Baby Basics

Breastfeeding 101

Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed and bond with your baby. But just because it is natural, doesn’t mean it is easy, especially in the early weeks of your child’s life. You might have a lot of questions, including:

Breastfeeding will likely cause some pain and discomfort in the first week or two of your child’s life as your body gets used to breastfeeding. To help with this pain, you can use lanolin cream, let your nipples air dry after nursing, and ensure your nipples stay as dry as possible throughout the day. You might also try a different breastfeeding position to see if you can improve your child’s latch.

However, if pain continues or becomes severe, it might be a sign of a problem such as a poor latch, thrush, or other issues. If you experience breastfeeding pain, schedule an appointment with a Bellevue lactation consultant who can help you discover the issue, and find a solution

A newborn baby will need to breastfeed every 2-3 hours day and night. That means you might breastfeed 8-12 times per day. You start counting the time between feedings from the start of the last feeding. For instance, if you begin to feed your baby at 9 am, they might nurse until 9:30 am. But they will still need to nurse again sometime between 11 am and Noon.

As your child gets older and their stomach grows, they won’t need to breastfeed as often. It is recommended that you breastfeed on demand, instead of on a set schedule, to ensure your child is getting all the nutrition they need.

When your child is only a few weeks old, they might not wake for night feedings on their own. However, it is vital to their growth and to your breast milk supply that you wake them up every 2 to 3 hours to feed. While waking a sleeping baby (and your sleepy self) may seem wrong, it is important to give your baby the nutrition they need to thrive.

Your body is amazing at understanding your child’s changing needs as they grow. In the first few days of their life, you will produce colostrum, a thin sometimes yellowy liquid. By day 5, your breastmilk should come in. Breastmilk will be thicker and white. Your body will automatically make a certain amount of breastmilk at this time, even if you decide to not breastfeed.

But in about 2 weeks, breastmilk production relies on supply and demand. That is why it is important to feed on demand, at least every 2 to 3 hours. When your baby nurses or when you pump, you stimulate the nerves in your breasts which send signals to your pituitary gland. This gland releases hormones that cause your breasts to create milk. The more often you nurse, the more milk your breasts will create.

If you are concerned you have a low supply, make sure you are taking care of yourself by eating and drinking enough each day. When you breastfeed, you burn an extra 500 calories a day. This means that while breastfeeding, you will need to eat more than you did while you were pregnant.

You can also speak to a lactation consultant who can help you assess your supply and give you tips for increasing it, if necessary.

You can look for a few signs that your baby is getting the milk they need. If you are feeding them every 2-3 hours, they should:

  • Have 6 or more heavy wet diapers per day
  • Grow according to schedule
  • Be content and sleep between feedings

During a feeding, you can look for a few signs that your baby has gotten all the milk they need. If they are satisfied, they might keep sucking, but they will stop swallowing. They also will have relaxed hands that are not balled up in fists and they may fall asleep.

Many women worry about low supply, but when you are feeding your child on-demand, low supply is rare. Sometimes, when babies are going through a growth spurt, they will feed more often. This doesn’t mean you don’t have enough milk; it simply means your baby needs to eat more often to grow.

If you aren’t sure your child is getting enough milk, you can visit a lactation consultant to do a weighted feed. A weighted feed helps you determine how much breast milk your child is drinking during each feeding.

Working moms can still be breastfeeding moms. While you are away from your child, you will use a breast pump to collect milk in bottles. You’ll need to pump as often as your child typically eats during the day.

By law, workplaces are required to have a clean, private space that is not a bathroom for you to pump breastmilk. If you have any questions about continuing to breastfeed when you return to work, you can take our Returning to Work While Breastfeeding class. This class will give you tips on creating a pumping schedule, how to better work your breast pump, and other advice from lactation consultants.

Breastfeeding preparation classes before your baby is born can help you and your baby get off to a great start. Taught by certified lactation consultants, these classes help you understand the lactation process and how to maintain a great milk supply.

You can also attend breastfeeding support groups. Research shows that support while breastfeeding helps women breastfeed longer. These free groups allow you to connect with other moms and learn from each other’s experiences.

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