Breastfeeding the Newborn Baby: The BasicsOctober 7, 2011
So you just gave birth! And you are excited to start the breastfeeding journey… Here are some important things to keep in mind as you take those first steps toward building a successful nursing relationship with your baby. I would know – I was there recently!
Nurse often and nurse as long as baby is interested. In the early days postpartum, your milk supply will be large & in charge and you may be feeling engorgement. In order to combat engorgement, strive to nurse at least 10 times per every 24 hours. Set an alarm if you have to, but be vigilant about this!
Try to start nursing when you notice baby is showing signs of hunger, not by the time baby is crying and starving! What are some of these signs of hunger? Every baby is different, but the most common ones are:
- Rooting (When you stroke baby’s cheek with your hand, baby turns toward your hand.)
- Baby putting her hands in her mouth
- Stirring and increased fussiness
Some newborns are extremely sleepy at first. So make sure you wake your baby up to nurse every two hours during the day or every 4 hours at night, if she has not nursed in that timeframe. Again, different babies require different feeding intervals. The above guidelines are pretty typical for newborn babies, but if your baby has regained her birth weight already, your doctor may advise you not to wake a sleeping baby. If you’re in doubt, check with your pediatrician.
Don’t panic if your newborn loses weight at first. It is perfectly common for newborns to lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first several days. However, once mom’s milk comes in, baby should be gaining weight at an approximate rate of 6oz/week. Babies need to be weighed at some point during the first two weeks after birth (post hospital discharge) to ensure that they are gaining weight appropriately. If baby is not gaining weight, your doctor and/or lactation consultant will advise you on appropriate measures to take. This might include supplementing with additional breastmilk and/or formula.
So, what do you need to know about wet and dirty diapers? After the first few days of dark meconium stool, babies’ stools should be yellow, loose (very soft) and seedy. Some babies stool every time they nurse; stooling less or more often is normal too! Stooling 3-4 times per day is very common. Additionally, you can expect 5-6 wet diapers per day. Sometimes new moms will worry about whether they have enough milk for their baby. If baby is gaining weight appropriately and having sufficient wet and dirty diapers daily, then you have enough milk! That is why it is important to keep track of the number and type of diapers baby outputs each day.
Taking home a newborn baby is so much fun and exciting but to ensure a long-lasting nursing relationship, it is important to start off on the right foot. The above guidelines are what I followed in the early weeks after giving birth. It was what helped get us to where we are today: Baby is 5 months old and exclusively breastfed- I am a proud mama!