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Breastfeeding Around the Clock

Two important facts for every new parent to know...

First, babies don’t come with instruction manuals and will rarely follow the “textbook” advice from pediatricians, friends and family members.

Second, babies can’t tell time! This is especially important in relation to breastfeeding. A newborn’s stomach is very small when born (about the size of a small marble on day 1, the size of a ping pong ball on day 3, and the size of a large egg on day 10) so they need to be fed – and they need to be fed often. 

It is totally normal for baby to breastfeed 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. That can be exhausting! You may find yourself thinking they will never sleep longer than an hour, but they will. It may be a rough few months, but try not to worry too much about your milk supply. Feeding baby on demand not only makes sure baby is getting plenty to eat, but also teaches your body how much milk it needs to make to satisfy baby’s needs.

Your well-meaning partner or other family member may offer to feed the baby during the night. While that may be a tempting offer, skipping a feeding can hurt your supply. If someone does feed the baby, try to pump or hand express during that feeding time to provide the physical cue to your body that baby needs milk then. Many moms find that it helps to have baby nearby in a bassinet or a co-sleeper for nighttime feedings. Nursing in the lying down position is also a great way to get some rest in at the same time.

Every baby is different and while some may sleep longer stretches of time, there are others that don’t sleep through the night for a while. This is VERY normal. As your baby gets adjusted and does start to sleep longer stretches, you can try “dream feeds.” Before you go to bed, gently rouse baby – not enough to fully waken them, but just enough so they latch on to feed. Keep the room as dark as possible and try not to engage by talking or singing; avoid anything that will waken baby further. In this state, baby is not fully awake but not fully sleeping. These “dream feeds” let you get one last feed in, and may help baby sleep a little longer.

Be forewarned that sometimes baby may sleep through the night for a while and then go back to frequent waking. This is normal. It is often triggered by baby building up your supply for a growth spurt, or sometimes it is because baby needs extra closeness and nurturing during the night. It may seem cliché, but it’s really true: This time with your newborn passes quickly so, as exhausted as you are, try to savor it because it will be fleeting as they grow and get older.

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