Even though the first days and weeks of breastfeeding are the most important—it's when your milk supply is established and you and your baby get into the groove of things—many moms focus on this period to the exclusion of all others. But at some point down the road, you're likely to have different concerns and questions. Here's a look at some of the breastfeeding issues you're likely to face through the first year.
Month 1: How can I tell if my baby's getting enough milk?
The best way to tell is by monitoring his weight (your pediatrician will watch it closely, especially for the first few weeks) and his stools: They should be dark or green and sticky until about 3 days of age, after which they should be light and mustard colored. But you also need to pay attention to wet diapers: By the third day of breastfeeding, your baby should have at least four wet diapers every day; that number should increase to six to eight by seven days.
Month 2: I'm going back to work soon. How do I handle pumping?
By about three or four weeks, you should have begun pumping, both to get your baby accustomed to taking a bottle and so you'll have a healthy amount of breast milk stored in the freezer. You either can rent a hospital-grade pump or buy an electric one. Many working breastfeeding moms recommend a double electric pump because it expresses both breasts at once and therefore cuts down on pumping time. Once you return to work, try to pump as often—and at about the same times—as your baby normally nurses.
Month 3: Can I start taking the birth control pill if I'm nursing?
"Yes, but it's best to wait until your milk supply is well established, which is about six to eight weeks after delivery," says Debi Page Ferrarello, R.N., M.S., I.B.C.L.C., director of family education at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. "Also opt for a progestin-only 'minipill' because pills containing estrogen can decrease milk supply." Depo-Provera (injections given every three months) is another progestin-only contraceptive that is safe to use while breastfeeding; the manufacturer recommends beginning these injections six weeks postpartum.
Month 5: I've heard that babies who are breastfed usually take longer to sleep through the night. Should my son be doing this yet?
First, keep in mind that "sleeping through the night" at this age actually means five or six hours, not eight or nine. Second, every baby is different. Some will start sleeping through at 3 months; others won't until much later. "Babies sleep through the night when they're ready, whether or not they're breastfed," says Jeanette Panchula, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a senior public health nurse and lactation consultant in Vacaville, Calif. That said, because breast milk is digested so completely and more quickly than formula, some breastfed babies do tend to eat—and therefore wake—more frequently than their formula-fed peers.