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What to expect: Breast-feeding FAQ, part 2

When should I express my breast milk, and how do I store it?

You may wish to express your breast milk by hand or with a breast pump if you won't be with your baby at feeding times (e.g., while you are at work). You may also want to express milk if your breasts are very full. This will help relieve your discomfort and make it easier for your baby to latch on. Expressing your milk also gives your partner and other family members a way to get involved in feeding the baby and give you time to rest. The most effective breast pumps are high-powered, double, electric, hospital-grade ones that have the option of adjusting pressure and suction. Some hand pumps are good for occasional pumping.

Store expressed breast milk in the fridge in a sterilized glass or BPA-free plastic container labelled with the date. It will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge (at a temperature colder than 4°C [40°F]), and 6 to 12 months in a separate deep freezer set to temperatures colder than -18°C (0°F). Frozen milk should be thawed in the fridge or using lukewarm water. Avoid using the microwave. Uneven heating may produce hot spots in the milk that can cause harm to your baby. Overheating may also affect the quality of the milk.

Should I make any changes to my lifestyle when I'm breast-feeding?

If you smoke, quit – or at least cut back, which is better than doing nothing at all. Any amount of smoking can harm your health and your baby's health. Smoking cigarettes can decrease your milk production. It can also make your baby irritable or slow to gain weight.

Minimize your alcohol intake, or ideally avoid it completely. The amount of alcohol you consume will affect how long you should wait until you breast-feed again. It takes up to 2 hours for 1 drink to clear from your body, or about 6 hours for 3 drinks. In general, you should have no more than 2 drinks per occasion.

You should be aware that alcohol is thought to reduce the amount of milk produced, resulting in the baby having to feed more often. It may also alter the taste of breast milk, possibly to the point that the baby will dislike it and become irritable and refuse to feed.

In terms of caffeine, limit your caffeine consumption to a maximum of 2 to 3 cups per day. Eat a well-balanced diet, and if you are a vegan, ask your doctor whether you should take nutritional supplements.

Can I breast-feed while I'm on medication?

It depends on the medication. Many medications are fine to take during breast-feeding, but some, such as certain cancer and headache medications, could affect your baby. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking any medications, including non-prescription and herbal remedies.

When should I wean my baby?

The Canadian Paediatric Society and Health Canada recommend breast-feeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life. During this time, breast-feeding can be used as the only source of food for your baby (your baby will need a vitamin D supplement).

After 6 months, babies can no longer get everything they need from breast milk, so it's recommended that you start introducing solid foods.

Even after your baby starts solids, you can continue breast-feeding until the age of 2 years and beyond.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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