Being a first time parent can be overwhelming. Your baby will be waking you up at all hours of the night for whatever he needs. If you have made the decision to breastfeed, it can add another element to your new life.
While there may be many strong opinions from people around you, it is ultimately your choice. Whatever is best for both you and your baby is what you should do, regardless of what people have to say about it. Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for you and your baby.
If you make the decision to breastfeed, you will most likely have tons of questions. One of the first questions you may have is how often you should breastfeed your baby. You should usually feed on demand, but there are some other parameters to keep in mind.
Related: How Often Should Breastfeeding
Nursing too often is not something you should worry much about. The new addition to your family needs to be fed, and
frequently. It may feel like all you do is nurse your baby. This is most likely because newborns need to be fed every 1-2 hours. So in reality, you are feeding around the clock.
This can be tiring, but that is the life of a new parent. Even during the night, you will need to get up and feed. You are lucky if you manage to get a whole four hours of sleep at one time.
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Newborns should be fed on demand. Look out for the signs of hunger and ensure that you are feeding your baby in time. Feeding him before he starts to cry is critical to your baby’s development. Leaving your baby hungry for too long can cause complications.
Feeding patterns are different for every baby, but your baby will develop a more normal pattern eventually.
1. Week 1
- During the first week, you should be nursing at least 10-12 times every 24 hours.
- Let your baby feed for as long as he wants while he is sucking actively. Switch breasts when the first is completely emptied.
- Wake your baby every two hours during the day to feed him.
- At night, wake your baby every four fours or feed when he needs it.
2. Weeks 2-6
- When your baby gets a little older, you can limit feeding to around 8 to 12 times or more. He will still need feeding every two hours or so.
Your baby will need to be fed whenever he demands it. This also means that he should feed for as long as he needs to. Ending feeding early can leave your baby frustrated and still hungry.
Sessions usually last 20 to 30 minutes. This can differ depending on how hungry or full your baby is. It is normal for this to go on longer or shorter, depending on your baby.
Baby Hunger Signs
There are several telltale signs that your baby is hungry. Look for these signs and make sure that you are feeding when he is hungry. You should not wait until he starts to cry, for it may be more stressful and difficult to feed at that point.
1. Rooting – when you touch your baby’s cheek, and he turns to look for something to suck
2. Opening and closing mouth
3. Hitting you in the chest or arm repeatedly
4. Grabbing your clothing
5. Puckering, licking, or smacking lips
6. Sucking on hands, toes, or clothes
7. Crying is a late sign of hunger
You may have heard that shorter feedings help sore nipples and cracking nipples. This is not true. Shorter feedings just make your baby need to feed more often. Moreover, your breasts are more likely to develop issues if you do not empty them one at a time. Finish feeding your baby, letting him tell you when to stop.
1. Drain one breast fully before switching to the other.
- This is more important than ensuring that both breasts are used for feeding.
2. Feeding frequently or for a long time is normal.
3. Your baby’s stool will be black at first before turning brown and finally a mustard yellow.
4. Cluster feeding is normal, too.
- This is when your baby wants to feed frequently, usually at night. He will then go for a little longer than usual without feeding. This usually happens when your baby is going through a growth spurt.
5. Wait for the signal that your baby is finished eating.
- Your baby will either let go of your nipple or slow down his sucking. When it gets down to four sucks per swallow, your baby is probably finished.
- He may fall asleep during feeding, and you will have to remove him gently from your breast. You can offer the other breast if he is still hungry.
Feeding Too Little
It is entirely possible not to feed your baby enough breastmilk. There are a few signs that something is going on. Your baby will let you know if you need to increase feeding or call your doctor.
1. Lack of Weight Gain
- If your baby is not gaining a steady amount of weight, increase feedings. If this lasts, call your doctor or lactation specialist.
2. Wet/Dirty Diapers
- Your baby should be producing wet diapers according to how many days old he is. Day one should produce one diaper; day two produces two, and so on.
Your diet has an effect on your breast milk. A well balanced diet is all you need to ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrients to grow. You will likely feel hungrier than usual while breastfeeding. This because your body is working overtime to produce milk.
Overall, you should be feeding your newborn frequently. Whenever he starts to show signs of hunger, start to feed him. He will let you know when he is finished with his meal.
Regular breastfeeding is essential to your baby’s development. If he is eating enough, he will gain weight and have regular wet/dirty diapers. As long as you are feeding him well, no problems should arise due to malnourishment or anything of the like.