What to Expect as a Breastfeeding Mom
Every breastfeeding mom’s experience is unique. Yet, many women have similar questions and common concerns. Here is some practical guidance.
Congratulations - a bundle of joy is very exciting! As you know, your baby won’t arrive with “operating instructions,” and since every baby is unique, it’ll take some time to get to know their personality. We are here to help with answers to your most common breastfeeding FAQs.
How often will my baby need to eat?
Breastfed newborns nurse a lot, but just at first. On average your baby will awaken to nurse every one to three hours, translating to at least 8-12 times per day. So be prepared for this frequency of feedings, but rest assured that it won’t always be like this. There’s a lot going on right after the baby is born, so some moms find it helpful to use a notebook to track when their baby ate.
For how long should my baby nurse?
The good news is that you don’t need to watch the clock – just your baby. Look for hunger cues such as your baby sucking their fingers or hands, making smacking noises with their mouth or rooting around looking for something to latch onto. Crying is a late sign of hunger. It is difficult to latch a crying baby, so be aware of these cues so you can address your baby’s needs before this happens.
We recommend not to time feedings but rather feed on cue and watch for when your baby acts full and stops feeding on their own. Sometimes babies nurse and then pause to take a little rest. This is normal, and it does not always mean they are ready to stop. Offer the baby your breast again to see if she still wants to nurse.
Sometimes early on when babies are still very sleepy, they get comfortable and fall asleep soon after starting to feed. This is caused by Oxytocin, the hormone responsible for let-down and providing that wonderful feeling of relaxation to you and your baby. If this happens, gently wake baby up and continue to nurse. Sometimes unlatching the baby to burp and then re-latching can rouse the baby. You can also remove some clothing so they are not too warm and cozy.
How long between my baby's feedings?
Feedings are timed from the beginning of one nursing session to the beginning of the next. For example, if you start at 3:30, your baby will probably be ready to nurse again between 4:30-6:30.
With that said, don’t focus solely on the clock. Instead, follow your baby's cues. If they were fed an hour ago and are acting hungry again, respond and offer your breast. If they are content, wait until they start acting hungry, but don’t go beyond three hours.
Do I need to switch breasts during the feeding?
Feeding on one breast is fine, especially since you want your baby to get to the hindmilk that comes at the end of the feeding and is higher in fat.
If baby is still nursing, no need to stop and switch breasts. But if it appears that they are still hungry after eating from one breast, offer your second breast until they are full. If you don’t switch, remember to start the next feeding on the full breast.
In the beginning, some moms put a safety pin on their bra strap or use a log to remind them which breast they should use for the next feeding.
I feel like all I do is breastfeed – when does this change?
This is a common sentiment of new breastfeeding moms, and you are not alone in feeling like this. This schedule will change as your baby gets older and becomes more efficient at feeding. And as a baby’s stomach grow, they can take in more milk and go longer between feedings.
Will I have enough milk?
Many new moms are anxious that they’ll “run out of milk” because their baby wants to feed so often. Not to fear – your body can do amazing things!
Feeding frequently during these first weeks is the principal way your supply adjusts to your baby's needs. This is known as the "breastfeeding law of supply and demand." Draining your breasts while nursing signals your body to make more milk, so it's important to continue breastfeeding at least 8-12 times through the day and night. But watch your baby’s cues - even if they have already nursed 12 times and seems hungry, offer your breast. They could be going through a growth spurt and want to help increase your supply.
My breasts seem like a leaky faucet! What can I do?
As your breasts continue to produce milk, they may seem like they are changing by the hour. You may experience leaking in the early months of nursing as your body is determining how much milk to produce. While completely normal, it can be embarrassing. Nursing pads, such Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads, help prevent leaking through your clothing.
What can I do to help my sore nipples?
Your baby is getting the hang of nursing and eating a lot, which is great. But, it can take a toll on your nipples, causing them to become sore and cracked. Lansinoh® HPA® Lanolin or Soothies® by Lansinoh® Gel Pads can be applied to soothe and protect them.
Help – my baby is having trouble latching onto my swollen breasts!
About the third day postpartum your breasts may swell –(a common condition called engorgement) as your first milk, colostrom, is replaced by mature milk. The good news is that it’s a temporary condition. Nursing frequently during this period is the best way to alleviate this, but it can be difficult because your baby may have trouble properly latching onto an engorged breast.
Don't let this discourage you! Your nipple needs to touch the roof of your baby’s mouth to stimulate latch on, suck and swallow. If your nipple is flattened by engorgement try Lansinoh® LatchAssist ® Nipple Everter. This simple tool helps your nipple temporarily “stand out,” making it easier for your baby to establish a good latch.
Other things to try:
- Take hot showers to help soften your breasts;
- Express some milk using your hand or a breast pump. Express just enough to soften the breast so the baby can properly latch on; or
- Use ice packs after nursing to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Or try Lansinoh® THERA°PEARL® 3-in-1 Breast Therapy, reusable cold packs that ease the pain and soreness that accompany engorgement. They have a unique design that conforms to your breast. The packs also can be used hot and warm to help with pumping let-down and other common breastfeeding issues.
I can’t tell how much my baby is drinking – how do I know if she is getting enough?
Unfortunately, breasts don’t come with ounce markers! However, there are other ways to determine if your baby is getting enough milk. Continuous weight gain and alertness are indications, but the best way for you to actually see that “what’s going in is also coming out” is diaper checks (see next question).
Some people who do not understand breastfeeding may tell you that your baby is being fussy or crying because she’s hungry, which can make a new breastfeeding mother anxious. Don't get drawn in by this myth! Fussiness or crying is not a good indicator of hunger. It is never wrong to offer the breast at any point to relieve a baby's fussiness, but understand that your baby is sometimes just fussy.
What should I look for in my baby’s diapers?
Who would have thought that you’d be examining diapers so closely! But this is a great way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk and being properly nourished. Wet diapers indicate good hydration, while poopy diapers signify enough calories.
Today’s ultra-absorbent diapers make it difficult to tell when they’re wet, so get familiar with how a disposable diaper feels both wet and dry. You can also tear the diaper open – the material where the baby wets will clump together when the diaper absorbs the liquid.
Don't be alarmed by the appearance of baby's poop, as it will change during the first few days. It starts out black and tarry then changes to green and then to yellow, seedy and loose. After baby's fourth day look for four poopy diapers and four wet diapers. After baby's sixth day you want to see at least four poopy and six wet diapers.
Similar to tracking feeding times, it also helps to write down the number of wet and poopy diapers. If your baby is having less than this you need to call your pediatrician.
What can I do for more reassurance?
Second opinions – especially weight checks for your baby – can help you feel more confident about your breastfeeding. If you want to talk to someone, consult with a pediatrician or an International Certified Lactation Consultant for pre- and post-breastfeeding weight checks.