Breastfeeding is a wonderful decision for both baby and you. Breastfeeding can help protect infants from a variety of diseases and health conditions, including respiratory tract and ear infections, as well as childhood obesity. For mom, breastfeeding can decrease postpartum bleeding and the risk of certain cancers.
As natural as breastfeeding is though, it isn’t always intuitive. Breastfeeding moms often have plenty of questions. How do you know if your baby is getting enough to eat? How do you maintain a good supply of milk? Here is a rundown of some of the most common concerns.
How often should my baby feed?
During the first few weeks after birth, infants feed quite frequently: about every 2-3 hours. That equals about 8-12 feedings per day!
There are times your baby may feed more often:
- “Cluster feeding” in your newborn’s first few days stimulates your body to start producing milk.
- Growth spurts typically take place around 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months.
Pay close attention to hunger cues from your baby letting you know they need more. Common hunger cues are sucking on a fist, making smacking sounds with their lips, and rooting (a newborn reflex where the infant turns his/her face when their cheek is stroked and makes sucking motions with their mouth).
If your newborn is particularly sleepy (which many are) make sure to wake them when it is time to feed or if you feel they fell asleep mid-feed. This is especially important during those first few days which are the most critical when it comes to breastmilk production and weight gain. This may mean setting an alarm or stimulating the infant by undressing, changing a diaper, stroking their cheek, or playing with his/her feet.
Are they getting enough?
One of the most common concerns of breastfeeding moms is whether their baby is getting enough milk. Some good indicators to look for include:
- Breastfeeding at least 8 times in a 24-hour period
- Breastfeeding for 10 minutes or more in a rhythmic suck/swallow/pause/suck pattern
- Not displaying any feeding cues after a feed
- Gaining weight (Note: it is normal for infants to lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first few days and regain that weight by about 2 weeks of age)
- Making an appropriate number of wet diapers and stools. If your infant is not stooling by day 5, you should notify your child’s primary care provider.
Keeping supply up
- Pump often. The key to maintaining your milk supply after returning to school or work is to try to maintain a regular pumping schedule that mimics the natural feeding schedule of your infant.
- Drink plenty of water. Women typically consume an extra liter of fluid per day when breastfeeding.
- Maintain a well-balanced diet. Breastfeeding mothers need to take in 300-500 calories per day above what was needed pre-pregnancy. Some supplements that may help enhance breastmilk production are fenugreek, blessed thistle, lactation cookies, and mother’s milk tea. Always check with your healthcare provider before starting any alternative therapies.