Even though breastfeeding is a common and natural part of life, many moms have questions about the whys, whens and hows. Sue Lewis, Floyd lactation consultant, answers some of the more common questions.
Q: How often should I breastfeed?
A: Newborns should nurse eight to 12 times per day for about the first month. By the time they reach 1 to 2 months old, the frequency will likely drop to seven to nine times per day. In addition to providing nourishment, frequent feedings also stimulate milk production.
Initially, newborns should be nursed when they are hungry, which is typically every one and a half to three hours. As they get older, babies may develop a more reliable schedule. A newborn should not go more than four hours without feeding.
Q: How do I know when my baby is ready to eat?
A: A common assumption is that crying is a sign that a baby is hungry. While that may sometimes be true, a baby has likely been hungry for some time by the time it cries. Crying may also happen for other reasons such as a soiled diaper, a need to be cuddled or simply being bored.
More obvious signs of hunger include when a baby:
- Opens its mouth
- Moves its head from side to side
- Places its hands or fists in its mouth
- Puckers its lips
- Nuzzles against its mother’s breasts
- Sticks out its tongue
Q: How long does it take to nurse?
A: The time required to nurse depends on a baby’s age. Babies become more efficient as they get older, so they may only need 20 to 25 minutes of total nursing time. Newborns may need up to 40 minutes or more. Every baby is different and should be allowed as much time as necessary to nurse.
Q: How often should I alternate breasts?
A: It’s important for milk production to balance the amount of nursing time throughout the day for each breast. It is not necessary, however, to nurse both breasts equally during each feeding. The baby should stay on the first breast as long as desired. The baby should then be offered the second breast, but might then only nurse for a short time, if at all. That breast should then be offered first at the next feeding. This practice will allow both breasts to be stimulated equally over the course of the day.
Q: How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?
A: There are some sure signs that your baby is eating enough:
- Weight gain
- Three or more soiled diapers and five to eight wet diapers by day five
- Sleeping well
- Content after most feedings
- Alert when awake
Q: What does it mean if my baby is hungrier than usual?
A: It isn’t uncommon for your baby to seem hungrier at certain times. This is probably because your baby is going through a growth spurt. These typically occur within the second week, and then again at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age. When these growth spurts take place, nursing moms may need to increase the frequency of feedings.
Our board-certified lactation consultants are available to answer questions and for in-person consultations. Call 706.509.6555 or
email us to learn more.