Interview with Dr. Harriet Plowright, Pediatrics, Child Health, and Neonatal specialist.
1. How many times a day should my baby be feeding?
A new baby will roughly need to feed eight times every 24 hours. That averages out to a feed every three hours, but most breastfed babies won’t follow this schedule. Think of it the same way you do as an adult – you will feel hungry and thirsty at random points in the day. Over-planning a feeding schedule (or even thinking about a baby being on a “schedule”) can hinder your milk production. Try to relax and put baby to the breast almost every time they cry.
2. How long should my baby feed at each feeding?
There is no hard and fast rule for how long your baby should feed. Some babies transfer milk very efficiently, while others take a little longer to fulfill their needs. Feed times can also vary with the time of the day and surroundings. Trying to be less distracted when you feed and being mindful of feeding is important. But if every feed is taking a long time, then it might be worth having your latch and positioning assessed to ensure that baby is transferring milk effectively, and you have the toolkit to troubleshoot any problems.
3. How can I tell if my baby is eating enough in the early days?
You want to have plenty of wet and dirty nappies. In the first few days, you will see a gradual increase. Dirty nappies in particular are the key to knowing whether your baby is eating enough. I would expect a newborn to poo at almost every feed (5-12 times per day) – this gradually decreases as your baby gets older and those babies over 6 weeks can significantly drop their pooing frequency down. Weight gain (and not significant loss) is also an important factor. I would expect a normal, well-fed newborn to lose weight in the first 5 days, and then gradually get back to their birth weight by 10-14 days.
4. How do I know if I’m producing enough milk?
Perceived low milk supply is extremely common, whereas true, clinical low milk supply is rare. Women often feel like they are not making enough milk because their baby won’t sleep for long periods, is unsettled, cries all the time, or seems to want to feed all the time. All of these things are normal baby behaviours and are not necessarily an indicator of poor supply. Cluster-feeding in the evenings is a normal breastfed baby behaviour – and being aware of this being a phenomenon can make it much easier to deal with. Drink plenty, and ensure you have someone to bring you regular snacks!
Most women can produce a healthy milk supply. The majority of mums will do really well if they look after themselves – eat well, drink well, and be responsive to their baby. Having a good support system is often key to the success of a breastfeeding relationship.
5. Is pain and soreness normal when I’m breastfeeding? When should I worry?
There are different views out there on this one. Some mums and health professionals will say it should be painless if it’s going well, but others will tell you that you can expect discomfort in the early days. If you have persistent pain, then it’s a very good idea to have a personalized breastfeeding assessment. It’s all very new, you’re learning, and your baby is learning too. It’s a steep learning curve and the two of you have to learn to do this together. Nipple soreness is common in the first few days, even when milk transfer is good, but this should settle down relatively quickly.
6. Does feeding position affect this pain and soreness? What are some good feeding positions?
Feeding position, and consequently a good latch, is really important. The bbhugme Nursing Pillow is amazing for support and to get the position right! I'm currently feeding Baby No. 2, and I've got three bbhugme Nursing Pillows in the house in three different rooms.
But positioning and attachment are key, regardless of what supports and props you use or don't use: Your goal is to get your baby well-positioned, well-attached, with a deep and comfortable latch. Some of the best advice I was given before having my first baby, was to familiarise myself with the different feeding positions and how to achieve a deep latch. There is a wealth of YouTube videos available to help with this. Reading and watching as much as you can before the birth of your baby is an excellent way to give yourself a great head start to feeding!
Both the bbhugme pregnancy and nursing pillows have helped me achieve comfortable feeding with my first and second babies. They have taken the pressure off my neck and shoulders and enabled both me and baby to feed comfortably anywhere in my house (including the garden!).
About the author
Harriet specializes in Pediatrics, Child Health, and Neonatal Medicine where she spends her time treating emergencies and running clinics for chronic problems in children. She moves through hospitals often as part of her work and, through this, meets a lot of families on a day-to-day basis. Harriet feels privileged to work with children and be surrounded by their innocence and kindness each day. She is a strong advocate for neonatal wellbeing and breastfeeding mothers.