The Answers to Your Breastfeeding Questions

August is National Breastfeeding Month

(RxWiki News) Aug. 1 through 7 is World Breastfeeding Week — the perfect time to learn a little more about breastfeeding.

The week is meant to boost awareness of breastfeeding and the lifelong health benefits it can bring to babies and mothers.

Breast milk has amazing qualities. It provides nourishment to your baby and changes as your baby grows to provide the right balance of nutrients. It also prevents infections by passing your protective antibodies to your baby. Breastfeeding may also protect a mother’s health by reducing her risk of ovarian cancer, some breast cancers and type 2 diabetes.

Besides its health benefits, breastfeeding gives moms the chance to care for and bond with their new babies. But for first-timers, breastfeeding can be a daunting and confusing task. Keep reading for answers to four common questions women ask about breastfeeding.

1) How long should I breastfeed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months and recommends women exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of life.

Newborns up to 6 months of age do not need other foods besides breast milk for nutrition.

The only thing your doctor may recommend as a supplement while breastfeeding is vitamin D. Although breast milk provides many nutrients, it may not provide enough vitamin D, and your baby may not get enough from the sun.

Solid foods can be gradually introduced from age 6 months to 12 months while you continue to breastfeed. After 12 months, it is up to you to decide how long you want to continue breastfeeding.

2) If I’m unable to breastfeed, can I use other women’s breast milk?

Yes. Human milk banks can give you human donor milk if you get a prescription from your doctor. This is the best way to obtain donor human milk, as these banks take steps to ensure that the milk is safe.

Avoid taking breast milk directly from other women or from the internet. This milk is not tested in a lab to ensure safety. To find a human milk bank, contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America or visit its website. You may also want to check with your insurance provider to find out if breast milk is covered.

3) How do I store breast milk if I pump?

Pumping can help your body continue to produce milk when you cannot feed your baby directly. However, you must make sure to properly store and handle pumped milk to ensure it is safe when your baby feeds.

Store breast milk in hard, BPA-free plastic or glass bottles or in breast milk storage bags. Make sure to label containers with the date and time you pumped to help you keep track. Avoid storing in the door of the refrigerator or freezer, where temperatures may fluctuate more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides these guidelines for how long breast milk can be stored after pumping:

  • Room temperature (77°F or colder): up to four hours
  • Refrigerator (40°F): up to four days
  • Freezer (0°F or colder): within six months is best, although up to 12 months is acceptable

If your baby does not finish a bottle during one feeding, you can use the rest of that bottle within two hours of when the baby finished the first feeding. If the leftover breast milk is not eaten after two hours, discard it.

4) Can I take medications while I breastfeed?

Many medications are actually safe to take while breastfeeding. However, it is important that your doctor is aware of all the medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements you take so he or she can determine whether they are safe to use while you're breastfeeding. Some medications may pass into your milk and on to your baby, and others may affect how much milk you can produce.

If you want to do some research on your own, LactMed is a database with information on specific drugs and their effects during lactation. This can be used as an informational tool, but be sure to let your doctor know before starting any new medications while you are breastfeeding.

Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about breastfeeding.