids?

If you have other little ones at home, you may be wondering how you’re going to approach the subject of breastfeeding. They’re likely to ask questions about what you’re doing and why, and it’s likely they’ll hang around to watch breastfeeding sessions, too.

Merritt says approaching it straightforwardly is best: “You can explain that this is something amazing mommies can do.” And you can also emphasize how incredible our bodies are, she adds.

Are there certain diet recommendations for breastfeeding moms?

5 / 9 Are there certain diet recommendations for breastfeeding moms?

It’s always important to fuel your body with a variety of nutritious foods, especially while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. With that in mind, there are some things you may want to know when it comes to your eating habits and nursing.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, some studies show that a woman’s diet quality is directly related to the nutritional quality of her breast milk.

It’s best to stick with whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains and to avoid foods high in added sugars and saturated fats like soda, packaged desserts and fried foods.

When it comes to seafood, aim for 2 to 3 servings per week, but avoid fish with high amounts of mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and Ahi tuna. You should also check for local fish advisories in your area.

Multivitamins cannot replace a nutritious diet, but they are recommended for some women. Talk with your doctor to learn if supplements are right for you.

Lastly, staying hydrated is very important while breastfeeding—many moms even notice that they are thirstier when nursing. To make sure you’re drinking enough fluids, some experts recommend drinking a glass of water every time you breastfeed. If your urine is dark yellow, that’s usually a sign you need to drink more water, too.

How can a mother know when her baby is getting enough to eat?

6 / 9 How can a mother know when her baby is getting enough to eat?

Merritt says there’s not a day that goes by that a parent doesn’t ask her this question—and she usually gets asked this question a dozen times a day.

In short, the term “milk drunk” can be helpful when trying to understand your child’s hunger: “You can tell when your newborn has had enough to eat because they will look like they are in a drowsy and relaxed state, says Merritt. “At the beginning of a feeding, their hands are likely to be curled up and tight and they’ll appear more alert. By the end of the feeding, their hands will soften and open up, and they’ll be more relaxed.”

For reference, most newborns have an average of 8 to 12 feedings per day, or a feeding every two to three hours. During feedings, most babies breastfeed 10 to 15 minutes on each breast. Of course, these are the average numbers, and every baby is different.

Another way to gauge if your child is getting enough to eat is by observing his or her diaper. The frequency varies from baby to baby, but it’s normal to see a bowel movement soon after every feeding, less as they get older. In newborns, urination should occur every one to three hours or as little as four to six times a day. If your child is having less than four wet diapers a day or irregular bowel movements, see your doctor.

Can women who are breastfeeding get pregnant?

7 / 9 Can women who are breastfeeding get pregnant?

Most doctors recommend waiting at least a month after giving birth to start having sex again. Your body is going to need time to heal and it’s likely you may not feel up to it until then (or even later).

Once you do start having sex again, it is possible (even though you’re breastfeeding) for you to get pregnant if you’re not using some form of birth control. There is a long-standing method that involves breastfeeding as a natural form of birth control, called lactation amenorrhea. Most physicians do not recommend this method, however, as there are many circumstances that affect whether it can prevent pregnancy, such as the number of feedings a baby has and the women’s cycle history, says Merritt.

Talk with your OBGYN about which birth control method is right for you, and always consult with your doctor before having sex following a C-section or vaginal birth.

Does breast surgery restrict women from breastfeeding?

8 / 9 Does breast surgery restrict women from breastfeeding?

Many women often wonder if a previous breast or nipple surgery, like breast reduction, lifts or augmentation will impact their chances of being able to breastfeed. The answer depends on the type of surgery you had, says Merritt, since some surgeries affect milk supply more than others.

The good news is that regardless of the type of surgery, most women will be able to breastfeed in some capacity.

Most breast surgeries involve cutting the breast’s milk ducts and nerves, so that’s why there is the potential for breastfeeding issues later on. Whether you’ve had breast reduction or breast augmentation surgery, if the nipple and areola were not removed from the breast, you’re less likely to have milk supply issues.

If you’ve had breast surgery, you’ll want to monitor your baby to make sure they’re gaining the recommended amounts of weight (see the chart here) and if not, you may need to supplement with formula or donor milk, or you will need to work with a lactation consultant to learn about other ways of increasing milk production, such as hand expression, pumping and medications or relaxation exercises.

Can women who adopt breastfeed?

9 / 9 Can women who adopt breastfeed?

Nowadays, there are many breastfeeding options even for moms who’ve adopted.

Although they have not been approved for lactation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, certain medications such as metoclopramide that are usually used to treat other health conditions can stimulate milk production. Some mothers also have used herbal medications meant to help with milk supply. Remember, though, that herbal supplements are not regulated in the United States and you should consult with your doctor before using them.

In addition to any recommended medications, you’ll need to start stimulating your nipples and breasts with a breast pump device every two or three hours starting about a month before the baby arrives. The more you do it, the more milk you will produce. Talk with your doctor about how and when to get started.

Then, once the baby arrives, many adoptive mothers will also need to augment their breastmilk with a supplemental nursing system (SNS), a device that uses your breastmilk, a donor’s milk or formula to transfer milk to your child. Tubes are connected to your breasts so that when you begin nursing your baby, they’ll receive both your milk and the milk from the SNS device at the same time.

Again, the most important thing to do is to start thinking about whether or not you want to breastfeed as an adoptive mother early on, and talk with your doctor about your options.