Content by: Erin Nugent, RD & NCES, Inc.
A guide for breastfeeding your baby...
1️⃣ Before my baby is born, what can I do to get ready to breastfeed?
Prepare your breastfeeding supplies. Even if you don’t plan to use a breast pump often, it is beneficial to have one on hand. Pumps can be used to help increase supply as well as provide some healthy time away from the baby, while allowing you to maintain your milk supply. If using a pump, you will also need milk storage bags/containers to put in the fridge or freezer. Talk to your doctor about how to order a breast pump through insurance (for free!). It is also a good idea to have a designated breastfeeding pillow or blanket that you can use to prop the baby up in a comfortable position while they are latched to your breast. And, continue to learn and talk about breastfeeding! Remember, breastfeeding is a learning process, and every breastfeeding experience is different.
2️⃣ I don’t eat right, can I still breastfeed?
Your body is a miracle worker. It will make wonderful breast milk, whether or not you eat a balanced diet. However, it is still important to provide your body with the fuel it needs to continue producing breast milk. On average, the human body expends an extra 500 calories per day making breast milk. Don’t forget to prioritize your needs while you are breastfeeding.
3️⃣ How often do breastfed babies eat?
Let your baby nurse on demand. Usually every 1 1/2 to 3 hours or 8-12 times in 24 hours is normal. If your baby sleeps a lot, it may be necessary to wake him/her up to nurse every 2-3 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night. Feeding times may be irregular the first week or two, until your baby gets into a schedule. Frequent feeding helps ensure a good milk supply. When babies go through growth spurts they tend to cluster feed. Your baby will act hungrier during these times, and want to nurse more often. Growth spurts happen around 2 weeks, 3 months and 5-6 months.
4️⃣ How long does a feeding last?
Feeding time can last 10-30 minutes at each breast. Every baby is different, so let your baby nurse as long as needed. Babies get better at latching with more practice. As your baby learns how to nurse, feeding times gradually get shorter. Try not to watch the clock. Relax and enjoy your baby.
5️⃣ How do I know when my baby is full?
A full baby is a sleepy baby. As long as your baby is gaining weight appropriately, it is okay for them to fall asleep at the breast. Another indication that they are satisfied is a relaxed hand. Hungry babies tend to make a tight fist, and then relax as they become full. It is best to always offer both breasts, even if they seem content after the first it is still a good idea to offer the second.
6️⃣ Is my baby getting enough?
The best way to know if your baby is getting enough milk is to track wet and dirty diapers. As your baby gets older, the color of their stool should change. In the first couple days, it should be black and tarry. Then, it will move to a green/yellow color. Around 7 days old it should become loose, yellow, and appear seedy. Ideally, a newborn should have at least 6 wet and around 3 dirty diapers in a 24 hour period. It can also be common for a newborn baby to have a bowel movement after every feeding.
Listen for swallowing sounds, and watch your baby’s throat move while nursing. The bottom line is, as long as your baby continues to gain weight appropriately, then your baby is getting enough to eat.