Breastfeeding Support

Common Breastfeeding Questions Answered

The experts at Mercer Health have compiled a number of answers and online resources you can use to make this experience as rewarding and successful as possible.

What should I eat while breastfeeding?

You should eat to hunger and drink to thirst. It’s best to try to eat a variety of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Water, milk, non-caffeinated tea and/or juice are good drink options.

What should I eat while breastfeeding?

It’s best to avoid eating foods high in sugar and saturated fat. It’s also advised to limit eating fish that contain high levels of mercury.

Should I limit caffeine?

Try to limit your intake of caffeinated beverages to 1-2 per day. Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and chocolate may all contain caffeine.

Can I drink alcohol?

Abstaining from alcohol is the safest option for breastfeeding mothers. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate alcohol consumption (up to one drink per day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the mother waits at least two hours after a single drink before nursing.

Can I take medication while breastfeeding?

Most medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, but you should always consult your doctor first. Always take medications as prescribed.

Does smoking affect breastfeeding?

If you smoke, quitting is the best option for you and your family, however, breastfeeding is still best for your baby even if you cannot quit smoking. Smoking can lower your milk production. Limit smoking to just after feeding to limit the amount of nicotine that enters your milk. Also avoid smoking while holding your baby or near your baby; many infant health issues, including an increased risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, are linked to second-hand smoke.

What should I know about drug use and breastfeeding?

You should avoid all illegal substances while breastfeeding. Heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and other drugs can pass into your milk and harm your baby’s brain development. It is not safe to breastfeed your baby while using drugs. While marijuana is legal in some states, it is recommended that you do not use marijuana while breastfeeding.

Our Breastfeeding Services & Support Include:

Before Baby Arrives

  • Breastfeeding classes
  • One-on-one consultations

While You’re in the Hospital

  • Daily check-ins
  • One-on-one breastfeeding education
  • Customized plans based on individual needs
  • Help with breastfeeding

Help with breastfeeding After You Go Home

  • Two-week follow-up phone call
  • One-on-one outpatient services
  • Hospital or home lactation visit

Local Breastfeeding Classes

Our breastfeeding class provides a basic understanding of breastfeeding. Parents are given information on how to get breastfeeding off to the best start. Class is taught by our board-certified lactation consultant who is available after class to discuss any questions more in-depth. This class is recommended for first-time breastfeeding mothers and mothers who did not meet their breastfeeding goals in the past. Support people are encouraged to attend class with the mother-to-be.

Breastfeeding classes are free to to any expecting mothers and are offered from 6:00-8:00 p.m. throughout the year. Online registration is required.

Register Online

Helpful Information

Exclusive Breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding is feeding infants only breastmilk without any other food or drink. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months. To promote exclusive breastfeeding, we recommend keeping your baby in your room with you in the hospital and sharing a room (not a bed) at home. Allow your baby to breastfeed often, respond quickly to baby’s early feeding cues, avoid giving baby formula unless medically necessary and avoid bottles and pacifiers for the first month.

Feeding Cues

When babies are ready to eat, they will show feeding cues, including rooting (baby will open mouth and search side to side for your breast), putting hands to mouth, stretching, smacking lips, thrusting tongue and fidgeting. Late feeding cues include crying and frantic movement.

Breastfeeding Positions

There are four main breastfeeding holds — cradle, cross cradle, sidelying and football. To ensure proper positioning, baby should be facing you, chest to chest. Baby should also be properly aligned — baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line — and the base of baby’s head should be supported. Good positioning is an important key to breastfeeding!

Proper Latch

In addition to good positioning, a good latch is an important key to breastfeeding. The baby’s mouth should be wide and over the nipple with the lips turned out over the breast. The baby should stay on the breast and be swallowing consistently and frequently. There should not be a pinching pain with nursing.

Newborn Feeding Patterns

Newborn babies are often awake and alert for the first 1-2 hours after birth, and then sleep for many hours at a time. It’s best to offer the breast at least eight times in the first day, but they may eat less often in the first 24 hours. On day two, babies begin to cue and eat more frequently. On day three, babies may begin to “cluster feed,” which means they may feed many times close together. Cluster feeds often continue until your milk supply increases. On day four and five, your milk supply will likely increase so that baby eats more during each feed.

Signs Baby is Getting Enough to Eat

It is common for new moms to be concerned that they are not producing enough breastmilk and that their baby is not getting enough to eat. Babies have tiny stomachs – from the size of a grape at birth to the size of an apricot at day seven – and do not require a large amount of breastmilk to feel full. Signs that your baby is getting enough to eat are:

  • At least 8 feedings in a 24 hour period
  • Enough wet and dirty diapers for their age (see resource below)
  • Using a deep latch with several periods of sucking and swallowing at each feed
  • Satisfied after feeds
  • Gaining weight
Expected Newborn Output

For the first five days, you should expect at least one wet and one dirty diaper for each day of age (one wet and one dirty on day one, two wet and two dirty on day two, etc.). Baby’s stool will change from black meconium on day one, to black or dark green on day two, to brown, green or yellow on day three and by day four or five, will change to yellow, loose seedy stool.

Common Breastfeeding Problems
Nipple tenderness

Nipple tenderness is common as you begin breastfeeding; soreness that lasts more than seven days and is accompanied by sores, blisters and/or bruises is not considered normal and could be a sign of poor latch and/or positioning. Please contact our lactation consultant for support.


When your milk supply starts increasing your breasts may become larger and feel swollen. This is commonly known as “engorgement” and typically starts around day 2-5 and subsides within 1-2 days. Be sure to breastfeed baby frequently. Using massage during a feeding may help the milk flow better. Cold compresses applied to the breast after a feeding for 15-20 minutes may be helpful. Contact our lactation consultant for additional support.

Blocked ducts

Blocked ducts, which may feel like pea-sized lumps or engorged tissue, are often sore and may feel warm. To help relieve blocked ducts, apply warm compresses to the affected area, feed baby frequently and massage the blocked duct toward the nipple during feedings. Contact our lactation consultant if you are not responding to these relief measures. Blocked ducts can lead to mastitis, which can become serious if not treated quickly. If you have the symptoms of a blocked duct in addition to fever and chills, contact your doctor immediately.


Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness. You might also have fever and chills. Mastitis requires immediate medical attention.

Exclusive Pumping

Be sure to have your pump before having the baby so you can become familiar with it.

  • Practice putting it together before coming to the hospital.
  • Turn it on and play with the settings.
  • Utilize the manual and online tutorials

Assure you have the right flange size.

  • Measure your nipples at the base of the nipple from one side to the other.
  • Look at your pump’s flange sizing guidelines to determine what the right flange size is for you.

Be prepared to pump a lot.

  • Goal: 7-10 times a day
  • Goal: 120 minutes/day

Look for the Exclusive Pumping booklet in your OB’s office for more information.

Storing Breastmilk

Always follow breastmilk storage guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breastmilk Storage Guidelines
Breast Pump Hygiene

Here are the essentials of how to keep your breast pump kit clean as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breast pump Hygiene
Online Resources

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Nicole Schumm, RN, IBCLC, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who has dedicated her whole nursing career to maternity and lactation specific care. She is passionate about breastfeeding and helping new moms meet their breastfeeding goals. Nicole is available to answer questions via phone or email before and after baby’s arrival.

Contact Nicole at 419-678-5162 or