Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms

By Dr. Alana J. Arnold

Breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that one of the reasons there is such emphasis on supporting breastfeeding families is because breastfeeding has many benefits for both mothers and their babies.

Breastfeeding helps to boost a baby’s immune system because the mother is able to pass along internal antibodies through breast milk. The increased skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding also helps to enhance the bonding between mother and baby — which research has shown is incredibly important for a child’s development.

Breastfeeding also helps women shed some of the weight gained during pregnancy.

Tips for breastfeeding
While breastfeeding is beneficial, it can also be challenging, especially for new mothers. The breastfeeding experience can be drastically different with each child.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions I’m often asked:

Can I still have an alcoholic drink while breastfeeding?
Yes, you can have an alcoholic drink. Just make sure you wait at least 2 hours after each alcoholic drink before initiating breastfeeding. I would recommend not breastfeeding if you don’t feel completely back to yourself after the alcoholic drink. Some moms take longer to process the alcohol, so playing it safe is always best for you and your baby.

How about marijuana?
Some studies show that THC can be passed through the breastmilk. However, there are not enough studies to know and understand the real risks. Therefore, until more research can be done, it’s best to refrain from marijuana use while breastfeeding.

How long should my baby be feeding?
Every baby is different, and it may vary as your baby grows and gets older. Initially, it may take your baby longer as they work on their latching ability. Generally, most babies feed on each breast for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.

How often do I need to breastfeed?
Again, this can vary based on the baby. During a child’s first six months of life, their main job is to eat. When they’re not eating, they tend to sleep in between feedings. Generally, you can expect to feed your baby every two-three hours in those first weeks to months of life.

What things should I be doing to ensure the best breastfeeding experience?

  1. Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water and get as much rest as you can.
  2. If your baby is having trouble latching, ask for help. There are many resources and people available to help you – starting with your doctor.
  3. Don’t get discouraged if it’s harder in the first few days or weeks, or harder than you thought it would be. Stick with it and get help. Lactation consultants and specialists may be able to offer tips, tricks, and advice to help address any challenges.
  4. Experiment with the ways you position yourself and your baby during breastfeeding to find what works best for you both.

When should I start feeding my baby table food?
The recommended age to start feeding babies table food has changed a bit in recent years, and we recommend more of a general age range instead of a specific time.

Generally, it’s not recommended to start a baby on table food until they are five months old. Aside from this general age guidance, you should make the decision based on if they are developmentally ready. Before starting a baby on table food, they should be able to sit up, hold up their head with good control, and open and close their mouth when encouraged to.

Be sure to discuss your plans to start your baby on table food with their pediatrician, as they can offer the best advice based on your child’s medical history.

Is there anything I should watch out for?
If your baby develops a rash or has blood in their stool, it could be a sign that they have an allergic reaction to something in your diet. Talk to your pediatrician and keep a food log to try to pinpoint what is causing the reaction.

Be sure to burp your baby well after they feed and try not to jostle them around for about an hour after they eat. The food should settle first to avoid excessive spit ups.

Also, if breastfeeding becomes painful or your nipples become irritated, red, or have pus draining – notify your doctor because you may have an infection.

At the end of the day, do your best and do what feels right for you and your baby, and enjoy this very special time with your child.

Alana J. Arnold, MD, MBA, is the medical director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Jackson North Medical Center. She is also an affiliated assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine.