New to breastfeeding? Common questions answered

By Katie James, Medela

What’s in breast milk?

Here are a few amazing things you may not know that breast milk does:

  • Breast milk contains live cells, like stem cells. These stem cells can be directed to become other body cell types such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells and may act as a type of “internal repair system”
  • Colostrum, the first milk you make, may not seem like a lot of volume, but it’s jam-packed with ingredients, that protect your baby against diseases. Colostrum is known as a baby’s first immunisation
  • Breast milk contains over 415 proteins. Some of these proteins can help to kill bacteria and others can identify pathogens
  • Human milk is specifically designed for human babies. Your milk contains around 4% fat, while milk of seals and whales contains up to 50% fat! The fats in your milk are important for growth and development, and are even antibacterial
  • There is no substitute for breastmilk. It contains thousands of different ingredients which the majority of cannot be replicated artificially

Why would you want to use a breast pump?

There are many different reasons for using a breast pump.It could be you are returning to work or expressing for the occasional feed whilst you’re out and away from your baby. Or it could be that your baby is in the special care unit from birth and cannot breastfeed yet so you need to establish your milk supply completely by a breast pump. Each of these reasons will require a different pump. 

What’s the difference between a single and a double breast pump?

Double pumping:

  • Milk ejection (the let-down) happens at the same time in both breasts
  • This causes you to express up to 18% more milk at each pumping session
  • This milk has a higher energy content
  • Double pumping takes half the time, 80% of your milk is expressed in the first 6-8 minutes!

So a double pump will be excellent for you if you will be expressing fairly regularly, are boosting low milk supply, or are going back to work and saving time is essential.

What is a hospital grade pump and do I need one?

 It is a pump which is only sold to hospitals as it is a piece of hospital equipment which will withstand lots of mums expressing with it daily for many years. 

Research studies have shown that a professional hospital pump is essential for any mum whose baby cannot breastfeed from the beginning either totally or partially. This level of pump will enable a mum to initiate and maintain her milk supply until her baby is able to breastfeed or she has established a good milk supply. Once a mum’s milk supply is established, after the first month then she can usually move on to a double personal use pump to maintain her supply.

What’s normal in breastfeeding? 

Why do some babies feed much more frequently, and how many times a day is normal?!

A study looked at breastfeeding babies who were one to six months old and it revealed that there are big differences in how often babies feed.

• Babies feed 4-13 times every 24 hours

• Drink 54ml - 234ml at each feed

• Drink, on average, 800ml per day

Imagine you and I are breastfeeding our babies. My breasts hold 80ml of milk at each feed, while yours holds 130ml. So whose baby will breastfeed more frequently? Mine! My baby needs to feed about 10 times compared to your baby who feeds six times. This is normal and why all babies feed differently!

How do I know my baby is getting enough?

• Listen to your gut instinct – is your baby mostly happy, content and otherwise healthy?

• Do you have to change at least five heavy wet nappies daily?

• Does your baby settle after feeds?

• Is your baby gaining weight?

If you are concerned always ask for help from your health nurse or lactation consultant.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

Gain more Parenting Insights at our Expos

Get your Expo tickets today! View Expo dates