Breastfeeding - questions and answers
twins; feeding; triplets; breastfeeding; premature; baby; premie; pregnancy; pregnant; working; expressing; dummies; dummy; exercise; exercise; tanning; lotion; breast; work; working; employers; employment; sex; work; sexual; teeth; tooth; decay; miracle; national; support; arousal;
This topic addresses several questions about breastfeeding that are not covered in the other topics. If you have concerns that are not answered here, ask your doctor, lactation consultant or maternal and child health nurse, as breastfeeding can continue in some quite difficult situations.
Because breastmilk supply increases with extra demands, most women can breastfeed twins well. This can mean much less work compared to preparing and giving formula.
- Twins can be fed together, but you may prefer to feed them separately while they are very young, either when they wake and demand or one after the other.
- Once feeding is established, it is usually best to feed them at the same time and keep them in much the same routine.
- Each twin may have her or his own breast, or it may help your supply to alternate them.
- Make sure you eat well to have energy to cope with caring for two babies.
- If you have three or four babies you may like to breastfeed two each time and have someone bottle feed the others - then swap next time.
- However the babies are fed, parents of twins (or more) need plenty of help and support. You may like to contact your local Multiple Births Association.
Breastfeeding a premature baby
- Babies who are born some weeks or even months early will need special care in hospital.
- At first they will usually be fed through a tube which goes into the stomach through their mouth or nose.
- Even at this stage breastmilk is the best food for babies, although a "fortifier" may be added to help them grow. Breastmilk has been shown to have lots of health benefits for prems.
- You will need to express your milk and this will be given to your baby. The nursery staff will help you with this.
- You can express by hand or pump - you may like to hire an electric breast pump if you have to express for some weeks.
- When your baby is mature enough you will be able to put him or her to the breast. Be patient and give your baby time to learn to suck.
- If it is difficult to get your baby to feed, ask the nursery staff, or see the sections 'Attachment' in the topic Breastfeeding - a new baby and 'Attachment Problems' in the topic Breastfeeding - When babies won't feed.
- It may take some time for him to learn to suck and for your supply to adjust to his demands, so be patient and keep trying. Have a look at the topic Breastfeeding - not enough milk.
National Support Line (Australia)
Miracle Babies Foundation
24 hour national support line available to families of premature and sick newborns.
1300 622 243
pregnancy while breastfeeding
Although you are unlikely to become pregnant while fully breastfeeding, especially early on, it does sometimes happen.
- You may become aware you are pregnant because your baby becomes fussy at the breast or your nipples become tender.
- There is usually no rush to wean your baby. You can keep feeding as long as you (and the baby) want, unless your doctor says there is a reason not to.
- Most women like to gradually wean around the middle of the new pregnancy. The older baby will be taking other foods by then anyway. See the topic Breastfeeding - weaning from the breast.
- Some women prefer to keep feeding their older child and the new baby. This is called "tandem feeding". This can be done safely if the mother eats well, gets enough rest and makes sure the new baby's needs are met first.
A new mother needs her partner to be patient and sensitive as she recovers from the birth and increases her confidence in breastfeeding. Help from her partner is important for a new mother.
Not all women are ready for sex at the same time after birth. For some women the emotional and physical effort of looking after a baby makes them feel 'out of touch' by the end of a day. Soreness, hormones, lack of time and extreme tiredness are just some of the reasons why some mothers lose interest in sex for a while.
Some mothers experience vaginal dryness while they are breastfeeding. This can make intercourse uncomfortable, but it can be easily overcome by using lubricating products available at supermarkets or pharmacies.
If there are physical symptoms that make sex uncomfortable seek help from your doctor.
Breastfeeding delays the return of a woman's periods, but cannot be relied upon as a form of contraception. If you are returning to sexual activity you should use some form of contraception. A discussion with your doctor or family planning clinic either before the birth or soon after is a good idea to help you choose the method that's best for you both.
Breastfeeding mothers may also notice milk leaking or even spurting during sex. This because the hormone oxytocin which causes milk to let down is involved in sexual arousal as well. Most people find this part of the fun, but if it is a problem, try to ensure your breasts are not too full, by feeding the baby or expressing first.
Because of this hormone, some mothers feel not only sensual but also sexual while feeding the baby. This is normal, so you don't need to feel guilty about it: why not enjoy it?
There is more about sex after babies in the topic New mums.
There are many ways to work outside the home and keep breastfeeding.
- Use your maternity leave - take as long as you can to recover from the birth and get breastfeeding going well.
- Try to get working hours that will fit around your baby's needs, or work part-time.
- Work-based child care is ideal but it is not often possible.
- You can express milk while you are at work, which can then be fed to your baby (by cup or bottle) by the carer the next day. (See the topic Breastfeeding - Expressing and storing breastmilk.)
- If you are not able to express enough breastmilk (and it can be difficult to fit expressing in while caring for your baby, and working in the home and at work), you can breastfeed at home and formula feed when you are at work.
- If you have some expressed breastmilk, ask the carer to give the breast milk first, but it is OK to mix your own milk and formula, even in the same bottle.
- An older baby (over 6 months) may be able to manage with other milky foods while you are at work.
For more information have a look at the website of the Australian Breastfeeding Association' topic 'Breastfeeding and work'
- Babies really like to suck and dummies are commonly offered. Parents may find them useful to calm an unhappy baby or help a baby fall off to sleep.
- However, if dummies are given to very young babies before breastfeeding really gets going well, it may be confusing for the baby because of the different kind of sucking needed. Dummies are not usually recommended for breastfed babies for the first few weeks. So, wait a few weeks if you can.
- Using a dummy has been shown to decrease the risk of SIDS, however very few babies die of SIDS under 4 weeks old, so that it is though to be safe to delay using a dummy until breastfeeding is well established. See the topic Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Infants (including SIDS).
- Also, dummies should not be used when the baby is hungry and really needs to be fed, as this may mean he does not suck so well when he is being fed and the breasts are not stimulated enough to make a good supply of milk. Babies need plenty of sucking time at the breast to keep up the milk supply.
- If you find your baby is using a dummy a lot, discuss this with your child health nurse as it may be a sign of a feeding problem.
Breastmilk does not pool around the teeth when your baby is sucking and swallowing at the breast. However it is best to remove your baby from the breast after the feed at night and not allow continuous sucking at the breast. This is because some babies who are breastfed continually at night get dental decay.
Regular, moderate exercise is good for your health and it helps you to feel good.
- Most women can exercise regularly without any effects on breastfeeding.
- An occasional baby may be fussy at the breast if fed straight after the mother has exercised. This may be due to lactic acid in the milk, which does no harm and will disappear in an hour or two.
- Rarely, a mother may find she needs to cut down on exercise to prevent her milk supply from dropping off.
- Make sure to have plenty of drinks when you are breastfeeding and exercising.
- Healthy eating is important too. Don't go on a strict diet to lose weight while you are breastfeeding.
lotion and breastfeeding
There are no reports of tanning lotion affecting breast milk, and it is unlikely that much of the lotion is absorbed into the body. However, as using such tanning lotions is not essential and does not have health benefits, we would recommend caution in their use while breastfeeding.
Child and Family Health Service Parent Helpline
- 24 hours per day, every day - 1300 364 100
Your local Child and Family Health centre
Ring 1300 733 606 for an appointment
Australian Breastfeeding Association
Helpline 1800 686 268 (1800 mum 2 mum) (24 hour service)
Australian Breastfeeding Association
Helpline 1800 686 268 (1800 mum 2 mum) (24 hour service)
Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand,
World Health Organisation, 'Promoting proper feeding for infants and young children' http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding/en/index.html
Book that can be downloaded
Women's and Children's Health Network South Australia "Breastfeeding your baby".
Additional breastfeeding links
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.