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By making the decision to breastfeed, you are bringing many benefits to your baby, yourself and the community. While breastfeeding is a great decision, it isn't always easy to do. If you're facing challenges and breastfeeding doesn't seem to be working for you, don't give up! There are many great resources  to help you. Many women struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning, but with a little help and practice they go on to great success.

VCH supports breastfeeding through its Baby Friendly Initiative. Have a look at our breastfeeding services to find the right ones for you. You can also reach out to your Public Health Nurse, who will be a great resource and source of support.

Getting started

Benefits of breastfeeding for baby

Breast milk is good for your baby because it:

  • Is always fresh and ready

  • Will help your baby keep a healthy body weight

  • May increase protection against illnesses such as childhood diabetes

  • Increases protection against ear, chest and stomach infections

  • May increase protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

  • Helps to prevent constipation

Benefits of breastfeeding for mothers

Breastfeeding is good for you because it:

  • Promotes closeness and bonding with baby

  • Helps the uterus to return to its normal size after birth

  • Helps to control bleeding after birth

  • Helps to protect you against cancer of the breast and ovary

  • Helps you return to a healthy body weight after giving birth

Other benefits of breastfeeding

Other benefits of breastfeeding are that it:

  • Saves money (formula can be very expensive)

  • Saves time (no need to prepare formula and bottles)

  • Is better for the environment (no formula and bottle packages to throw out)

Breast milk is the only food your baby will need for the first six months of life, which is great because breast milk is free and offers many health benefits. But getting started can sometimes be difficult. If you don't know how to get started, or have questions, we're here to help. 

VCH supports breastfeeding through its Baby Friendly Initiative. Have a look at our breastfeeding services to find the right ones for you. You can also reach out to your Public Health Nurse, who will be a great resource and source of support. You may find these resources helpful:

Some things you might not know about breastfeeding

  • You can breastfeed and use birth control at the same time (talk to your health care provider about safe options)

  • Your employer must accommodate you if you need to pump breast milk at work

  • Babies who are breastfed need a liquid vitamin D supplement of 400 IU every day to help them grow strong teeth and bones. Breast milk has some vitamin D but it is not enough to meet your baby's needs. Learn more about vitamin D on Healthy Families BC.

A day or two after you get home from the hospital, a Public Health Nurse will contact you to see how you're doing. You can call your Public Health Nurse at any time if:

  • You have pain or sore nipples during feeding.

  • Your baby is too sleepy to feed or feeds less than 8 times in 24 hours.

  • You think your baby may not be getting enough milk.

  • Your baby has fewer than 4-6 wet (pee) diapers or 3 soiled (poo) diapers in 24 hours after 3 days of age.

  • You are having a lot of stress related to breastfeeding

Our services support early breastfeeding from birth to six months and continuing breastfeeding for two years and beyond. Services provided by public health nurses or lactation consultants include:

  • Telephone and hotline support

  • Home visits

  • Drop-in support groups

  • Breastfeeding clinics

Find a public health nurse in your area.

Sometimes it can take time for a baby to learn how to get a good latch on your breast. A good latch is important for successful breastfeeding. It helps your baby get the milk they need and it stops you from going through discomfort or pain unnecessarily. If you're having problems getting a good latch, check out these resources:

It is also important to find a breastfeeding position that works for you and your baby to help enjoy a successful breastfeeding experience.

Common challenges

Breastfeeding isn't easy always easy. It can take a lot of patience and practice. If you are having problems, contact your Public Health Nurse, physician or midwife for help.

Engorgement is when your breasts get too full. They become swollen, hard and tender, and your baby has a hard time latching. Engorgement usually only lasts for a few days.  Learn more about engorgement.

Tips to make your breasts more comfortable

  • Breastfeed often, and let the baby stay on the breast until the breast is softer or the sucking slows, then offer the second breast.

  • If your baby is not nursing well, express your milk 8 or more times in 24 hours

  • Express a small amount of milk to relieve the pressure before breastfeeding.

  • Put cool cloths on your breasts for 20 minutes at a time.

  • Massage your breasts while feeding or pumping.

  • Take a warm shower.

  • Try  reverse pressure softening.

  • Put clean green cabbage leaves inside your bra (we're serious!)

If your engorgement lasts more than a few days or continues to be a problem, talk to your doctor, midwife or public health nurse.

When your milk comes out very fast at the beginning of a feeding, we call that a forceful letdown. It might seem like having a large amount of milk would be a good thing, but it can actually cause a lot of problems, including gas for the baby and pain for you as the baby bites down to slow down the flow of milk. Learn more about forceful letdown.

Tips for forceful letdown

If forceful letdown is a problem for you, you might find it helpful to:

  • Try feeding from a different position, including holding baby upright or lying down on your back to feed.

  • Let the milk spray out first and offer your breast to baby after the flow has stopped.

  • Burp baby frequently.

  • Avoid missing feedings; don't add formula to your routine.

Unfortunately, you'll need to be patient. Forceful letdown can take weeks to resolve. Talk to your public health nurse, midwife or lactation consultant for more support.

Mastitis is an infection in the breast. It happens to many new parents and can clear up quickly with treatment. Mastitis is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. If you think you might have mastitis, you should see your health care provider for treatment within 24 hours. Some things to watch for include:

  • Hot, red, painful area on the breast

  • Muscle aches

  • Headache

  • Fever or chills

  • Fatigue

 If you get mastitis, try these tips to feel better.

Preventing mastitis

You can try to prevent mastitis by:

  • Washing your hands before feeding

  • Ensuring your baby has a good latch

  • Feeding one breast until soft before offering the other breast

  • Gently massaging any plugged ducts or breast lumps (see Plugged Ducts handout)

  • Trying not to miss feedings

  • Getting help if you have sore or cracked nipples

  • Taking care of yourself; rest, drink and eat well

  • Wearing a comfortable, well fitting nursing bra

  • If weaning, doing it slowly

Increasing your milk supply

Sometimes babies don't get enough breast milk to gain weight. Babies who aren't getting enough milk are also still fussy after feedings and don't have a lot of soiled diapers. The good news is most women can make enough milk to feed their babies. Increasing milk supply might just take a little work.

Tips to Increase Milk Supply

  • Breastfeed often (at least 8 times in 24 hours). More feedings create more milk.

  • Offer both breasts at each feed.

  • Take care of yourself. Rest when you can, eat well, drink lots of water and avoid alcohol and nicotine.

  • Express your breastmilk

    • Hand express or pump your milk after as many feedings as you can

    • If your baby is not latching, express or pump your milk at least 7 times during the day and one time during the night

    • Feed baby extra milk (expressed breast milk or formula) if your baby is not growing well with breastfeeding

 Try these additional tips to increase your milk supply. If you still can't seem to make enough milk, talk to your health care provider. Domperidone (Motilium) is a safe prescription medication that increases milk supply that might be right for you.

Overabundant milk supply

Having more milk than your baby needs can be a problem. It can be hard to tell if your baby is hungry or not.

Signs of Overabundant Milk Supply

  • Your baby has short, frequent feeds, may be fussy during the feed and hard to settle

  • The baby may have many explosive, runny, yellow or green stools in a day, be gassy and may spit up often

  • During feeding, your baby may choke or cough, refuse or bite the breast, and cry or pull off with letdown

  • Your breasts feel overfull, spray milk with letdown, have pain in the breast with letdown and may get plugged ducts  or mastitis 

What to Do About Overabundant Milk Supply

  • Try different positions when you feed – hold the baby upright, lean back after latching or side lying

  • Feed the baby when they are drowsy or not too hungry

  • Take baby off the breast if the baby chokes or coughs

  • Let the milk spray (or catch it in a container) until it slows, then offer the breast again

  • Burp baby frequently

  • For each feeding use one breast only, feed until baby is content. Offer the same breast again if the baby is hungry soon after. You may need to hand express the other breast for comfort

  • Avoid missing feedings or giving formula

  • Watch for signs of plugged ducts or mastitis

It can take weeks for your milk supply to improve, but  you can make the situation more comfortable by trying these tips.

Nipple pain is a common problem, especially during the first week of breastfeeding. Nipple pain usually means that there is a problem with the latch, but it can also be due to things like infection, thrush, Raynaud's Disease (poor circulation to the nipple) or problems with the baby's suck. The best way to prevent nipple pain is to make sure you have a good latch.

Tips to ease nipple pain

  • Feed your baby at the first signs of hunger.

  • If you use them, change breast pads often.

  • Express a little milk to soften your breast before feedings.

  • Use lanolin cream on your nipples after every feeding.

  • Hand express or pump your breast milk to give your nipples a break.

Identifying a plugged duct

When milk builds up in a milk duct in the breast, the duct can get plugged. If you see any of the signs below, you might have a plugged duct.

  • A tender lump in your breast or near your armpit

  • Red areas or red streaks on your breast

  • Your affected breast feels warmer than the other

  • There's a white spot at the end of your nipple

  • Your milk flow is slow, causing baby to be fussy or tug at your breast

Fixing a plugged duct

If you think you have a plugged duct,  try these tips to make breastfeeding easier and get your milk flowing well again.

Luckily, plugged ducts usually get better within a day or two, and you can (and should) continue breastfeeding. If your symptoms are more serious, or you continue to have problems, talk to your health care provider. You want to make sure that you don't have mastitis, which would need treatment.

Thrush is also known as a yeast infection. It’s a common condition that isn’t serious, but it can be painful and needs to be treated. It’s easy to pass thrush back and forth with your baby, so check both of you for symptoms:

Signs of thrush for parents

You might have thrush if:

  • Your nipples feel sore, itchy or burning after you’ve finished breastfeeding.

  • Your nipples are deep pink or bright red.

  • Your nipples are shiny or flaky.

  • You have a shooting pain in your breast during or after feeding.

Signs of thrush for babies

Your baby might have thrush if:
  • You see white patches on the gums, tongue or inside of the mouth.

  • They suddenly don’t want to latch or get fussy (but didn’t before).

  • Their diaper rash is bright red with open areas and clear edges.

  • The diaper rash doesn’t get better after three days.

If you and/or baby have thrush, follow the recommended treatment. Contact your health care provider if things don’t improve.

Expressing and storing breast milk

Sometimes, you may want to express milk from your breasts with your hands or a pump instead of breastfeeding. Expressing breast milk is useful when you want to:

  • Relieve breasts that are too full

  • Give your nipples a rest

  • Have a supply for when you will be away from your baby.

You can use your hand to express milk. If you can't breastfeed or will be away from your baby regularly, you can also use a breast pump.

Breast milk can be stored:

  • At room temperature for up to four hours

  • In your fridge for three days

  • In your freezer for 6-12 months

To warm up the breast milk, put the bottle or bag of breast milk in warm water. Don't use the stove or microwave.

Sometimes mothers can’t make enough milk for their babies. If a mother’s own milk is not available, the next best thing is pasteurized breast milk from a donor. There's always a demand for milk which is provided to premature and sick babies in your community. 

If you have more milk than your baby needs, consider donating to the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank. We are always in need of new donors. You can drop off milk once you have been approved to donate by the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank. 

Breast milk substitutes

Breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies. However, for some families, breast milk isn't available or breastfeeding isn't the right choice. 

Breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies. It is rare that a woman is unable to or advised not to breastfeed her baby. If you are unsure about breastfeeding or are considering formula feeding, talk to your provider for more information. However, for some families, breast milk isn't available or breastfeeding isn't the right choice. In these cases, a store-bought infant formula  is recommended.

If you're using formula, it is the only food your baby will need for the first six months. At six months, you should begin introducing solid foods. However, continue to give formula until your baby is 9 to 12 months old. Once your baby is eating iron-rich foods every day, you may offer milk substitutes. Milk substitutes include whole cow milk, evaporated or powdered milk (provided that it is full-fat and properly diluted with water). If you choose whole goat's milk, it must be pasteurized and have vitamin D and folic acid added. It is too early to give lower fat milk, soy or other plant-based drinks (e.g., almond, rice or coconut). These drinks do not have enough nutrition to meet your growing baby's needs.


It is very important to prepare and store infant formula safely. This will keep your baby growing well and prevent your baby from becoming sick. Make sure that you don't put your baby to bed with a bottle of formula. This can put them at risk of ear infections, choking, or dental decay.

When you are bottle feeding, let your baby decide how much they need. Newborns may drink as little as 1 ounce (30 mL) at a feeding. Most babies drink about 2 to 4 ounces (60 to 120 mL) each feeding during the first month. Babies gradually have more until they are drinking about 6 to 8 ounces (180 to 240 mL) at a time.

Tips for feeding your baby

  • Do not be too concerned about the amount of formula. Do not coax your baby to finish the bottle if she is not interested.

  • Stop feeding when your baby shows signs of fullness. Signs that your baby has had enough formula include:

    • Closing her mouth

    • Turning away from the bottle

    • Pushing away from the bottle or the person feeding

    • Falling asleep

If you have any questions about using formula, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 and ask to speak to a dietitian.

Breastfeeding services & clinics

SOURCE: Breastfeeding ( )
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