The 33 Things You Need To Know About Breastfeeding
You have questions about breastfeeding.
I have the answers.
While I am no medical professional, I am an experienced breastfeeding mama!
I want to help you feel ready for breastfeeding!
You don’t want to ask your friends and sound silly but… you want to know the nitty-gritty on this whole breastfeeding thing.
- What does breastfeeding feel like?
- Do you do something to make the milk come out?
- Will breastfeeding hurt?
I answer these questions (and more) below.
Unlike normal, I did not do doing hours of research for this post. I wanted to give insight primarily from my experience to give you unrefined and real answers. You will find helpful articles attached to almost every question for more information.
Let’s dive in!
All About Nipples: Breastfeeding FAQ’s
Does pumping hurt your nipples?
In the very beginning, everything will hurt your nipples. But after a little while, your body will get used to breastfeeding/pumping and it won’t hurt anymore. If pumping continues to hurt your nipples, talk to a lactation consultant for help.
More Resources: Ouch! What If Pumping Hurts? by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC
Do you have to put your baby on your nipple or do they know where to go?
For the first month or two, you may need to help your baby get properly latched. Babies are inexperienced nurslings and sometimes need the assistance of mom. Once your baby gets a little bit older, don’t you worry, he/she will know exactly where to go. Get your baby remotely close to your nipples and he/she will try to latch – even through a shirt!
A few helpful videos of real moms helping baby latch or allowing baby to self-latch:
- Newborn baby-led latching and the longer educational version of the same mom/baby
- Cradle Hold Mom-led latching educational video and shorter hands-on example
How can I open my nipples for breastfeeding?
You do not need to do anything to open your nipples for breastfeeding. I might be alone in this but before I started breastfeeding, I thought that there is one large hole in nipples that milk would come out. Nope! There are a bunch of tiny little holes all over your nipple that will
Can you breastfeed with small nipples?
Yes! One of the lactation consultants that we met with explained to me the various sizes of breasts and nipples that she had worked with. She said that looks simply do not matter. Your baby will figure out how to nurse on your shape and size- go by how it feels. Is it hurting? Is your baby gaining weight? If it is not hurting you, your baby is gaining weight, but nursing looks different than other moms- so be it. Own those small nipples, girl!
For my personal experience with this, (dad, that’s your cue to scroll faster) I was always afraid that my nipples were too small or flat to nurse. To be 100% honest, I had a lot of growing pains in the first week or two of my breastfeeding journey. As my daughter nursed and I pumped, my nipples got elongated. Your body will adapt to what your baby needs!
More Information: Flat or Inverted Nipples by Le Leche League
All About Boobs: Breastfeeding FAQ’s
Do your boobs get really swollen and huge between every time your baby nurses?
Initially, yes. In the first six weeks, your body regulates milk production. Your body will be very sensitive to feeding patterns while learning the needs of your baby. In the in-between times, your body will store up milk so that at any moment your baby has plenty to drink. But, don’t worry, you won’t ever run out of milk. Our body is constantly making more milk, it is just visibly noticeable the longer the time is between nursing/pumping.
More information: Frequently Asked Questions About Milk Production by KellyMom
Did it hurt when you started nursing?
Yes! Our daughter had oral ties (see towards
For the first week or two, it is completely normal for breastfeeding to be uncomfortable as your body adjusts to having a little human sucking on your nipples.
After that, there may be up to 30 seconds at the start of each nursing session (when your baby latches) that are a little painful. Breastfeeding should not hurt so bad that your toes curl or you are crying every session.
If you are having prolonged painful nursing sessions, seek help from a lactation consultant immediately!
More information: Sore nipples or breasts? Here’s Help… by KellyMom
How can I unclog my milk ducts naturally?
Here are some of the go-to home remedies for plugged ducts:
- Take a hot shower and massage your breasts in the shower.
- Wrap hot washcloths around your breasts while pumping or hand expressing.
- Nurse extra!
- Take sunflower lecithin. L
ecithinbreaks down fat molecules and so it will make your milk thinner and easier to travel through your breast.
If it any point, you see constant redness or streaking on your breast, contact your doctor. You may have mastitis, which is infection in the breast caused by clogged ducts.
More information: Plugged Ducts and Mastitis by KellyMom
How do you get rid of breast engorgement?
Breast engorgement comes with the territory of newborn days. Though you may be uncomfortable, don’t give in to the temptation to pump for longer than 5-10 minutes. Your body will take pumping as a signal that you need more milk, therefore, creating a bigger problem. Try to hand express a little or use a Hakaa hand pump. (affiliate link)
More information: Engorgement by KellyMom
Wait, one breast leaks milk while the other side nurses?
While you nurse on one side, the other side may leak a little bit. This is especially true if your breasts are very full. When you have a letdown, your body lets down on both sides- even though your baby is only nursing on one side.
Is it okay if my baby only nurses on one side?
Occasionally, your baby will only want to nurse on one side. That’s OK! Sometimes your baby will get too full from one side and simply can’t drink anymore. If your baby starts refusing one breast, consult a lactation consultant.
Be sure to alternate sides each session if your baby is only nursing from one side. Pump on the side that was not nursed from to maintain supply.
What is block feeding?
Block feeding is when you nurse on only one breast for 3+ hours before switching to the other breast. This technique is used for slowing down milk production. Please consult a lactation consultant before deciding to do block feeding. You can seriously mess up your milk supply if you do block feeding unnecessarily.
More information: Block Feeding Dos & Don’ts by Nancy Mohrbacher
Can flat-breasted mothers breastfeed a baby?
Totally! There is a teensy tiny percentage of women who physically cannot breastfeed but it VERY rarely has anything to do with the size or shape of the breast.
More information: Storage Capacity by KellyMom
Will I leak milk all day long?
Not necessarily. For the first several weeks, you might experience quite a bit of leaking. You could start leaking randomly throughout the day but definitely expect to leak in the night. Once your body is used to your babies typical eating routine, you will not experience very much leaking.
More about leaking at KellyMom.
Basics To Breastfeeding: Most Common FAQ’s
How much milk do you make?
Your body will make exactly how much milk your baby needs at the time.
- If your baby is sick or has hit a growth spurt and nursing more often, your body will make more milk.
- If your baby isn’t nursing as often, your body will respond by making less milk.
More information about milk production by KellyMom.
How long does it take for your pregnant-looking postpartum belly to go away?
The large pregnant-looking belly goes away gradually over the first several weeks postpartum. I had excess weight at six weeks but no longer had the distended pregnant looking belly.
How often should I breastfeed?
I tell everyone I know to read Tracy Hogg’s book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (aff. link). This book is a comprehensive guide to babyhood, including how much milk your baby needs and how often at each age. I borrowed this book from our library and ended up buying it the next day. She answers every question there is about babyhood, including many breastfeeding questions.
What does a let down feel like?
First off, a let down is when your body is releasing milk in a heavy flow. Some women never feel let down and for others, it is so strong that it feels a little painful.
I describe letdown to feel like a strong tingling and panging sensation.
Does breastfeeding get easier?
Thankfully, yes! In the beginning, both you and your baby are learning how to breastfeed. There is definitely a learning curve! As both of you mature in your skills, it will get easier and it will feel like you have always known how to breastfeed.
How long should a baby breastfeed per session?
To keep this answer short, it depends on your babies age. As your baby gets older, he/she will become more and more efficient at the breast. Refer to Tracy Hogg’s book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems (aff. link) for helpful breastfeeding guidelines.
How long does it take for milk to come in?
Your milk will gradually transition from colostrum to mature milk around 3-4 days after birth.
How do you know if your milk has come in?
When you milk transitions to mature milk,
- your breasts will feel heavier.
- you may become engorged.
- you might experience more leaking.
- the milk looks thinner than colostrum and is white.
Can milk come in before baby is born?
Yep! Your body starts making colostrum anywhere between 16-22 weeks pregnant.
More information on milk “coming in” by KellyMom
What is colostrum?
Colostrum is the first kind of milk that your body will make after your baby is born. It is nicknamed liquid gold because it is so nutrient dense and has a beautiful golden yellow color.
- It is higher in protein than mature breast milk.
- Most moms will only produce an ounce of colostrum in the first 24 hours which is plenty for a newborn. Crazy, right?
- Your baby’s stomach is about the size of a marble and will only need 1 teaspoon of colostrum each feeding.
- Colostrum seals baby’s immature gut lining and clears the digestive tract.
- It boosts immune system and repairs the body.
Read more about colostrum on Mama Natural’s article, Colostrum: The Mind-Blowing Superfood for Your Baby.
All About Pumping: Breastfeeding FAQ’s
How many times a day do I need to pump while breastfeeding?
If you are planning to exclusively breastfeed (EBF), then you do not need to worry about pumping. You might want to pump every once in a while so that you have a few bottles worth for a night out.
Do I need to pump?
That all depends on what you want to do! If you are a stay at home mom and are EBF, then you really don’t need to pump.
You will need to pump so that you have milk to leave with
Full-time working moms may need to consider exclusively pumping.
Is it important to have a freezer stash?
I stressed about having a freezer stash and I really don’t know why. I didn’t necessarily need to have a freezer stash because I seldom leave our baby with a sitter. It also doesn’t help that she won’t take a bottle.
What do I do with all of this frozen milk? Did you end up with a huge freezer stash of milk that you don’t need?
- Donate your milk!
- Use it in food preparation as your baby transitions to solid food.
- Make soaps and lotions with it. Pinterest has plenty of cool recipes to use!
Giggle-Worthy FAQ’s… we’re all adults here, right?
What does a mom feel when she breastfeeds her child? Does it change from when her partner sucks and nibbles her breasts?
Breastfeeding and foreplay are in such different categories mentally that they feel different physically. There is nothing erotic about feeding your baby- it feels natural and calming. Physically, breastfeeding feels like tiny little tugs on your nipple.
Should mothers breastfeed in public?
Totally! I think it is personal preference if you want to wear a cover or not while breastfeeding.
I wear a cover in certain public settings, but in others, I do not cover up.
Something I have learned is that most people do not care if you nurse your baby in public… and if they do care, no one has mentioned it to me so far.
Do women decide when to lactate? For example, during foreplay, my lover makes me drink her breast milk but I’ve heard women have to do something in order to lactate.
Women don’t decide to lactate. The milk is always ready. So, if you coax it out, it is there. If you are squeezing or sucking on a lactating mothers breast, milk will come out.
Is breast milk best or is it all hype by the pro-lactation activists?
Scientific research aside, one thing that proves to me that breast milk is best is formula companies constant reformulations. Formula companies work very hard to try to emulate the components of breastmilk. Breastmilk is so very complex and perfectly designed that it cannot be recreated easily.
How do breastfeeding women feel about people sitting next to them in public?
I don’t care if people sit next to me! I appreciate when people treat me normally while I breastfeed in public.
Like, don’t treat me like I have the bubonic plague when you see that I’m nursing, okay?
Does drinking alcohol while breastfeeding affect the baby? If she’s under 6 months?
The guideline is that if you’re sober enough to drive, then you are safe to breastfeed your baby-regardless of the baby’s age. That said, limit to 1-2 drinks and only once per week. Daily alcohol consumption (even just one drink), is shown to increase the risk of slow infant weight gain and decrease gross motor development.
More information: Breastfeeding and Alcohol by KellyMom
A Word About Tongue and Lip Ties
We had a very challenging time with nursing in the early days.
Every nurse that came in our room at the hospital helped us with breastfeeding. Each one taught us a different technique or offered a different reason why my baby wasn’t nursing well. So confusing!
It wasn’t until we saw our first lactation consultant that we discovered our daughter’s oral ties. She recommended we get it clipped as soon as possible at our pediatrician’s office.
Our daughter got her tongue tie clipped at three days old. A
After many more visits with lactation consultants, we were referred to a dentist that does frenectomies by laser.
At two weeks old, she had her laser frenectomy. A
Long story short, find an experienced lactation consultant in your area if you suspect your child has oral ties.
Resources For Breastfeeding Help
My sweet grandmother sent this book to me when I was in the thick of newborn breastfeeding struggles. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding saved me! Put it on your baby registry and if it isn’t purchased, buy it for yourself!!
Seriously, you won’t want to be without it.
As you may have noticed, many of the resources on this post were by KellyMom. This site is an excellent free resource for nursing mothers!
Didn’t see your question? Ask in the comments!