21 Answers to the Breastfeeding Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask

Tanvier Peart | Jun 16, 2017 Baby
21 Answers to the Breastfeeding Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask
Image: iStock.com/bunyarit

mom breastfeeding hospital

Between finding out about expecting and then actually giving birth, there are going to be tons of questions (tons!) that swirl through an expectant mother's mind. Becoming a new mom is really exciting but also very scary, as we often don't know what to expect until we actually give it a try -- like breastfeeding, for example. I'm sure it seems silly to say, but there's no way to really prepare for a baby to nurse! 

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Nothing can truly prepare an expectant mother to nurse a baby quite like actually breastfeeding, but that doesn't mean new moms aren't going to have questions. And some of those questions might feel, um, embarrassing or silly ... but they shouldn't be! Nursing is hard to get right, especially on the first attempt when babies often have trouble latching. There's no shame in asking for a little help, especially in the first months of nursing.

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We caught up with some lactation consultants to get answers to those burning breastfeeding questions many expectant and new mothers are dying to know, but might not want to ask. Because there are no silly questions when it comes to being a new mom!

mom breastfeeding bed

  • Is Breastfeeding in a Public Bathroom Sanitary?

    Doors from public bathroom stall

    "I would not recommend [women] breastfeed in a bathroom unless the restroom has a sitting area away from toilets. Public restrooms are not very clean; I suggest a mom choose to go to a dressing room in a store or the back seat of her car if she is not comfortable nursing in public."

    -- Deedra Franke, certified lactation consultant

  • Is It Okay to Breastfeed While Pregnant?

    Pregnant mother nursing daughter

    "It is okay to breastfeed while pregnant, [but] you need to maintain a healthy diet and stay well hydrated. It's important to have your ob-gyn monitor you closely, as breastfeeding can cause some contractions due to a hormone released during nursing (oxytocin). This is most important in the latter part of the pregnancy. If there is any concern of preterm labor, for example, nursing may need to be weaned ...

    "[Also], milk production can change in amount and volume during the pregnancy, so it is important to ensure your baby is getting enough milk. Monitoring wet diapers is a good indicator your baby is getting enough. Your pediatrician [should] check the baby's weight gain as well."

    -- Alison Mitzner, board certified pediatrician

  • Is It Supposed to Hurt?

    mom breastfeeding her baby on bed

    "There's a belief that nipple pain is normal and your nipples have to toughen up. This is not true. Most of the time, women who experience nipple and breast pain can resolve the problem with a little help and guidance with basic positioning and latch. It's important that a new mother gets an experienced person (like a board certified lactation consultant) if the basic latch and positioning doesn't correct the pain. Many birthing facilities have postpartum support groups to give outpatient breastfeeding assistance, or the new mother can look online for a local La Leche League Breastfeeding Support group and/or a local board certified lactation consultant."

    -- Deedee Franke, registered nurse and board certified lactation consultant 

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  • Is It Okay for Someone Else to Breastfeed My Baby?

    mother nursing son

    "This is a loaded question, but in many instances, it's actually a wonderful alternative if, and this is a big if, mothers do their own due diligence in researching the source. Casual milk sharing is a more economical option and is gaining popularity, but can be risky, so knowing which questions to ask are imperative.

    "Is the donor deemed healthy and free of diseases that have potential to pass into milk (there's not many that are contraindicated, but HIV, hepatitis B, and cytomegalovirus are of utmost concern). Is she on any medications, and if so, what is the risk category? Was she sober or on any other drugs at the time of pumping? Was the milk handled, stored, and shipped properly as to reduce possible contamination? Has she traveled recently?

    "Now, if you are talking about drinking straight from the tap, then you also need to think about conditions that may surface on the skin that may come in contact with the baby, such as a herpes lesion. Not to be overlooked is the intimacy and bonding experienced during feeding sessions. The last thing that a new mother needs are feelings of jealousy, resentment, and inadequacy. Barring all this, milk sharing can be an excellent, healthy option."

    -- Sara Lobato, registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

  • Will My Baby Still Want My Breast Milk If I Sometimes Need to Supplement With Formula?

    Woman feeding formula to her baby

    "[If] babies refuse to breastfeed after supplementation, it can be because the flow of the milk from the bottle is too fast, making breastfeeding more challenging as it requires more muscle use.

    "Also, if supplementing with formula, this can mean the supply is low or that it becomes low from the supplementing."

    -- Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and former president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA)

  • Is There Such a Thing as an 'Ideal' Time to Feed Baby?


    "I believe moms are overthinking this. Milk does change throughout the day but it is all good and designed specifically for their babies. My advice to moms is to avoid looking at clocks and to watch their babies."

    -- Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and former president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA)

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  • Can Drinking Beer Help My Breast Milk Supply?

    cheers with beer

    "Nursing moms often share that they've heard drinking beer can increase their milk supply, but this is absolutely not true. Current evidence shows that alcohol does not increase milk production. In fact, it may actually inhibit milk letdown and possibly lead to a lower milk supply, shorter duration of breastfeeding, and may negatively affect infant motor development.

    "Breastfeeding moms should minimize alcohol intake, limiting occasional alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks. Mom can resume nursing as soon as she feels neurologically normal."

    -- Lindsey Janeiro, certified lactation counselor and registered dietitian

  • Will Breastfeeding 'Turn Me On' by Accident?

    mom breastfeeding baby
    Romanova Anna/Shutterstock

    "This is a question that comes up [often], and there's not an absolute answer. In most cases, [breastfeeding] will not turn on a mom ... Breastfeeding is an intimate act; that does not mean that it is sexual -- or that moms feel sexual towards their babies -- but this can happen. Parents continue to have sexual relations while parenting young babies. The lines can get blurred. Keeping an open mind and knowing that Mom is not abnormal is important." 

    -- Leigh Anne O'ConnorInternational Board Certified Lactation Consultant and former president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA)

  • Does My Ethnicity Affect My Ability to Breastfeed?

    Mother breastfeeding a baby child

    "Ethnicity does not impact your ability to make milk and your baby's ability to breastfeed. If you come from a culture of not breastfeeding for many generations, it can be challenging. Breastfeeding is instinctive but more importantly it is a learned behavior."

    -- Leigh Anne O' Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and former president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA)

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  • Can Breastfeeding Really Delay My Period?

    Woman with a panty liner

    "Yes, breastfeeding does delay your period. There is a hormone, prolactin, that helps with milk production. This is also the same hormone that prevents menstruation. That said, you can still become pregnant while nursing especially as you start to wean or decrease the amount of breastfeeding. [Prolactin production] varies when women start their cycles again and the period may or may not start irregularly as well."

    -- Alison Mitzner, board certified pediatrician

  • Will My Baby Want My Breast Milk If I'm Too Stressed?

    stressed single mother

    "Being stressed doesn't affect a baby's ability to latch to the breast. For some moms, stress slows down [the] milk letdown reflex. Taking a couple of slow deep breaths and focusing on the baby can help bring down the stress levels of the mom. Breastfeeding hormones also has a relaxing effect for the mom."

    -- Deedra Franke, certified lactation consultant

  • Am I a Breastfeeding Failure If I Run Out of Milk?

    Mother breastfeeding baby looking up

    "Feeding our babies can be a very vulnerable experience. Having a big change in your milk supply is not a failure but it is likely a correctable problem. If your milk has decreased because you are in the weaning process, then having less milk might be desirable (in which case, congrats!). But if you're unhappy and want more milk, seek out expert help."

    -- Megan Davidson, PhD, Brooklyn Doula, certified breastfeeding counselor, and childbirth educator

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  • Will the Foods I'm Eating Now -- That I Wasn't Supposed to While Pregnant -- Harm My Baby?

    woman dining in restaurant

    "Many moms worry that they need to eat 'perfectly' while they are breastfeeding their baby. Luckily, Mom's body is able to produce healthy, nutritious breast milk for baby –- even if you don't eat perfectly all the time. In general, we want moms to continue to eat a well-balanced diet with lots of proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Drink enough water to quench your thirst, and be sure to continue to take your prenatal vitamin. In general, dietary restrictions that you had during your pregnancy do not apply to breastfeeding moms."

    -- Dr. Emily Scott, pediatric hospitalist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana

  • So Does That Mean I Should Stay Away From Any Food?

    fish market in Sicily
    Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock

    "[I] do recommend that you stay away from fish that are high in mercury -- like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tide fish. That's because high levels of mercury can cause damage to a baby's developing nervous system. Fish like shrimp, salmon, [and] canned light tuna are safe to eat. If you have any questions about your diet while breastfeeding, please talk with your ob-gyn or your baby's pediatric provider."

    -- Dr. Emily Scott, pediatric hospitalist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Okay, but Can I Still Have Coffee & Wine? (Please, Say Yes)

    Woman deciding what wine to buy and shopping in supermarket

    "Caffeine, in moderation, is fine to drink. While some caffeine does get into the breast milk, most babies aren't bothered by it. If you drink lots of caffeine (generally more than five cups of coffee a day) and your baby seems irritable or fussy, you can cut back and see if that makes a difference. 

    "If you're going to drink alcohol while nursing, limit yourself to one drink immediately after nursing or pumping and try to wait two hours before feeding your baby again. One drink will probably not cause any problems for your little one, but chronic, repeated exposures may have an effect on your baby's long-term health and can decrease your own milk supply."

    -- Dr. Emily Scott, pediatric hospitalist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana

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  • If No One Breastfed in My Family, Does That Mean I Can't -- or Won't Be Successful?

    Mom holding sleeping baby

    "This is a cultural situation as opposed to a physical one. The support one gets to breastfeed is sometimes more important than the actual physical ability to nurse."

    -- Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and former president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association (NYLCA)

  • Will Breastfeeding Cause My Boobs to Sag?

    Portrait of a baby at the breast of mother
    Sonsedska Yuliia/Shutterstock

    "There's not much women can do [to avoid their breasts sagging or drooping], though I do recommend wearing a supportive bra. You can [also] try creams and oils to help tighten the skin, such as Bio-Oil or cocoa butter. If it doesn't work, you're at least left with smooth skin that smells good! There's [not much] a woman can do to avoid the size and shape of her breasts during and after pregnancy, with regards to milk production." 

    -- Emily Silver, certified lactation counselor and nurse practitioner, Boston NAPS cofounder

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  • Can Women With Small Breasts Still Breastfeed?

    asian baby breastfeeding
    wong sze yuen/Shutterstock

    "Absolutely! It's the amount of fatty tissue that determines breast size, but the fatty tissue has no correlation with the amount of milk mom can produce and provide for her baby. Small and large breasts produce an equal amount of milk over a 24-hour period.  Women with larger breasts may have more 'storage capacity' and may not need to feed as frequently; women with smaller breasts often have an easier time with latch and positioning."

    -- Wendy Wright, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and designer of 16 Minute Club, a breastfeeding subscription box for nursing moms

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  • Can I Still Breastfeed If I Have Cancer?

    mother breast feeding her baby toddler
    Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

    "Breastfeeding is an option for many lactating women diagnosed with cancer. Treatments have become more targeted to the disease and aim to have less impact on a woman's quality of life. If diagnosed with cancer in pregnancy or postpartum, it is possible to breastfeed depending on the type of therapy recommended to treat the cancer."

    -- Dr. Kameelah Phillips, board certified obstetrician and gynecologist, lactation consultant, and founder of OBaby!, an online destination for parent education and baby planning

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  • Can You Still Breastfeed If You Have Implants?

    Close-up portrait mother breastfeeding her baby with breast milk

    "Yes –- most moms who have breast implants can breastfeed their baby successfully. Most breast implants are placed below the chest muscles (rather than in the breast) and should not impact a mom's ability to produce enough milk for her baby. However, anytime a mom has had breast surgery, her baby's pediatrician should be aware. The pediatrician will watch the baby carefully to make sure that they are gaining weight appropriately in the first few weeks of life. This is the best indicator that a mom is making enough milk for her baby."

    -- Dr. Emily Scott, pediatric hospitalist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana

  • When & How Should I Introduce Cow's Milk to My Baby?

    baby in a cow hat drinking milk

    "It's not recommended to give an infant cow's milk until after the first birthday. Babies need breast milk or formula until they turn 1, and earlier introduction of cow's milk can [result] in potential nutritional inadequacies. That said, other dairy products, like full fat plain yogurt and mild cheeses, can be introduced earlier. New research suggests introducing potential high-allergenic foods, like dairy, earlier. Many pediatricians recommend yogurt at 7 [or] 8 months, or even as a great first food at 6 months.

    "Discuss dairy introduction with your pediatrician, especially if there are any concerns of lactose intolerance or dairy allergy. When you do introduce yogurt, be sure to use full fat (made from whole milk) yogurt and to purchase a plain variety. Flavored yogurts, even those marketed as baby yogurts, have added sugars that are unnecessary for baby."

    -- Lindsey Janeiro, certified lactation counselor and registered dietitian

breastfeeding moms

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