I’m a lactation consultant and I get asked many of the same breastfeeding questions by new moms. My answers will often begin with, “it depends.”
One of the things my answers depend on is how old your baby is. I’m going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions for a baby who is between 1 week old and 3 months.
Sit back, put your feet up and let’s chat about what to expect.
One of the biggest concerns new moms have is whether their little one is getting enough to eat. That’s one of my top concerns too. Let’s talk about how you can make sure the answer to that question is a firm YES!
How often should I breastfeed my baby?
The short answer is, “as often as your baby needs to eat.”
You’ll know when that is because he will show you feeding cues. Watch for rooting, sticking out his tongue, opening his mouth when you touch it or if he sucks on his hand. Remember, your baby can’t tell time.
It’s common for babies to act like teenagers. They will sleep all day and then want to party all night, and they eat constantly.
Babies need to eat frequently because they are trying to gain a lot of weight, fast.
It’s also important to remember that breastfeeding is not just about food for babies. It is about feeling safe, feeling comforted and being in a familiar place. Those are all things a new mom wants her baby to feel.
· A baby should eat at least 8 times in a 24-hour period.
· You should expect your baby to eat every 2-3 hours.
· ONE 4-hour stretch every 24 hours is ok, as long as the total number of feeds is at least 8.
· Until he is gaining a normal amount of weight, wake him up to eat if he is not eating frequently enough
· Timing of feedings is from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next feeding. What that means is that you might really only get a 1 to 2 ½ hour break between feedings.
You might think to yourself, how am I supposed to get anything done? The answer to that is, you are growing a tiny little person, that’s your job right now. That is the only thing that can’t wait until tomorrow.
Trust me, your laundry will wait until you get to it. I personally have experimented with this theory and my laundry will sit there until I get to it. It grows if I don’t take care of it, unlike a baby. It doesn’t cry though.
As far as you eating, that is what ordering in is for. It really should be called ordering in because I’m too tired to go out.
On the bright side, think of all the time you are saving by not having to wash all those pesky bottles.
As your baby gets older he may go 3-4 hours between some feedings, and maybe even longer at night.
If you think this sounds like a lot of eating, keep track of how often you eat or drink yourself. Every single time. Write down every time you put something in your mouth. Every meal, every snack, every drink of water.
Then remember that you are not trying to triple your weight within a year.
How long should a feeding last?
As long as it needs to.
I can give you averages but if your baby is not average, it won’t matter what I say. And really, who wants to be average?
The length of a feeding can:
• Depend on a baby’s suck
• How much milk is there
• How fast the milk is flowing
• Several other things that are too technical and boring to go into here
Some babies are no nonsense eaters and get the job done in 10 minutes. Others take much longer.
Generally, a feeding for a newborn shouldn’t last longer than an hour. If it lasts longer than that you should check in with a lactation consultant to see why that might be happening.
How do I know my baby is getting enough to eat?
If your baby is gaining enough weight, then he is getting enough to eat.
I’ve had moms say, “I’m so worried she’s not getting enough to eat.” Her baby is round and plump with thigh rolls that would challenge the Michelin man and more double chins than I can count. I reply, “Does she look like she’s missing any meals?”
Beginning the 2nd day of life your baby should be eating at least 8 times every 24 hours. Up to 12 times is within the range of normal.
You should hear swallowing. If you are not sure if you are hearing swallowing, ask a nurse or lactation consultant to point it out to you.
I am legit hard of hearing so I look for swallowing. A baby is swallowing when their chin drops and holds for an extra second. Instead of “suck” it’s “suuuck.”
Reassuring signs that Your Baby is Getting Enough to Eat:
If a lot is going in, a lot will be coming out. Count diapers in the beginning.
· You want to see 6-8 wet diapers a day.
· Just as important is that he is pooping at least 4-5 times a day for the first 6 weeks.
Sometimes after 6-weeks they might go less frequently, but in those early weeks a lot of poop is reassuring.
A baby is getting enough to eat when they are gaining enough weight for their age.
In the first 3-4 months that is going to be about an ounce a day. More is okay, a little less is ok. A lot less is not okay.
When can I let my baby go longer between feedings and stop waking her up at night?
If your baby is showing a good pattern of weight gain, she can feed on demand, and go longer between feedings if they want to.
It is a good pattern if they are
· Back to birth weight
· Gaining at least an ounce a day
· Have gained at least an ounce a day for at least one week
Should my baby eat on one side or both sides?
Some babies will be one sided babies and others will be two sided babies. This will depend on your milk supply.
Moms who have a whole lotta milk may need to feed on the same side for 2 or even more feedings.
I like to say the second side is like dessert. It’s always polite to offer it, but it is okay if your baby doesn’t want it. It is also ok if they want it after 15 or 20 minutes. I like a little break before I eat my dessert.
Is it ok to supplement with formula?
I don’t like the term “fed is best.” To me that is like saying “breathing is good.” Of course fed is best, for goodness sake. Is anyone saying “starving your baby is good? Or even acceptable?” Of course they aren’t.
I wish the saying was, “feed the best thing that you can.”
If you have breastmilk, that’s the best thing to feed. If you don’t have enough breastmilk, whether it be yours or donor milk, then feed formula. End of discussion.
Supplementing with formula if you don’t need to has the potential to decrease your milk supply. It will also change the bacteria in your baby’s gut.
There can be many reasons why a mom asks this question. It is needs a whole article in itself.
When should I pump?
The answer to this is easy. Pump when you need to.
For the purposes of this article I am going to assume that you want to pump for an occasional bottle or to build a freezer stash.
Pump within 15-20 minutes after a feeding. If you wait you will get more because you are taking food from your baby’s next meal. You don’t want to do that, you just want to pump leftovers.
You will get the most bang for your buck if you pump when your milk is most abundant. Most moms have the most milk in the earlier morning hours.
If you are trying to build a freezer stash you can train your body to make more by pumping at the same time each day.
Moms have lots of questions when they are breastfeeding. Even moms who have breastfed before have lots of questions.
Find a trusted lactation consultant who can be your go-to resource. Then enjoy your breastfeeding journey.