Whether you’re a new mama or you’ve done this before, breastfeeding always comes with its fair share of questions.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about breastfeeding.
1. How often should I breastfeed?
Your newborn baby will want to nurse a LOT! As in, you will be nursing at least 8-15 times per day for about the first month. If you feel like you’re feeding your baby more often than your other mom friend whose baby is formula fed, you probably are. Why? Because breast milk digests easier and faster than formula, which means it moves through your baby’s digestive system faster and, therefore, your baby is hungry more often.
The good news is that frequent feedings will help stimulate your milk production during the first few weeks and build up your supply.
By 1 to 2 months of age, a breastfed baby will probably nurse 7-12 times a day.
Before your milk supply is established, breastfeeding should be done “on demand,” meaning anytime your baby shows signs of hunger. This can generally be every 1 to 3 hours.
As newborns get older, they’ll nurse less often, and may develop a more reliable schedule. Some might feed every 90 minutes, whereas others might go 2 or 3 hours between feedings. Newborns should not go more than about 4 hours without feeding, even overnight.
2. How can I tell when my baby’s ready to eat?
It’s usually recommended that moms feed a newborn whenever the baby seems hungry. But crying is a late sign of hunger. So try to feed before your baby gets so hungry that he or she gets really upset and becomes difficult to calm down. It will only make the feeding harder.
Signs that babies are hungry include:
- moving their heads from side to side
- opening their mouths
- sticking out their tongues
- placing their hands and fists to their mouths
- puckering their lips as if to suck
- nuzzling again their mothers’ breasts
- showing the rooting reflex (when a baby moves its mouth in the direction of something that’s stroking or touching its cheek)
Also note: Babies cry and it’s not always because they’re hungry. They may just want to be cuddled or held, or need a diaper change.
3. How long does it take to breastfeed?
This depends on a lot of things such as if your milk has came in completely and how hard your let down is. Babies also nurse longer depending on their age. As they get older, they get more efficient and have a quicker feed. Think anywhere between 5-10 minutes on each side. But for a newborn, you’re looking at at least 20-30 minutes on each side.
Make sure your baby is latched on correctly and takes as much as possible of your areola in his or her mouth, not just the tip of the nipple.
4. How often should I alternate breasts?
To keep up your milk supply in both breasts — and prevent painful engorgement in one — it’s important to alternate breasts and try to give each one the same amount of nursing time throughout the day. Again, that amount of time differs for every baby and every woman — some babies may be satisfied after 5 minutes on each breast, others may need 15 or 30 minutes on each side.
Some experts recommend switching breasts in the middle of each feeding and alternating which breast you offer first for each feeding.
Can’t remember on which breast your baby last nursed? Put a hair tie on your wrist and switch it to whatever breast you used last.
You can also keep a notebook handy to keep track of how your baby feeds. I did this in the beginning and it REALLY helped me determine what kind of pattern my baby was eating and when to expect his next feeding.
5. How often should I burp my baby during feedings?
I recommend trying to burp your baby after he eats at each breast to avoid reflux. If your baby spits up a lot, you may need to try burping more frequently. While it’s normal for infants to “spit up” a small amount after eating or during burping, a baby should not vomit after feeding. We found out our little babe had reflux and had to get medication prescribed.
6. How can I tell if my baby’s eating enough?
New mothers, especially breastfeeding moms, are often concerned that their infants may not be getting enough to eat. You can be assured that your baby is getting enough to eat if he or she:
- seems satisfied and content after eating
- produces about 4-6 wet diapers a day
- has regular bowel movements
- sleeps well
- is alert when awake
- is gaining weight
If you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, call your doctor.
7. What should my newborn’s diapers look like?
Your baby’s diapers are excellent indicators of whether your breastfed baby is getting what he or she needs. Your newborn’s poop will be thick and tarry at first and become more greenish-yellow as your milk comes in, which is usually about 3 or 4 days after birth.
8. My baby wants to nurse all the time. Is this ok?
If your baby seems to be getting enough milk, but continues to suck longer than usual, he or she might be nursing for comfort rather than for nourishment. Click here to read more about nursing around the clock.
9. What Should I Know About Pumping?
Around 6 weeks is when I pulled my breast pump out. My doctor had advised me to hold out until this time. I don’t recommend doing it any earlier unless you absolutely have to. Pumping before you have established your milk supply may tell your body to OVERPRODUCE which can lead to pain and engorgement. I understand that some mamas return to work sooner though, so if you have to pump before 6 weeks, do it.
If you have health insurance, they are required to offer you a breast pump, free of charge. My first breast pump was from Ameda and it was terrible. Yes, it did the job, but it was loud, it hurt my nipples, and I just didn’t like it. Since I was home for the first 12 weeks of my baby’s life, and didn’t NEED to pump, I hardly used the thing unless my husband and I had an outing and I wanted to pump a couple bottles.
Once I returned to work, and was pumping every day, I purchased a Spectra S2 from Amazon. It was much quieter and also had a few extra functions that the Ameda lacked. My favorite feature was the letdown mode. YES, there is such a thing! It basically mimicked the fast suckling that infants do when trying to get a letdown from the breast. Amazeballs!
Pumping may feel uncomfortable, but it should never HURT. If it does, you need to get a new breast pump. I also highly highly highly recommend the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump.
Have more questions about Breastfeeding your newborn? Click here to read How to Survive Breastfeeding with a Newborn.
Have more questions? Send them to me directly and I’ll be sure to answer within 24 hours.