After my last post, you may wonder if it’s better to watch baby or the clock. A sleeping baby usually only needs to be woken up if there is special circumstances once they have gained back to birth weight. Breastfeeding is so very intuitive. We are very procedural and scientific as a society and we are very concerned about numbers. This is helpful in some ways, especially to make sure that baby is thriving and not having breastfeeding struggles. In other ways it sometimes gets in the way of what is normal and natural about the ART that is breastfeeding.
Healthy, full-term babies can tell YOU when they’re hungry.
You should expect that baby will continue to want to nurse 8-12 times per day approximately in the first six months. Unlike with formula, baby will continue to get approximately the same amount of milk at the breast until baby begins eating solid food.
Feedings will eventually become shorter but still work on supply and demand. Many mechanisms in our bodies work in cycles. Breastfeeding is no different. It’s very normal for milk supply to be higher in the morning and lower in the evenings. It’s very normal for baby to want to nurse more frequently in the evenings and even to be fussy (more on this in a later post).
Scheduled feedings based on a certain time came because someone took the average of 8-12 feedings per day and decided to break that up on a clock. Because our bodies (baby’s as well as mom’s) don’t work on a strict schedule but more of a routine, this can cause breastfeeding issues when you limit feedings based on certain times. Certain baby programs meant to train and discipline babies highly discourage feeding more often than a set amount of time (usually more often than every 2 or 4 hours) and also discourage feedings longer than a specified amount of time (usually 15 or 20 minutes). All babies are different in their efficiency, breasts are different in how often let-downs occur (where baby gets the majority of the milk in a feeding), and some babies have a stronger sucking need than others. All people are different. We all have different appetites. We all expect meals at a certain time to some degree but if we get hungry most people will have a snack when they start to feel hungry. If you wake up thirsty during the night you will get up and drink some water rather than say “Only 2 more hours until I’m allowed another sip of water.” Babies are the same in that regard. Babies will fall in to a routine eventually and following baby’s cues helps keep breastfeeding going in the most optimal way.
Because we don’t have graduations like a bottle on our breasts and can’t see how much milk baby is actually getting in there are some good indicators to help you know that baby is getting enough. The most important keys to watch for to be sure that baby is nursing frequently enough and getting enough milk are:
- Watch for early feeding cues: rooting, smacking/sucking noises, bringing hand to mouth, and in the early days just waking up. Don’t wait for baby to cry-it will be harder for baby to latch on and baby may become so tired that they may not nurse as effectively.
- Diaper counts: by the end of the first week expect to see at least 6-8 wet diapers and 3 poopy diapers. At about 6 weeks baby may have less stools and this is normal. Some babies may go less than once a day at about 6 weeks and may go as infrequently as once a week or up to 2 weeks and be healthy. If you have concerns, talk to your baby’s doctor and see a breastfeeding professional.
- Weight gain: Baby should gain at least 5-7 oz per week after getting back to birth weight. Baby should be back to birth weight by 10 days, 2 weeks at the latest.
- When baby finishes a feeding (baby should usually be allowed to finish the feeding by coming off when he/she is finished) his/her hands and body will be more relaxed. Babies often have fists at the beginning of the feeding and relax as their stomachs are filled.
If you have supply concerns some helpful ideas are to:
- Check latch-if it’s painful an assessment by an IBCLC is important.
- Let baby finish a breast, burp, then offer the other breast. Following babies cues is important as is getting enough breast stimulation so that you continue having a good supply.
- Nurse baby on cue as long as baby wishes.
- Take away pacifiers and extra bottles, if baby needs a supplement consider an at-breast supplementer or work on paced bottle feeding to simulate how your breast delivers milk. If you have supply concerns, all suckling should be at the breast.
- Skin-to-skin contact as long and as much as possible during the day.
- RELAX! Stress can inhibit your let-down and make you not feel the best.
- And above all, get professional help and support. Mother-to-mother support groups and volunteers can be extremely helpful as well.
- A very helpful book is Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk.
For further reading see:
What cues does your baby give to let you know that he/she is hungry?