***The Department of Health has launched the statewide Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline, which is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free number is 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667). The hotline is staffed by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Certified Lactation Counselors.****

Breast milk is the best food for your baby’s first year of life. It’s rich in nutrients, it’s free, and it helps both mother and baby bond emotionally.

Why should I breastfeed? Why is breastfeeding so important?

  • Breastfeeding is natural and healthy for you and your baby
  • Breast milk has disease-fighting substances called antibodies that help protect infants from germs, illness and even sudden infant death syndrome
  • Breastfeeding helps lower the risk of several health problems for babies including ear infections, stomach viruses, respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and skin rashes
  • Breastfeeding may help baby spit up less and have less diarrhea and constipation
  • Breastfeeding helps shrink your uterus to pre-pregnancy size
  • Breastfeeding helps prevent you from having excessive bleeding
  • Breastfeeding may help you lose weight faster
  • Breastfeeding helps you bond with baby
  • Breastfeeding releases hormones to help you relax
  • Breastfeeding can lower your risk for certain diseases including type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression
  • Breastfeeding may help you lose weight after the baby is born:

Breast Milk:

  • has all the nutrients your baby needs for proper growth and development
  • is easier for your baby to digest
  • is always the right temperature, never too hot and never too cold
  • saves money on formula, bottles, utilities, and medical bills
  • reduces sick days used by working mothers
  • is good for the environment as it decreases trash and plastic waste

Learning how to breastfeed takes time and patience. Here are some frequent questions about breastfeeding:

How long should I breastfeed?

Many leading health organizations recommend that most infants breastfeed for at least 12 months, and that babies not be given any foods or liquids other than breast milk for the first 6 months unless medically indicated.

Will I be able to breastfeed?

Most moms can breastfeed including those of all ages, with small breasts, who had multiple births, who had a C-section (Cesarean section), and/or who work or go to school.

Why does it feel like I'm not making any milk?

Before the milk comes in, new mothers produce colostrum. Colostrum is a sticky yellowish substance full of vitamins and minerals. This colostrum provides your baby with the right amount of nourishment and important antibodies to protect against disease.
Though it may not seem like a lot, it is enough to fill your baby’s stomach in the first days. Your milk supply will come in within a few days.

How often should I breastfeed my baby?

Newborn babies breastfeed frequently, about every 1½ to
3 hours around the clock. Feed your baby when he or she shows signs of hunger:

  • squirming or restless movements while asleep
  • sucking on hands or fingers
  • smacking lips or opening mouth when lips are touched
  • rooting or searching for mother’s nipple

The more milk your baby sucks out, the more milk you will produce! This is called supply and demand, and it is very important to the success of breastfeeding.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?

  • Baby is interested in feeding every 1½ to 3 hours, around the clock.
  • Baby wakes to feed.
  • Mom can see or hear your baby swallowing.
  • Baby appears satisfied and content after feeding.
  • Mom’s breast softens during the feeding.
  • Baby has 3–5 wet diapers and 3–4 soiled diapers by 3–5 days of age.
  • Baby has 4–6 wet diapers and 3–6 soiled diapers per day by 5–7 days of age.
  • Baby’s poops are yellow and seedy (by day 3).

Do not worry if your baby loses a little weight in the first few days. After about 5 days, the baby should gain 4–8 ounces or more per week with breast milk. After 6 weeks, the number of dirty diapers may decrease.

How can the doctors and nurses at the hospital help me breastfeed?

Let your doctor or nurse know that you want only to breastfeed your baby. Ask for their help in getting started with breastfeeding.

You have everything you need to make enough milk to feed your baby. You do not need to give your baby any additional fluids. You will have better success getting your milk supply established if you give your baby only breast milk.

Can I feed my baby both breast milk and formula?

Feeding your baby both breast milk and formula in the first month can decrease your ability to make enough milk. Giving the baby both breast and formula will reduce your milk supply! If your baby gets full with formula and does not breastfeed, your breasts will make less milk.

Does crying mean my baby is hungry?

Babies cry for many reasons and you will learn how to tell when your baby is hungry. In truth, your newborn baby’s stomach is no bigger than a toy marble! Your colostrum is enough to fill a tiny stomach. By day 3, your baby’s stomach grows to the size of a walnut, and by day 7 it is the size of a ping-pong ball.

Why do my breasts hurt when the baby starts to suck?

You may feel pain if your baby is not positioned properly or not latching on correctly to breastfeed. Talk to a WIC breastfeeding counselor to help position your baby properly or call The Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline for support (1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667)).

Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, other relatives, and friends who have breastfed can be good sources of information, too!

How do I prepare to go back to work if I am breastfeeding?

If you are returning to work soon after your baby is born, it is best to make a plan about how to work and breastfeed. Find a day care center or babysitter near your job and talk to them about your plans to breastfeed. You can use a breast pump to collect and store milk for your baby to have while you are at work. WIC can help you learn about pumping and storing breast milk. You should start to pump a week before you return to work to ensure you have a good supply.

WIC Supports Breastfeeding

Since a major goal of the Women, Infants and Children program is to improve nutrition and health, WIC mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants. WIC promotes breast milk as the best food for infants, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

WIC mothers choosing to breastfeed are provided information through counseling and breastfeeding educational materials.

Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers.

Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their infants receive an enhanced food package.

Breastfeeding mothers can receive breast pumps to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.

All health departments in Tennessee have a staff person—a Designated Breastfeeding Expert—who provides and helps coordinate breastfeeding services.

For more information on breastfeeding, call your local health department or call 800-DIAL-WIC (800-342-5942).

You’ll find additional information and support at the links below:

La Leche League

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More breastfeeding links