This is an obvious point to consider slowly: Breastfeeding only offers on-the-job training, so it’s more than okay to have lingering concerns.
In regard to new moms especially — your body just hasn’t been used in that way before. You have a gentle learning curve, but thankfully, breastfeeding is not something we have to figure out on our own. Lactation consultants and nurses and doulas and newborn care specialists offer information gleaned from years of helping moms successfully and are always at the ready to give assistance.
That said, getting up to speed will help you feel relaxed about breastfeeding. Wondering if your baby will get enough milk? Wondering how long your baby should nurse for? These are important questions that’ll get answered here.
- During the early weeks, especially during weeks two through six, frequent nursing is important in order for mom to establish a good milk supply. Can you nurse too much? Nope. Can you nurse too little? If you supplement with formula it’ll have an effect on your milk supply. If you plan on breastfeeding exclusively, know that newborns need to nurse around 8-12 times per day (24 hours) during these early weeks.
- These are normal happenings with a nursing baby: Frequent or long feedings and varying nursing patterns.
- Once your baby has established a good weight gain pattern, you can stop waking him and nurse on his cues alone. If baby has been gaining weight steadily and the pediatrician is happy with his weight gain, every two hours if during the day, and every four hours if at night is the recommended amount.
- How long should your baby nurse? He’ll let you know. But say he pushes off and you’re not sure if he’s done? See if he doesn’t have a burp. After, he may or may not want to relatch (more on latching next month). But is your baby rooting? Is he opening his mouth and turning his head toward you? Then he’s still hungry. Is he bringing his fist to his mouth? You guessed it, he wants more.
- The Diaper Clue: If baby has around 5-6 wet diapers every 24 hours, it usually means he’s getting enough milk. To learn what a “wet diaper” looks like, do this experiment: Pour 3 Tablespoons of water into a clean diaper. How about stools? A breastfed baby will produce around 3-4 soft, yellow stools every day. (They also may be curdy or seedy.)
- Are you a mom who’s still worried about her milk supply? Every mom worries. But between baby’s weight checks at the doctor’s office and a sufficient number of dirty diapers, that should put your mind at ease.
Next Month: Breastfeeding, Ideas for Making it Easier