Breastfeeding can be intimidating for new mothers, so how do you learn the tricks? Is there a “wrong way” to breastfeed your baby? How can you be sure she’s had enough? Have you heard one too many horror stories about cracked and sore nipples? Do you need to stay away from specific foods that might contaminate any breast milk you pump?

It can sometimes be difficult for new moms to separate the fact from fiction about what’s best about the breast for babies. We sat down with four lactation experts, Kelly Flaherty, BSN, RN, CBC (Certified Breastfeeding Consultant), Barbara Williams-Balint, BSN, RN, IBCLC, CKC, Anna Heh, RN, IBCLC,and Cindy Garrison, BS, IBCLC to get their perspective and insight into commonly asked questions:

When Should I Start Pumping? Especially if I Am Returning to Work.

Anna Heh (AH): If you have already been breastfeeding, you can begin pumping around four to five weeks. By then, breastfeeding is well established. Also, you don’t need a stockpile, just start a couple weeks before you go back to work.

Cindy Garrison: (CG) Make sure to only start when you’re feeling uncomfortable.

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How Do I Know My Baby Is Getting Enough to Eat?

Kelly Flaherty (KF): Things you can do include weight checks, swallows, monitor wets and dirty diapers.

Barbara Williams-Balint (BWB): Make sure to study your baby as she/he feeds — “Sip, swallow, sigh” should be a routine.

CG: Magee offers forms to help log wets and dirty diapers, so you can gauge that way. Don’t worry at first, you can’t initially identify from the breast, but typically it gets much easier around day six.

How Often/How Long Do I Feed My Baby?

BWB: Use your baby’s cues. They will open their mouths and reach around when they are hungry. Some babies feed every one-and-a-half to three hours, but that can vary. Breast milk is more easily digested than formula.

CG: I think mother’s put a lot of pressure on themselves…it takes practice on your baby’s end too. Remember, babies have been around longer than clocks!

KF: Everything depends on your individual infant; there is no true cut off time.

AH: Most mothers tell us that you and your baby will gradually start to understand each other and the feeding becomes easier.

When Can I Have Sushi, Sandwich Meat, or Soft Cheeses Again? Chocolate/Caffeine? Alcohol?

CG: Obstetricians are cautioning mothers [of sushi, sandwich meat,and soft cheese] because of the risks of listeria, a type of bacterium that can cause infection, which is a real problem for the baby. Same thing with alcohol. The recommendation is to nurse first, and then have a drink, so that when the baby wakes up, it has already passed through your system.

KF: Most studies show, caffeine and alcohol don’t get trapped in your breast milk, but it is important to be careful.

What Can I Do About Sore Nipples/Sore Breasts?

BWB: Make sure you check for proper latching.

KF: If you are in too much pain when feeding, and your nipples and/or breasts are sore for a few days, call the Lactation Center for an observed feeding. It shouldn’t hurt!

CG: Most of the time, it’s just incorrect latching. You just need to tweak a few things.

AH: If the nipples are sore for more than four days, call the center at 412-641-1121. Don’t grin and bear it, we can help.

What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?

AH & KF: Focus on a well-balanced diet, with fluids to thirst.

CG: You don’t need to cut out certain foods, that is a common misconception. Your baby already knows if you prefer certain foods (like garlic or bananas), so he/she is already used to them.

Will I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding?

CG, AH: It is possible, but it depends on what you’re eating.

KF: You’re burning calories by making milk, so if you eat well, you will likely lose weight.

CG: I think it can be harder for mom’s to find time to eat. You should think “I fed the baby, now I have to feed me.” Sometimes it helps to graze throughout the day.

Additional tips

  • AH: “Practice. Practice. Practice.”
  • KF: “Patience!”
  • BWB: “Relax and enjoy! It’s meant to be a bonding experience.”
  • CG: “A lot of mothers think they need the right gear, but if you can just find a comfortable spot, that’s all you need. Your baby doesn’t mind.”

For more information about the Lactation Center, visit or call 412-641-1121 to schedule an appointment.

About UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long-renowned for its services to women and babies but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Our patient-first approach ensures you and your loved ones get the care you need. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and our NICU is one of the largest in the country. Our network of care – from imaging centers to hospital services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, giving you a chance to get the expert care you need close to home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes UPMC Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.