Breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby. Be patient as your baby practices how to latch and suck correctly. Be just as patient with yourself as you learn about your baby’s feeding cues, positioning and latching baby at the breast.
Overlake’s lactation experts have put together some tips you can use anytime you need a little help as you learn to work well with your baby.
How do I know when my baby needs to eat?
Your baby will give you feeding cues to tell you when they are getting hungry, such as:
- Increasing movement during sleep.
- Hand to mouth movements.
- Mouth opening and closing.
- Sucking motions.
- Side-to-side head movements.
In the early days, babies may be extra sleepy. If your baby does not cue that they want to eat, wake them every three hours to attempt breastfeeding.
How often does my baby need to eat?
Be certain baby gets at least eight feedings in a day. Most babies feed eight to 10 times or more per day. They may cluster feed, bunching several feedings close together. Remember, breast milk is made on a supply/demand basis. The more regularly milk is removed from the breast, the more milk your body will make.
How long should a feeding last?
Babies can nurse for long periods of time and generally do not have a set feeding schedule in the early weeks. Allow baby to breastfeed until they show signs of fullness, such as sleepiness, less vigorous sucking, or coming off the breast asleep and relaxed.
Let baby remain at the first breast offered as long as they are actively sucking and swallowing. Do not limit time at the breast.
Each feeding should be at least 10 minutes. If baby falls asleep before then, see information on sleepy babies below.
How do I know my baby is getting enough to eat?
During feedings, listen for swallowing. Notice if baby is satisfied and sleeps between feedings.
Keeping track of the number of wet diapers and diapers soiled with stool can show if your baby is getting enough milk.
- One wet diaper in first 24 hours.
- Two wet diapers in second 24 hours.
- Three wet diapers in third 24 hours.
- Once milk comes in, at least five to six wet disposable or six to eight cloth diapers per day.
- At least one dirty diaper in first 24 hours.
- Meconium (thick, black, tarry stool) in first one to two days.
- Loose brown-green on day two or three.
- Loose mustard-yellow on day four to five.
Weight loss should stop around day four. Baby should be back to birth weight in two to three weeks. If it’s taking longer, contact a lactation consultant.
What is a good latch?
A good latch is when baby is at the breast with a good attachment to the areola that allows successful feeding. A good latch is important for baby to breastfeed effectively and also for your comfort. During the early days and weeks, it can take time and patience for your baby to latch well.
Signs of a good latch include:
- Baby’s lips are around the nipple and the areola, not just the nipple.
- The top lip will be closer to the nipple and some areola shows above the top lip.
- More areola is taken in with the lower lip than the top lip.
- Baby has “fish lips”—lips are flared out on the breast, not tucked in.
- You hear baby swallow after every one or two sucks. Some babies swallow too quietly to hear, so listen for a slight pause in baby’s breathing, which shows he/she is swallowing.
- You see a “wiggle” where baby’s ears meet its temples.
Signs of an incorrect latch include:
- You feel pain.
- You hear clicking or sucking noises.
- Baby comes easily off the breast.
- Baby swallows little or not at all while at the breast.
- Baby’s lips are tucked in.
- Your nipple is flattened or creased after feeding.
How can I encourage my sleepy baby to nurse?
Being born is hard work. It’s not unusual for a newborn to have trouble waking up to feed regularly. Here are a couple of tips to encourage your sleepy baby to breastfeed:
- Wake and unwrap baby for feedings.
- Use waking techniques through the feeding to maintain active sucking (chin push, shoulder rub, rub behind baby’s ear, tickle the feet, rub the back).
How to I stimulate the milk letdown?
- Massage breast briefly before feedings to stimulate the milk let-down reflex. Warm compresses can be used too.
- Gently pill-roll and stretch your nipple to make latch-on easier. This also stimulates lactation.
- Express a drop of colostrum onto your nipple to encourage baby to latch and suck.
- Provide breast support to allow baby to maintain their latch. Keep thumb and fingers behind the outer edge of the areola.
- Latch baby only when his/her mouth is wide like a yawn with his tongue down and forward over their lower gum line.
- Check your positioning to be certain baby is facing you and in close, nipple to nose. Bring baby to the breast chin first. Focus on getting baby’s gums beyond the base of your nipple and up on the areola.
- Avoid pacifiers for the first two to three weeks.
- Check that the latch is correct—lips curled outward, baby stays on breast after latching, no noise as baby sucks, suck is rhythmic with visible jaw drops, swallowing can be heard, no nipple pain.
How do I prevent sore nipples?
At first, your nipples may feel tender, but they should not be truly sore or cracked. If you experience soreness:
- Note that any nipple discomfort decreases within a minute of baby latching. Reposition and relatch baby as needed until comfortable.
- Break baby’s latch when taking baby off the breast.
- Use expressed breast milk on your nipples after feedings to treat soreness.
Even after you leave the hospital, we are here to help. If you have problems latching your baby, develop sore nipples or become engorged:
- Review the breastfeeding information sheet in your discharge paperwork.
- Contact an Overlake lactation consultant by calling (425) 688-5516.