Even if your breasts are small, even if you have twins, even if you're worried… (this isn’t foolproof, but it works pretty well)
The most important factor in making an abundant, but not too abundant milk supply, is frequent, active feeds.
"Frequent" means to feed your newborn 12-16 times every 24 hours until they are 2 weeks old. It may seem like a lot, but you are probably holding, rocking and soothing your baby that often anyway.
"Active" means you are paying attention to how your baby is feeding and your baby is noticeably swallowing milk. Comfort nursing and flutter sucking are part of active feeds, but only a small part. If your baby is comfort nursing for more than 5 or 10 minutes, without falling into a deep sleep, then release them, burp them and switch sides.
A newborn may feed hourly, or may cluster feed for irregular sessions, before sleeping 3 to 5 hours. It may seem like a wide range, but this is normal for humans. No matter what the pattern, most babies need to feed about 12-16 times in 24 hours in the first few weeks.
Pay attention to your baby's sucking and behavior.
You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby but you can underfeed them.
If baby is rooting, looking hungry or acting discontented, they probably need to eat. If you aren't sure, offer your breast. In our culture, we aren't used to breastfed babies and often moms will compare their new baby to an older breastfeeding baby or a formula fed baby who eats larger amounts every 3 or 4 hours.
If your baby is sleepy and not rooting or discontented, this means you need to keep them skin-to-skin with you and watch for them to stir. When they do feed, use breast compressions to push your milk into their mouth. Many sleepy babies dream feed easily when you do compressions. When they slow down, burp, and switch sides.
When weight gain is steady, breastfeedings are easier, and if your baby is agreeable, it's ok to decrease to 8-12 feeds in 24 hours. Feeding fewer than 8 feeds a day is likely to result in decreasing your milk supply which can lead to supplementation and early weaning.
Use a checklist or an app to keep track of how many times you feed. Frequent feeds may also calm an overabundant supply, avoid engorgement and help to prevent a crying and fussy baby, mastitis, slow or no weight gain!
The role of colostrum
At birth, your baby's stomach is the size of a large marble. As your baby grows, it will be always be about the size of their fist, so, really not that big. The teaspoon-sized feeds of colostrum are the perfect size for their tummy and because the amounts are so small, it's easier for both of you to learn to breastfeed.
Colostrum is full of immune factors and just the right amount of calories and nutrients for a newborn baby. Your baby may seem hungry and want to feed more. Keep putting them to your breast and switch sides when their suckling slows. It's not that you don't have enough milk, even though it seems like it. Your baby's frequent nursing is jumpstarting your milk production so that you will have enough milk in just a few hours or days.
A newborn has an immature immune system and is vulnerable to illness.
Colostrum starts fighting germs with immune factors, pre-biotics and probiotics which colonize the baby’s digestive tract. This biome boost creates the thick and protective mucus membrane that will ensure your baby's good health. Just one bottle of formula can disrupt the optimal composition of the biome. Trust your body to respond to your baby's cues. If it hurts or if you are unsure, call or text. We can help you figure out what to do next.
How will I know if I can be successful breastfeeding?
Nobody can look at your baby, breasts, nipples or health history and predict how successful you will be. The only way you can know if you will be successful is to try breastfeeding. The fastest way to be comfortable learning breastfeeding, is to have a mentor or coach, often a lactation consultant, to help you through the first feedings and answer all your questions with accurate information.
If you are pregnant, interview lactation consultants as well as pediatricians so you are know who you are calling and are comfortable asking questions when you need to.
It's easiest to learn breastfeeding the right way the first time.
And, it’s easier to address a breastfeeding problem in the first five days, than on Days 7, 14 or 21 because you and your baby haven't learned any bad habits. More importantly, you aren't totally frustrated and overwhelmed and your baby still has reserves from pregnancy.
If you need help, send a text to Donna Bruschi (845) 750-4402 or fill our contact form. We'll get right back to you.