How Often to Breastfeed
- How often to breastfeed
- The length of each feeding
- Is my baby getting enough breast milk?
- When to call a lactation consultant
- When a baby is unable to breastfeed
- Breastfeeding twins or triplets
How often to breastfeed
Newborn babies want to feed on demand, usually 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period for the first two to four weeks. While breastfeeding, be careful of well-meaning family and friends who encourage you to breastfeed less often. Watch your baby for feeding cues, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, rooting and suckling.. If your baby is sleeping and does not show feeding cues in three hours during the day, try to wake your baby.
- You should feed your baby throughout the day and night.
- For sleepy babies, your health care provider may tell you to wake your baby every three hours for feedings until your baby has regained his/her birth weight.
- Do not give pacifiers to lengthen the time between feedings. Watch for feeding cues (examples listed above). Crying is a late sign of hunger and makes breastfeeding much harder.
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The length of each feeding
During the newborn period, most breastfeeding sessions take 20 to 45 minutes. However, because newborn babies are often sleepy, this length of time may require patience and persistence. Feed on the first side until your baby stops suckling, hands are no longer fisted, and your baby appears sleepy and relaxed. When these occur, break the suction, burp the baby and go to the other side. Continue to feed your baby until he/she stops the feeding at the second breast. Alternate the side you start with for the next feeding.
While most babies will feed from both breasts at each feeding, some babies will be satisfied after one breast. Watch for long, slow sucks with swallows by the baby.
It is normal for babies to “cluster feed,” meaning they feed several times close together and then go several hours without feeding. During the first days of life, normal, healthy newborns may breastfeed every hour or several times in one hour, especially during the evening and nighttime hours. Your baby should be satisfied after cluster feedings.
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Is my baby getting enough breast milk?
You will know your baby is getting enough breast milk if:
Your newborn has frequent bowel movements.
- Typically, the stools are loose and change from black to brown to mustard-yellow in color in the FIRST FIVE DAYS
- Breastfed babies vary in stool patterns, but by their third day of life, they will usually have at least 2 to 3 stools in a 24 hour period. At five days old, most breastfed babies have at least four yellow, seedy stools per day. Older babies vary. Some have a bowel movement every day, while other babies have bowel movements every few days.
- There are also wet diaper patterns:
- Day 1 = one wet diaper
- Day 2 = 2 wet diapers
- Day 3 = 3 wet diapers, and so on
- Day 6 and older = 6 to 8 wet diapers in a 24-hour period. (After your milk increases, the urine will soak the diaper.)
- Your baby's urine is pale in color.
- You can hear your baby swallowing the milk.
- Your baby is calm and relaxed after eating.
- Your baby is gaining weight. Many babies may lose up to 7 to 10 percent of their birth weight during their first days of life. Babies are born with fat reserves and usually regain the weight by two weeks of age. Frequent around-the-clock feedings will help prevent a major drop in weight.
- Your breasts feel softer after feeding.
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When to call a lactation consultant
A lactation (breastfeeding) consultant can be of great help to you with different situations and feelings, such as:
- If you do not feel your milk has increased by day four.
- Treatment of sore nipples.
- Concern about your baby’s output (urine and stools).
- Your baby is not feeding 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period.
- Your baby is sleeping on the breast, not suckling well, and seems hungry each time you take him/her off.
- Ineffective positioning, latch-on and engorgement.
- Breastfeeding challenges, such as twins, premature infants, babies with a slow weight gain, and women who have had breast surgery.
- Advice for the working mother regarding how to continue breastfeeding after returning to work and help with planning a daily routine.
- Advice on the most appropriate nursing bras and clothing items which allow for discrete and comfortable breastfeeding.
- If discharged using a nipple shield and/or alternative feeding methods (cup feeding, SNS [Supplemental Nursing System], finger feeding, bottle feeding).
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When a baby is unable to breastfeed
Occasionally, there may be times where your baby is not able to breastfeed for a while. Hospital grade electric breast pumps can provide the needed “suckling” stimulus for your milk production and are readily available. At first, you may be able to only express a few drops of milk. This is very common, especially if this is your first baby. Begin double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time) as soon as possible and continue pumping on a regular basis (every 1 to 3 hours, or 8 times in 24 hours, for 10 to 15 minutes). Your milk supply will increase over time. Do not worry about how much milk you are pumping. When you are able to breastfeed your baby, your milk production will be better.
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Breastfeeding twins or triplets
Caring for more than one baby is a challenge that requires a lot of time, energy and patience. Breastfeeding can be a less expensive and convenient way to feed your babies, once you ease into the routine. Your milk supply will be plenty as long as your babies nurse often. Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process – the greater the demand, the greater the supply. Support groups, such as Mothers of Multiples, offer valuable support and helpful tips for nursing your babies.
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