Breastfeeding & Lactation

Breastfeeding can be intimidating for new mothers and it’s natural to have many questions. Is there a “wrong way” to breastfeed a baby? How can you be sure the baby’s had enough? What happens if you get cracked and sore nipples? Do you need to stay away from specific foods that might contaminate any breast milk you pump?

It can sometimes be difficult for new moms to separate the facts from fiction on what’s best about the breast for babies. So how do you learn the tricks?

We sat down with lactation experts from the Lactation Center at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital to get their perspectives and insights into commonly asked questions.

When Should I Start Pumping — Especially if I Am Returning to Work?

  • If you have already been breastfeeding, you can begin pumping around four to five weeks. By then, breastfeeding is well-established. Also, you don’t need a stockpile. Just start pumping a couple weeks before you go back to work. Make sure to pump after feeding so you don’t interrupt the next feeding.
  • Make sure to pump any time your baby is getting a bottle. Your body learns how much milk to make based on what is removed. So, if your baby is getting a bottle, you are still making the milk and it needs to be removed. When bottles are given without mom pumping, it can decrease your supply.

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How Do I Know My Baby Is Getting Enough to Eat?

  • Things you can do include having weight checks with your baby’s doctor, listening for swallows, and monitoring wet and dirty diapers.
  • UPMC Magee offers forms to help you log your baby’s wet diapers and dirty diapers while you are at the hospital. It is good practice to continue tracking your baby’s output after discharge from the hospital.

How Often/How Long Do I Feed My Baby?

  • Use your baby’s cues. Babies will open their mouths and reach around when they are hungry. Some babies feed every 1.5 to 3 hours, but that can vary.
  • Everything depends on your individual infant; there is no true cut-off time. In the beginning, it is important to offer the breast within 3 hours of the last feeding. But any time your baby is showing hunger cues (sucking motions, sucking fingers, opening their mouth, etc.), it is time to feed the baby. We expect your baby to feed at least 8 to 12 times a day, so keep track of daily feedings. Baby’s feeding times will vary; it is best to watch your baby and feed them until they are satisfied. Make sure you try to feed on both sides.

When Can I Have Sushi, Sandwich Meat, or Soft Cheeses Again? Chocolate/Caffeine? Alcohol?

  • Moms can have sushi, lunch meat, soft cheeses, and chocolate after they deliver their baby. (We see a lot of cold cut hoagies and sushi being delivered to Magee!)
  • Caffeine is okay to consume in moderation. Caffeine is present in breastmilk, but small amounts shouldn’t affect your baby.
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation can be okay when you are breastfeeding. Reach out to a lactation consultant to get guidelines to help you make informed decisions regarding alcohol consumption.

What Can I Do About Sore Nipples/Sore Breasts?

  • Tenderness while breastfeeding can be normal in the beginning. Most of the time, pain is coming from a shallow latch; ask a lactation consultant to get some support.
  • If you are in too much pain when feeding, or your nipples and/or breasts are sore for a few days, call the Lactation Center at 412-641-1121 for an observed feeding.

What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?

Focus on a well-balanced diet, with fluids to keep hydrated. You can pretty much eat anything, but a well-balanced diet is going to help you feel your best.

Will I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

It is possible to lose weight because your body will be burning calories by making milk. But it really depends on your diet and activity level.

Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips from our experts:

  • “Practice. Practice. Practice.”
  • “A lot of mothers think they need the right gear, but if you can just find a comfortable spot, that’s all you need. Your baby doesn’t mind.”
  • “Patience!”
  • “Relax and enjoy! It’s meant to be a bonding experience.”
  • “Reach out to the Magee Lactation Center for support if you have questions or concerns that things aren’t going well. We have telemedicine visits as well as in-person visits for hands-on help.”

For more information about the Lactation Center or to schedule an appointment, call 412-641-1121.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.