December 15, 2010 (3:02 pm)

9 Breastfeeding Questions Answered (And Then Some…)

by Kristen Suzanne

Breastfeeding is such a magical experience. Truly one of the best I’ll ever have in my life. I cherish each and every time Kamea wants to feed. But. It wasn’t always easy. Those first few weeks were a learning curve compounded by postpartum fatigue, painful nipples at times, anxiety over whether Kamea was feeding enough, and trying to get a great latch. I’m so glad (seriously… soooo glad!) that I kept at it and stuck it out. The reward has been enormous. I remember one time during the beginning where I had nipple pain and was thinking of ways on how to endure another nursing session. Then, a friend of mine via Twitter wrote to me about how there were times she cried while nursing and she squeezed her husband’s hand to get through it, but that it was temporary and would get better – she promised. Now, I don’t want to scare any mamas away with the thought of crying while breastfeeding. I doubt this happens often. I had tenderness in the beginning weeks, but it seemed to go away as quickly as it came. But, you know me… I keep it real on this blog. Breastfeeding had its challenges for me in the beginning. On top of the tenderness, Kamea liked to feed every couple of hours much of the time. This meant very little sleep for me and very little anything else. Who cares I thought? I had a baby! My happiness trumped any breastfeeding discomfort I had. (Besides, side-lying breastfeeding while co-sleeping is a dream come true – in more ways than one.)

Kamea nursing in the side-lying position. Pure joy.

And, as I wrote, it got better. And better. And better. Now, I can’t wait for those moments to connect with my daughter.

Averie with her daughter, Skylar

So. I wanted to share some helpful information for all of the breastfeeding mamas out there. I asked one of my dear friends, Averie*, if she would mind answering a few questions for us. Oops… those “few” questions quickly turned into 9 questions, of which some had multiple questions. Sorry, Averie, my bad. Thank you so much for being a trooper though and answering them all. You rock the lactation house!

Here we go!

1) Everywhere I turn, when looking for details on what I “should and should not eat” while breastfeeding, it seems there is contradictory information (wheat, soy, citrus, garlic, broccoli, kale, beans, avocado, pineapple, etc – to name a few that I found mixed reviews about.). At the end of the day, it looks like the only things that are safe to eat are cucumbers, apples, and bananas. I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. When I was first starting out, I would google a food to see if it was safe for breastfeeding and I could usually find a site saying it was not a good idea or it could cause problems with baby’s digestion. (Let’s ignore caffeine, alcohol, etc – I know those are bad.) So, in your opinion, is there a list of true no-no’s that a mama should avoid eating while breastfeeding? And, does this change over time? For example, if I avoided chocolate or beans in the first few months, could I eat them in later months?

There are no foods a mother should absolutely avoid just because she is nursing. Some foods a mother may find may bother her baby such as cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc), but until a mom notices that yes, this food is definitely not agreeing with my baby, eat it and enjoy! So-called “gassy” foods have no more potential to cause gas in a baby, i.e. beans, broccoli, cabbage, because milk is made from what passes through mother’s blood, not from what passes through her stomach or digestive tract. Again, if you notice an issue with certain foods and your baby, do what you see fit but don’t swear off certain foods just because of what you’re “heard.”

2) Talk to me about colostrum and those first days of breastfeeding before a mama’s milk comes in. Can you allay any fears about baby getting enough when they consume so little in the way of quantity?

See this chartAnd realize that most women produce enough milk.  Make sure the diaper counts are there, that you are nursing frequently which means at least 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period (not 6 to 8 times in a 24 hour period) in those early days.  Make sure the baby is gaining weight (note a slight weight loss of 5-7% is normal), but trust in the biology of our bodies to support our babies from our milk.

3) Do you have some recommended galactagogues for mamas not producing enough milk?

Fenugreek, fenugreek seed, anise/fennel, fennel seed, alfalfa, ginger, oats/oatmeal – common and easy to find almost anywhere. Also effective and most any health food store or Whole Foods will have these: astragalus, blessed thistle, chasteberry, flaxseed oil, Goat’s Rue, hops, nettles, red raspberry leaf tea. More Milk Plus Tinctures and Capsules by Motherlove are excellent and contain a balanced blend of herbs.

Note that some of the “nursing teas” on the market contain peppermint or mint which can reduce supply in some women (the opposite effect of what they intended).

4) What do you think about pumping? Should a mama stick to breastfeeding on demand, only from the breast? Or, should a mama pump and freeze some in case of emergency? Is there any truth to nipple confusion if a baby has a bottle and breastmilk from the breast?

In a perfect world, baby would be at breast and a mom wouldn’t have to pump but some women have to return to work, or for whatever their particular situation, the mother needs to pump. I wouldn’t recommend introducing bottles until about 4-6 weeks but after that, most babies will go between breast and bottle. For babies who won’t take a bottle or will only “drink from the tap,” these babies are not confused, i.e. nipple confusion.  No, not at all!  These babies have a preference to nurse directly from mom because nursing is more than just being about eating. It’s about being close to mom, too!

For babies who get used to a bottle and then seem to not want to nurse, again, they are not confused. They develop a flow preference, i.e. some babies prefer the very fast flow of bottles over the slower flow and sucking work it takes to extract milk from the human breast.

Babies are very smart, they are not “confused” in either case.  For any moms who have need to pump or pumping questions, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this group.  The archives are magnificent and just like every every health and fitness tip has already been shared on healthy living blogs, every pumping tip, question, concern, and then some has been shared here.  Join if you’re a pumping mom.

5) If a mama notices that she’s not feeding enough on one side and therefore milk production seems to be decreasing on that side, what can she do to get it back to normal? This happened to me because I traditionally sleep most of the night nursing Kamea with my right breast and not as much from my left.

Nurse on that side first.  Make the baby really drain that side. And each time baby wants to nurse, start on that side. Really put the demand on that side. If this means pumping that side, too, (or pump both breasts while you’re at it and sitting there anyway), then pump. Nursing is about putting the demand on the breasts and the supply will follow. Breastmilk production is demand-supply driven, not the other way around. You must put the demand on first, supply will follow.

6) What is best – letting boobs hang out all day (when at home) so there is no bra restricting them? Or do you recommend wearing a bra for constant support?

Whatever is comfortable for mom! Do what is comfortable and if you are wearing a bra, don’t wear underwires in the very early days of nursing and if/when you are transitioning from a soft cotton non-wire bra to an underwire, make sure the wire is not poking your breasts anywhere or it could lead to a plugged duct. Also make sure your bra at any stage of nursing is not too tight. Overly compressing the breasts could reduce supply in some women and frankly, overly snug and tight bras just aren’t comfortable for most nursing moms.

7) I’ve heard that some babies / toddlers will bite mama while feeding. What can be done about this?

Most babies will bite at some time. It happens. If you have given birth, really, a bite is livable. Babies bite for all different reasons; teething, sleepy, the flow isn’t fast enough, the baby wants to get a reaction out of mom, the baby is done nursing, etc. Take the baby off breast, end the nursing session for awhile, and try again later.

This page is very helpful.  Again, it happens, but don’t let the “fear of baby biting” prevent you from nursing. More information here.

8) What tips or tricks do you have for breastfeeding in public?

Just do it! I am fortunate to live in Southern California where nursing in public is extremely common and people don’t even bat an eye. Nursing in public is one of those societal consciousness things, though. The more that women nurse in public, the more other women will see it and nurse as well, and the more that younger women and new moms will see it and nurse too.  There is nothing to be afraid of.  This is not sexual.  This is feeding your child.  Don’t be afraid to feed your child!

Most states have laws protecting a woman’s right to nurse in public, and employment laws regarding nursing on the job or being given adequate pumping breaks.  See this chart (and per #4, see the Pumpmoms Group and related archives for any pumping at work questions).

One thing I will mention about nursing in public is that it’s best to NOT wear one of those massive cover-up things that look like mom is wearing a small tent around her, or one of those apron-like contraptions. I won’t use the brand name. That just brings attention like a flashing neon light: “something is going ON underneath that tent/apron. Wonder what it is?!  Oh, she’s NURSING under there. Oooooh. Let me stare!” (Pardon my interruption, it’s Kristen here, but I agree with Averie on this. I tried one of those “covers” on and Greg looked at me and said I looked like a butcher. If a woman is wearing one of those to be discreet, the opposite is achieved in my opinion.)

Instead, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself and just don’t wear one. Casually lift your shirt, latch your baby, and then just pull your shirt down around the top of your baby’s head.  It will look like you are cradling/holding your sleeping baby, not nursing him. Practice in front of a mirror at home. Nursing does not have to be a flesh-flashing show. I nursed until my daughter was 3 and many times people would come up to me, right on top of me, and practically ask to hold my baby, because they thought I was just cradling her. Wrong. She was latched and nursing. You have to practice a bit to make it look easy and not flash the world, but again, practice at home in front of a mirror and then, just go out and do it. Baby needs to eat, mom needs to let baby eat. It just boils down to that basically!

9) Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Nursing is not necessarily easy, nor “natural,”  for many women. And, the early days of nursing can be downright rough and you may wonder what you have gotten yourself into! Promise yourself you won’t quit in the middle of the night. Everything is better in the morning. And really, give yourself and your baby at least 4-6 weeks before you quit, if at all possible. Most of the kinks are worked out after 6 weeks and then it truly does become natural and second nature.

Some women say that being pregnant was the most amazing experience of their life. For me, nursing was the most amazing experience. I had to overcome a series of challenges, and in the process learned so much about nursing, which is why, in part, I decided to pursue becoming a CLEC. Nursing is just such a wonderful thing and I hope all women feel this way and try to nurse their baby. The gift you are giving your baby, and yourself, is something you and your baby will cherish forever!


Averie (Love Veggies And Yoga – her blog) is a Certified Lactation Counselor-Educator (CLEC) through the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
*The advice and information I provide is not intended to replace that of personal advice or consultation from your doctor, nurse, midwife, pediatrician, lactation consultant or other health care professional.  Nor is the information I provide going to fit every mother/baby dyad in every circumstance, or for those who are experiencing special or extreme circumstances. Rather, it’s intended to be helpful to a majority of women in the majority of situations, but nothing can replace one-on-one in person advice from a trusted, local medical professional, so consult with one as needed.

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  • bitt

    I have been impressing seeing my sister breastfeed despite LOTS of pressure from the older generations to quit. It seems it just wasn’t encouraged with my parents and grandparents. Kudos to the moms who can do it and do it well!

  • Lauren519

    Wow!!! This is great! Thanks so much Kristen and Averie! I loooove nursing! It's so rewarding to see my baby get nourishment from me and the bonding in amazing. :) I've loved it since the first time she latched (which was very quickly, she was a natural). And now that I am not in pain (LOL) it's even better!

  • Averiesunshine

    Awww, Kristen, thank you so much for asking me to guest post on your blog about nursing! It truly is something I am so passionate about and I hope that your readers find this post informative and helpful.

    I love the picture of you nursing Kamea…so tender and special :)

  • Laury @TheFitnessDish

    Great Post Kristen and Averie!! I am a first time mom, so this is JUST the advice I am needing to prepare for my babies arrival!!!! Averie, it's interesting to know you nursed until Skylar was 3! My sister in law is still nursing my nephew at 2, which I think is great because it's so healthy for her and the baby…but I know my in laws have a different view on it, they think it's inappropriate at this point…so it's good to know that you did it so late as well!

    Thanks for all the info!

  • Brooke B

    This is a great post! A lot of my friends gave up before 6 weeks because they were so discouraged. However, none of them made breastfeeding a priority nor did they try to seek help with La Leche League or a lactation consultant.

    My mom always tells me the story about when I was just born. She used to cry at night when she heard me crying because her nipples were so sore. She breastfed me for 6 months until my twin sisters came. She pushed through the hardships and I am so thankful ;-)

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thanks! Breast is best, but, in my opinion, even pumping is better than nothing. At least baby gets breast milk one way or another.

    Sent from my iPad

  • Ashley

    I think comments about people not trying hard enough and that's why it doesn't work are not cool. I tried to breastfeed and it was the single worst experience since I have become a parent. My children had low blood sugar and my breastmilk was not good for them for the first few days. One of them had many issues when having my breastmilk that they did not have when they were formula fed (soy). I put myself and my child through misery trying time and again to give him my breastmilk due to those pressures from others and feeling like I was a bad mom. Once we stopped breastfeeding, he was happy, growing properly and digesting correctly. Maybe future children won't be the same and I will have a better experience next time. I think this is an excellent post and very informative, but people who comment should know it truly doesn't work for everyone and assuming people don't try is hurtful and divisive.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Who said something about people not trying hard enough?

  • Kristen Suzanne

    If you're referring to Brooke, she is talking about her friends


  • Triciarawks

    I agree with everything except the bit about broccoli. My son would stay up screaming when he had gas the day after i ate broccoli. I stopped eating it and wa-la never again! Although i think it may have to do with our digestion and if there are adequate enzymes too.

  • Averiesunshine

    As I said in the post, make sure to take your own situation into account and if you notice something is or isn't working for you and your baby, change it up. The broccoli info is addressed in greater detail here

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Great links, Averie. Thanks.

    Sent from my iPad

  • Averie

    I had extreme difficulty nursing, to the point that it prompted me to BECOME a CLEC.

    I also moderate a yahoogroup nursing support group for women who have extreme challenges.

    Breastfeeding is not easy, and people who try to say that “well, if she just tried harder…” that is not supportive, helpful, nor shows any empathy.

    Because of my background, I am hypersensitive to anything that would imply a “well if she just tried harder” mentality or attitude, and I never said anything like that in my post.

    I hope based on your opening sentence of your comment you don't think that I would ever utter those words, but just making myself 100% clear that I never said that, nor would I ever feel that way, nor would I EVER say that to ANY mom.

    I posted as a guest on Kristen's blog because she asked me to share some info and I tried to do that in both an informative, light-hearted, and compassionate way.

    I am sorry you had extreme challenges nursing your children.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    You're right, Averie. I don't imagine her comment was intended for you. I think she might've been referring to Brooke's comment about her friends. I'm guessing Brooke knows her friends' situations enough to speak on them, but I don't know.

    This post was intended to support and help women. You did just that. :)

    Sent from my iPad

  • VeggieGirl

    Great post and Averie feature! Love you both :)

  • Ashley

    Averie – I thought this was a wonderful article and I love what you wrote and how you wrote it. I would recommend this to my friends as I always do with the great things that show up on the blog. The first comment to the thread was what I was referring to, I apologize for not replying to that thread. That is what I was talking about as being hurtful comment. It was just the first one I read and it made me sad because everyone does not know what the effort is and why someone would chose formula, they might have to as I did to have a healthy baby.

    Sorry that I didn't post in the correct place! Your article is wonderful and I will definitely recommend it!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thanks for clearing it up Ashley. :)

  • Brooke B

    Oh yeah, I was definitely talking about my friends and their specific situations. They tried for 2 weeks and then quit. One of my friends didn't even try for her second one. I guess you would have to know my friends to understand that neither one of them took breastfeeding seriously. I was with them after they had their kids and I saw them trying to learn. My friends were super young when they had their kids though and that didn't help anything. I'm sorry if I offended you, Ashley. I wasn't talking about you or anyone else that I don't know. I was specifically talking about the experiences from my friends.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Thanks, Brooke. I figured it was something like that. :)

  • Simplynutritiouskate

    Thanks for promoting breast feeding it is so important and so wonderful to see people setting an example and encouraging it!

  • Averie

    Thank you, Ashley, for clearing it up :)

  • HEAB

    Thanks for the great info Averie and Kristen. We've almost made it 6 weeks – still a lot of kinks, but I'm sticking with it for now. Not enough milk, but the nursing itself is such an amazing experience – one I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. :)

  • Sarit Bronstein

    Great article, if I was at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey it would inspired me and light my way. I am still breastfeeding my baby and now he is 14 months and it is great!!
    I invite you to visit my site , it is about babies and I will be more than glad if you share your story with my visitors.

  • Jessegale

    Great post! I wonder: are there appropriate times to supplement with formula? I didn't with my baby, who is about 3.5 months old now, but at the beginning I was so sore — first the engorgement, and then cracked, bleeding nipples — that I almost couldn't bear to nurse sometimes. I was in a bad place, really down. Should I have supplemented at that point? Maybe.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Or pump a couple of times to give your breasts a break. This way the baby still gets breast milk. That's what I'd do.

  • Melissa

    Great post. My little one was born 5 short days ago and we already have a great BF relationship. We had one hiccup of her not latching to my left breast for a couple days and i had to pump because I was so full. Then on day 4 she started latching on…so I suggest if anyone is having problems to pump. It's better than not having breastmilk at all and helps your milk supply. Also find a support group that can help with any questions. The La Leche League is a great start. I was fortunate to not having any issues so far (crossing my fingers) but know plenty who had trouble and worked through the sore/cracked nipples. Kudos to you all! Even though we are very much attached at the breast right now, it's a great feeling knowing I am starting her out in life with a great start.

  • GirlonRaw

    Two of my girls in one place and talking about something I HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT BUT REALLY SHOULD LEARN IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS!! Thank you so much to Averie and Kristen for this post. I have been awaiting it patiently, so thank you for enlightening me (and everyone else) on so much I really had no idea on. I'm definitely bookmarking this to come back to early March when the little dude is about :)

  • Jessegale

    Yes, I did that at 4 weeks. Big help!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    Oh good! :) ))

  • shannonmarie

    Ouch. Hayden has bitten me a few times (she thinks it is a game or something) and even drew blood (I thought I was going to lose a nipple or something, but thank goodness that didn't happen). That's the only reason I started weaning her a couple months ago. She is now 15 months, and she still enjoys a feeding before bed. She likes the closeness, which is probably why she never took a bottle. It is something special.

    It was nice seeing Averie make an appearance on your blog. She is such a sweetheart, as you are, too :-)

  • Elainie

    My third child bit (hard) me when he was around 2.5 years old. It did turn into a pretty bad breast infection that needed treatment. He weaned during a pregnancy about a year later or so but he was my nursing challenge. For the first 5 months of his life he refused one breast and I had to trick him into nursing from that side. We never did figure out what it was (I was a LLL leader at the time) and relied on more experienced women to guide me.
    I also think those nursing covers look odd IMO- I prefer a sling for nursing and I've nursed older toddlers in public without anyone knowing what was going on.
    Kamea looks adorable in that pic- what a sweetie she is.

  • Shamima

    Thank you Kristen and Averie for the great post and info. My biggest concern was how what I may be eating will affect my little one. I have been having my daily dark or raw chocolate square which does not seem to effect him. What are your thoughts on greens? Throughout my pregnancy I was taking spirulina once a week (prior to that I was having a tsp everyday) and now I am continuing to take it once a week. I am not sure if there are any green supplements that are more on the safe side.
    Once again, great post! Thank you and have a wonderful day!!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    I still take my greens. I didn't do chocolate in the beginning but I've had a bite here and there now.

  • Elizabeth

    Wonderful post!! I was blessed with 5 children that were all great nursers. Of course I had blocked ducts, cracked nipples, engorgement and screamed at the top of my lungs during all of their first nursing sessions until they learned latch on. But through all of that I was never going to give up. Our youngest just self weaned at 26 months :(
    I am so grateful that they all were able to be nourished by this perfect food.
    Best of everything to you and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  • Elizabeth

    I forgot to add, I never paid any attention to what I ate. I of course avoided coffee and alcohol. My fifth child was blessed to have raw breast milk as I transitioned to raw a year ago. He one year of just really healthy eating on Mommy's part and a year of RAW breast milk.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  • Kristen Suzanne


  • Leslie

    Way to go for keeping at it! Your story is so similar to mine and many others! I'm glad I stuck through it too. And you were so lucky to have someone you could talk to and get your questions answered! Great job, Mama!

  • Lauren M

    It is possible to nurse discreetly without blankets or covers. In fact, my sister was flipping through an album and I saw a picture of me nursing, but it just looks like I'm holding my baby. People definitely came up to me and even hugged me just thinking I was holding the baby.

  • Kristen Suzanne

    That's awesome. :)

  • Alena

    My baby is 8 weeks-old today and I was thinking of doing a three-week detox diet, starting next week. The concern I have is how all of the toxins will leave my body. Will they be released through my breast milk into my baby? If so, I need to do a low-key more gradual cleanse and ease into a vegetarian diet that I wanted to start after my cleanse/detox. What's your advice?

  • rose

    i almost gave up until i saw an lc and got our baby's tongue clipped. sounds horrible, but after that, i got off the nipple shield and baby was no longer clamping down and finally started gaining weight. and i finally liked breastfeeding. thank god for lc's!!!!!!

  • Kristen Suzanne

    I am of the opinion that you should not do a cleanse or detox while breastfeeding, but I'm on the more cautious side. I'm not sure what a lactation consultant would advise. Why don't you post your question to Averie below, by replying to one her “comments” and perhaps she'll have better advice.

    It is important to eat healthy though, so gradually changing your diet to include lots of fresh organic whole foods without doing a “cleanse” might be safe.

    Happy New Year!

  • Melissa

    I've just had my baby and I was wondering about Vitamin D supplements? My pediatrician (2 different doctors) have recommended that I give the baby Vitamin D since breastmilk is deficient in it…but I really don't care to give my baby anything that isn't necessary. It's wintertime where I live, so getting the baby outside for Vit D from the sun is out of the question. What are your thoughts on this subject?

  • Kristen Suzanne

    I think you should supplement with it yourself to get it in your

    breastmilk, as suggested in The Vitamin D Solution. That is what I do.

    I think the book states that breastfeeding moms could supplement with

    4-6,000 IU daily. I'm not a doctor though, so you should check with

    your doctors about it (and read the book).