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Breastfeeding Basics: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Breastfeeding FAQ

Now that you've heard the basics, you probably have questions. Below are answers to some commonly asked questions:

Is breastfeeding painful? "No, pain means that something is wrong," says Ryan. Some tenderness in the first few days of breastfeeding is common, but cracked, bleeding or extremely sore nipples may be a sign that baby is not latched on properly. If so, now is the time to get help from a lactation consultant on how to properly position baby and ensure he's latched on. In addition to positioning, it's possible, although less likely, that baby is having trouble nursing because of an anatomical problem, which your pediatrician can diagnose.

Are there some people who just can't breastfeed? While there are some women who cannot breastfeed — those who genetically do not have enough mammary tissue, who have had a double mastectomy, who are HIV positive, who have certain serious illnesses or who are going through chemotherapy — "it is very, very rare that a woman cannot produce milk," says Ryan. Having flat or inverted nipples usually doesn't preclude a woman from breastfeeding, nor does having only one breast. Babies can also have problems that make breastfeeding impossible, including metabolic disorders or a deformity such as cleft lip that interferes with sucking.

Can I store my breast milk? For all the effort it takes to pump breast milk, the end product is a little like liquid gold. You will probably find yourself hoarding it, reluctant to let any go to waste. Fortunately, breast milk can be stored, which is great if you're planning on going back to work or plan to be away from baby for any other reason (even if it's just to give yourself a much needed baby break). If you have a healthy full-term infant, you can store breast milk in the refrigerator for five to six days, and in the freezer for several weeks to several months, depending on how good your freezer is. Keep in mind that your body automatically adjusts the makeup of your milk to meet the needs of your baby at that time. Therefore, the milk that you pump and store when baby is 1 month old is not the same as the milk you produce when he is 3 months old. That's not to say that you shouldn't give it to him, just that you should use the oldest milk first even if you're nowhere near its "expiration" date.