Feeding my baby: Frequently asked questions

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Find answers to frequently asked questions teenagers have about breastfeeding, including how long it's recommended, supplementing with formula, and troubleshooting.

Key points

  • Benefits of breastfeeding for a parent include establishing an emotional bond with your baby, protection against some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, development of weak bones and help with postpartum recovery.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended from birth up to 6 months of age due to the many health benefits for the baby.
  • Whether you choose to breastfeed, use formula or a combination of both, your health-care team will support you and your baby to keep you both healthy.

Learning to breastfeed

Breastfeeding (or chestfeeding) can have many benefits for both you and your baby. It’s important to remember that breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby are learning together, and it’s ok if you don’t get it right on the first try. Your health-care team can help you troubleshoot any breastfeeding problems you might have. Below are some common questions about breastfeeding. If you have any other questions, please speak to your health-care team.

What are the health benefits of breastfeeding for me?

One of the main benefits of breastfeeding for the parent is it helps to establish an emotional bond between you and your baby. Some physical health benefits of breastfeeding for the parent include helping with postpartum recovery and protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Until what age is breastfeeding recommended?

Exclusive breastfeeding feeding from birth up to 6 months of age is recommended. Continued breastfeeding along with appropriate solid foods is recommended up to two years of age or older. If you notice your baby isn’t gaining enough weight or is having trouble breastfeeding, talk to your health-care team.

Will my breasts change because of breastfeeding?

As a hormonal response during pregnancy and lactation (milk production), the breasts increase in size and may feel full. The areolas (the ring of darker skin around the nipple) also increase in size and darken in colour. This change is thought to help babies to locate the nipple during latching.

Does it hurt to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding should not be painful if your baby is properly positioned and latched to your breast. In the first week after birth, you may experience tenderness in your nipples; however, it should lessen each day. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort while breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant who may be able to help.

Is it safe to use cannabis (marijuana) while breastfeeding?

Individuals who are breastfeeding should avoid using cannabis or decrease use as much as possible and minimize exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke. The chemicals within cannabis are stored in the fat cells of the breast and can be present in breast milk for several weeks. These chemicals can lead to decreased milk production. The use of cannabis while breastfeeding may also:

  • affect the baby’s brain development
  • cause drowsiness
  • make it harder for baby to latch properly due to poor muscle tone and poor sucking habits
  • affect the baby’s movement and responses
  • affect the parent's ability to care for their baby

Is it ok to both breastfeed and bottle feed my baby?

If you want to exclusively breastfeed, it is strongly recommended that you breastfeed as much as possible in the first few weeks after birth, to establish your milk supply. After breastfeeding is well-established (usually by 4-6 weeks), it is ok to do both direct-breastfeeding and bottle feeding of expressed breastmilk or formula. If you would like to introduce bottle feeding at any time while protecting your milk supply, it is recommended that you pump at feeding times. Your team will support you to maintain breastmilk supply if you choose to add formula to your feeding plan.

What if I don’t want to breastfeed?

Everyone has different considerations and priorities. While breastfeeding is recommended and has many benefits for both you and your baby, you may also have your own reasons why you don’t want to breastfeed. Your health-care team will support you with any choice and will help you to find options that work for both you and your baby to ensure your baby is fed and growing.

What if I’m having trouble breastfeeding or I’m not able to breastfeed?

Some people want to breastfeed but may experience some challenges for different reasons. In this case, you will need to supplement your baby’s feeds. Your lactation consultant and health-care team can help you troubleshoot any breastfeeding problems you may have and provide information on supplementation.

How do I breastfeed when I’m going back to school?

If you’re going back to school, there are many ways to continue to breast feed, such as pumping, storing expressed breast milk or adding supplements with formula. This ensures that an alternate caregiver has a continual supply of breast milk to bottle feed your baby when you return to school. You can pump and store milk ahead or pump during the day. Talk to your guidance counsellor about finding a private, safe space for you to pump while you’re at school.

How do I know if my baby is full?

The following cues indicate that your baby is full. Your baby:

  • appears calm, sleepy, and settles after feeds
  • lets go of the nipple
  • closes their mouth
  • turns away from a cup or bottle
  • does not look for more breastmilk

What can make pumping easier?

Some ways to make pumping easier include:

  • selecting a kind of pump (manual hand pumps, small battery-operated pumps, double, electric pumps, etc.) that fulfills your needs
  • switching breasts whenever the flow of milk slows down
  • for electric pumps, setting the pump to the lowest setting before turning it on
  • slowly and gradually increasing the setting while pumping to a comfortable level
  • changing milk containers once they are 3⁄4 full so that milk does not back up into the pump

How should I clean pump parts?

After each use of your breast pump, rinse each of its parts in cool water to remove breast milk residue. Afterwards, wash them by hand with hot water and a mild soap or detergent and rinse well with water. For instructions on how to clean your specific pump, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. After cleaning, store parts in a clean, re-sealable plastic bag or plastic container with a fitted lid.

Last updated: May 5th 2023