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 questions.

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.

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