6 Questions to Ask Your Healthcare Professional to Help Avoid Common Breastfeeding Problems

The topic of breastfeeding is sure to spark lots of questions for new mums and mums-to-be, and it can be hard to know exactly what to ask if you’ve never experienced it before. Here at Medela, we’ve suggested 6 questions to ask your healthcare professional to help you avoid the most common breastfeeding problems. From sore nipples to what mum should avoid eating, hopefully we can help any new mum feel prepared and reassured with all the answers they need.

Sometimes, new mums are interested in doing all they can to enhance their breastfeeding experience and make sure they’re doing everything “correctly” in order to avoid any major problems. They are often met with confusing advice, and find themselves hearing a lot of well-intentioned but incorrect breastfeeding ‘myths’ from friends and family. That’s why it’s so important that women talk with their healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives, obstetricians, lactation consultants) about their concerns and questions. Although these conversations may have to be held over the phone rather than in person due to the current climate, it’s important that mums still feel empowered and have their questions listened to, in order to get their breastfeeding journey off to the best start possible!

One of the best ways to avoid breastfeeding problems is to be open and to communicate about things on your mind. The sooner that mums-to-be clarify their thoughts and get any concerns out into the open, the easier things will be to manage. It is important to find a healthcare professional to work with who you feel comfortable with and whose advice is aligned with your values. If you do not agree with the recommendation they give you, you should feel free to talk to someone else.

One of the best ways to get better prepared, is to ask questions when talking to your doctor, midwife or other healthcare professional. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything that is on your mind. Even if you are afraid that you have a “silly question” – there’s no such thing as a silly question when you’re trying to get better informed about breastfeeding as a new mum.  

You also might want to make a list of questions to bring to your next healthcare appointment. This is all new to you, and you are not expected to know everything! A great way to start is with this list of 6 common questions about breastfeeding:

How will I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

The healthcare professional might answer that the best way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is by paying attention to how your baby is acting, and how your body feels. If your breasts feel softer after nursing, if your baby seems relaxed and satisfied after a feeding, all is well. Then, if your baby wets five or six disposable nappies or six to eight cloth ones a day, hard work as that might be, you are both doing great! Most importantly, if your baby's growth is on track, she is probably getting enough milk. For the most part, babies tend to get “enough” milk from breastfeeding, even if mum doesn’t “feel” like it. The best indicator is really whether or not the baby is gaining weight and thriving. Some mothers wonder if their baby is getting enough milk because their breasts never feel “full”, however it’s best to judge by the overall health of the baby. Even if your breasts don’t feel “full,” your baby is probably getting everything they need. Be sure to check back regularly for doctor visits and keep getting your baby weighed during the first weeks and months after birth to make sure the baby is on track for normal weight gain.

What can I do to avoid sore nipples?

Yes, your nipples might get sore. The doctor might suggest that you be prepared for this and reassure you that most women experience sore nipples. This is totally normal. However, if your nipples are so painful that it’s becoming difficult to continue breastfeeding, this might be a sign of more serious breastfeeding problems. The first thing to do is to check your baby’s latch, making sure the baby is attaching correctly to the nipple. Your midwife or this article may help with this. Many mums and babies need a bit of extra guidance to learn how to position themselves for best success with latching on to the nipple. As a second step, if you are suffering from sore or cracked nipples, there are nipple shields and our Purelan cream that can help.

How often should I breastfeed my baby, and for how long?

Most health professionals will tell you that in breastfeeding, there is no “normal.” There is a wide range of breastfeeding behaviours depending on the baby. Some babies feed for short intervals many times per day, while other babies breastfeed for longer durations only a few times per day. Babies’ breastfeeding needs will also change as the child get older – most babies will gradually start to feed less frequently (and more efficiently) than they did when they were first born. There is no such thing as “too often” or “too long.” So, instead of worrying about whether or not your baby is “normal,” just go with the flow (pun intended) and use this time to bond with your baby and learn from each other along the way.

Should I supplement breastmilk with baby formula? Should I give my baby other supplements like fluoride, vitamin D or iron?

If your baby is breastfeeding well, there is no need to supplement with formula. The reason is that breastmilk delivers all of the nourishment and immune protections that the baby needs. Breastfed babies do not need additional supplies of fluoride or iron; as breastmilk delivers just the right amount of iron to meet a newborn baby’s needs. The recommendation is however that a small supplement of Vitamin D be given to your baby. After six months, your doctor might recommend a vitamin supplement or iron supplement – and many infant cereals and other “first foods” are fortified with these types of vitamin and nutrients.

Are there any specific foods and beverages that I should avoid?

The simple answer to this question is no. You can eat a balanced diet, and not be afraid to enjoy a wide range of spices and flavours. This will be a relief if during pregnancy you had to avoid a lot of foods that were not safe for pregnant women, or you no longer felt hungry for certain tastes. Now is the time to resume eating the foods that you love. In fact, eating a wide range of foods, spices and seasonings will actually pass onto your baby through the breastmilk – and this might help your baby to become a more adventurous eater in the future! Also make sure to stay well hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water per day.

Can I drink tea and coffee with caffeine?

It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, and women who may become pregnant limit their caffeine intake to 300 mg per day (or less). Depending on the type of coffee or tea that you drink, this amount of caffeine is equal to 2 or 3 cups of coffee per day, or 6 to 10 cups of tea (different varieties of tea have different amounts of caffeine). However, even though caffeine is generally safe to drink, it’s still important to keep in mind that babies under the age of 6 months have difficulty with metabolising caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine while breastfeeding can make your baby irritable or disturb their sleep. Also, check with your doctor to see if you are taking any medications that contain caffeine.

Even if you are having trouble adjusting to life as a breastfeeding mum, or if you have worries or concerns about what breastfeeding will mean for you and your baby, it’s important to remember that most breastfeeding problems can be avoided or corrected. You are not alone – there is plenty of help out there, from lactation consultants, other mums, our blog and website, and of course, your own healthcare professionals who are there to answer your questions. So please ask questions early and often. Get the help that you and your baby both deserve!

What are your thoughts? What other questions do you have about breastfeeding? Please share in the comments below, or join in the conversation on our Facebook and Instagram.