Naturopathic – Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is a learnt skill and can be difficult for some women – help is available…

It often takes 4-6 weeks to feel confident breastfeeding – be patient


This handout covers the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding and resources.

Contact your local Naturopath, Midwife, or Lactation Consultant for personalized assistance.


Why Breastfeed? Nursing is convenient, cheap, your best means of bonding and the perfect food for your child even if you are sick or on medication.


Why Breast milk?

  • Specific to our species
  • Less digestive upset, diaper rashes and constipation is rare. Your child will have fewer or less severe colds, ear infections, and allergies. Breast milk protects from viruses and bacteria because the mother quickly develops relevant antibodies, passing resistance to the baby through the milk. Baby can still get sick but the immune system will be supported and thus hasten recovery.
  • Better jaw development and optimal teeth positioning because breastfeeding is harder than drinking from a bottle. Children show fewer cavities if nursed longer than 4 months.
  • Better brain development and higher IQs.
  • Essential nutrients: milk will change with your diet (i.e. garlic can be found in milk)
    • Protein is easy to digest = 60% whey protein and 40% casein (Cow’s milk is 20:80 respectively). Protein is lowest in AM and highest in PM.
    • Fats (60% of calories needed in first year) – especially DHA which promotes brain, nerve and intestinal health
    • Lipase – an enzyme that keeps the fats (most efficient energy source for baby) easy to digest
    • Lactose – a sugar important for brain and central nervous system development. Also helps absorb calcium and promotes overall growth. (Lactose is higher in human milk vs. cow’s milk). Lactose is higher in the afternoon.
    • IMMUNE FACTORS: Antibodies, White blood cells, Cytokines, Interferon, and Lysozymes – relevant to local bacteria, viruses and fungi – hours after exposure milk will change to suit mom and baby’s health
    • Bifidus and Oligosaccharides – both aid in intestinal health and colonization
    • (attacks bacterial cell walls) for immunity
    • Water – all that baby needs till solids are introduced (baby should be sitting unassisted, showing curiosity in foods, have a good pincher grasp and teething, ~6 mos).
    • Vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Vitamin D and iron levels are low but absorbed easier than iron in formulas or supplements. If your stores are low talk to the appropriate health care professional. Going outside for 5-10 minutes at least twice a week (face and arm exposure) can help establish vitamin D levels.
    • Hormones and enzymes promoting healthy intestinal tract and ensures protective organisms dominate in the digestive tract.
    • Formula has no immune factors like breast milk

  • Composition changes during feeds, during day, and at different stages of development:
    • Colostrum in the first few days is extremely high in antibodies suited to pathogens in your environment. It also helps prevent and clear jaundice. A laxative to expel meconium (black, tarry stool) from the intestines & prepares the gut for milk. Colostrums is yellowish, sticky, thicker and loaded with white blood cells – 100X more than in your blood
    • Foremilk – considered mature milk by week 1 or 2 – bluish white color
    • Hind milk fattier content for appetite control
    • Pre-term babies get milk that is higher in protein, sodium, white blood cells, iron and polyunsaturated fats to make up for less time in the womb.
    • The number of white blood cells decreases but by 6 months, breast milk still has 10-20X more than found in your blood.
    • Other factors that alter breast milk constituents: offering same breast twice in a row, having your menstrual period, multi-parity (more than this child), expressing or pumping.
  • Self-regulating to meet your baby’s needs. Demand equals supply. The more you feed and stimulate letdown to feed or pump – the more milk you will have.
  • High potassium and low sodium levels are thought to protect against high blood pressure.
  • Less likelihood of Diabetes later in life.


What are the benefits to a breastfeeding mother?

  • Oxytocin, a hormone produced when nursing, contracts the uterus, reduces bleeding and encourages the uterus to return to pre-pregnancy size
  • Helps your figure return to pre-pregnant state
  • Lowers breast & ovarian cancer risk
  • Improves re-mineralization of bone after pregnancy
  • Prolactin, a hormone that relaxes you to help cope with becoming a new mother. Prolactin also suppresses ovulation (delays menstruation and allows iron stores to build)
  • Nursing is easier at night so you get more sleep
  • Milk is always available, properly mixed and heated
  • Easier to travel with baby if breastfeeding – less to pack/carry
  • Satisfying and empowering. Once mastered, nursing is pleasurable, relaxing and nurturing for you because motherhood is often a time for feelings of great inadequacy.


What are the negatives/risks to breastfeeding?

You may experience one or some of the following: Engorgement, sore nipples, cracked nipples, plugged ducts, mastitis, low milk supply, and the demands of your time (up to an hour per feed, every 2-3 hours (believe it or not bottle feeding takes more when cleaning and prep time is factored in)). Your naturopath can help with all of these conditions. Help is available.


What is a good latch?

  • Babies breastfeed, NOT NIPPLE feed. Ensure wide-open mouth before latching. There should be no pain, however, tenderness from stretching of nipple could feel like mild sunburn.
  • Remove blankets
  • Position baby close – tummy to tummy
  • Make mouth level with nipple
  • Have baby’s head, shoulder, and hips in a straight line
  • Cup your breast with hand, thumb on top and fingers underneath well back from areola.
  • Make sure baby’s chin is up
  • Touch the lips with your nipple and wait for big open mouth
  • Bring the baby to the breast not the breast to the baby
  • Practice different holds to finds what works best for you


How do I know if I’m doing it right?

  • Listen to hear your baby swallow. If you can’t hear it look for the jaw pause.
  • You might feel a “let-down” sensation (tingling, pins, warmth, ache) some women report when milk is flowing. If concerned about flow, break the suction with a finger, apply pressure and squeeze down from the areola.
  • Most babies will lose weight after birth, which normalizes by 2 weeks. Do not panic about weight loss unless it is excessive.
  • By day five baby’s stool will be golden yellow, liquid and seedy, this can last till solids are introduced but will vary every so often. If there is a problem baby or you will be uncomfortable and unhappy.


How do I know I have enough milk?

Most women do. Baby will want to feed 8-12 times per day. Usually milk amount is assessed by diaper counts. Baby should be having > 4-6 heavy wet diapers/day (after 6 weeks) and ~0-5 yellow seedy stools by 6 weeks. This can also assessed by baby’s weight gain. Contact your naturopath or lactation consultant for ideas to increase milk production if you are concerned.


When should I feed?

  • Most babies are ready to feed within the first few hours after birth
  • Frequent feedings are important as breast milk is digested in less than 2 hours. Baby will usually feed every 2-3 hours in the day and 1-2 feeds per night.
  • Offer the breast whenever your baby shows interest
  • Keeping your baby near you day and night will help you learn your baby’s feeding cues such as stretching, stirring, rapid eye movements, hand to mouth activity, rooting, licking, sucking, and waking. Crying is the last cue to feed and you may have to calm the baby in order to help him to focus to breastfeed.


How long should I feed?

  • Breastfeed as long as baby is swallowing on one breast and then when baby slows down or comes off, offer the second breast or burp, then change before offering.
  • It is normal for cluster feeds (several nursings close together) when growing and when baby is about to accomplish another milestone (like sitting, rolling, etc.)


What if I’m sick or what if my baby is sick and needs to be in NICU?

Keep nursing and get help if you need it. Have friends or family bring the baby when it is hungry and feed in bed, side lying if weak. Be sure to keep your fluids up. For particular diseases and recommendations see Dr. Jack Newman’s book below. If your child is ill, all the more reason that breast milk is essential. Pump or express and try your best to breastfeed.


What about Medication?

The Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties (CPS), is a thick volume that doctors refer to when deciding about a particular medication, which is provided by drug companies. It is in their best interest to protect against lawsuits to say that everything is contraindicated in lactation. It states that 4 hours after ingestion of caffeine, 1% of how much the mother drank shows up in her breast milk. “The baby almost always gets tiny amounts, if any”.1 If you are that concerned about your child’s exposure, pump enough ahead of time to allow for drug administration and body clearance. In some instances, the medication does not pass into the milk at all. In others, the amount is tiny. Breastfeeding is so valuable to the growing child that Dr. Jack Newman, a Toronto pediatrician, specializing in working with breastfeeding mothers and babies, advocates no interruption of the nursing relationship. See his book and/or the Mother risk website, or contact any of the organizations below for specific indications.


What about pollutants in breast milk?

Sometimes the news discusses new research about toxins found in breast milk (like fat soluble dioxins). If you weren’t able or did not dry sauna for ~100 hours (recommended by naturopaths before pregnancy to detoxify) breast milk is still preferred to formula. Remember that breast milk has only really been studied in the last generation. We are still discovering all the beneficial ingredients – it only makes sense that we may find some bad ones. What the news doesn’t report is that formula is 100x higher in aluminum, lead, cadmium and manganese than breast milk.




  • Avoid or minimize medication during labor and delivery to facilitate a solid first latch
  • Nurse your baby as soon as possible after birth. If not possible, hand express or pump and feed baby via cup, finger, spoon, or lactation aid before trying a bottle with breasmilk. Remember bottles are easier than breastfeeding wait till breastfeeding is established.
  • Room in and/or sleep with your baby
  • Establish proper latch – skin to skin tummy to tummy contact facilitates this best
  • Avoid artificial nipples, including pacifiers and bottles or at least wait until breastfeeding is well established (4-6 weeks) to avoid nipple confusion and preference for bottle (faster flow)
  • Feed your baby as often as necessary. Frequent feedings stimulate your milk supply, gives you practice, alleviates engorgement, helps your figure return to pre-pregnant state, lessens post-partum hemorrhage and provides perfect nutrition for your child.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps – Quickest and 1st way to improve breastfeeding – SLEEP resting also helps you both heal from the birthing journey. Rest while nursing too.
  • Establish a nursing station: comfy chair, pitcher of water, tea, juice, snacks. Use thirst as your most reliable guide to your hydration.
  • Eat well – this is not the time to diet. Your caloric intake is actually higher now than in pregnancy! Roughly 500 calories more.
  • Avoid under wire and/or tight bras, especially in first weeks.
  • Use pillows to support you and baby while nursing
  • PAIN: Fix the latch then green, cold, raw, rippled cabbage leaves applied to the breast whole for 10-20 minutes 2x/day may help engorgement and sore nipples. You can also try hot or cold compresses (which ever feels best). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil) are safe if absolutely necessary.
  • If you have any pain or difficulties – seek help and support – many will visit you at home. Breastfeeding should not hurt.
  • When you become sexual with your partner again (not recommended before 6 weeks) you might get milk ejection during orgasm – this is normal for some women.
  • Have confidence in your abilities to successfully breastfeed. Enjoy and cherish the special and close relationship nursing provides. YOU CAN DO IT! Be patient and remember it is a LEARNED SKILL.



LaLeche League International

1-800-LA-LECHE or 1-800-665-4324


International Lactation Consultant Association.



Canadian Lactation Consultants Association



Dr. Jack Newman.



Information on common drugs during lactation or


Ontario Health Hotline




1.     Newman J. & Pitman T. Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. Rev. ed. Harper Collins. Toronto. 2003.

2.     Pryor K & Pryor G. Nursing Your Baby. Pocket Books. Toronto. 1991.

3.      Balaskas, Janet. The Natural Baby – An instinctive approach to nurturing your infant. 2002.