Doulas are often the first people to help clients bring the theoretical act of breastfeeding to life in the early hours of being together with their new baby. Breastfeeding can be a beautiful crossroads of nutritional need mixing with emotional security. However, there can be frustration too, for all parties involved.
We want to share some commonly asked questions about breastfeeding so you can prepare, or as a quick resource if you are scrolling this list while also holding your sleeping baby.
How do you breastfeed?
The mechanics of breastfeeding seem simple: get as much of your nipple, areola, and breast tissue into your baby’s wide open mouth. In the beginning, there is as much learning going on for the parent as there is the child – getting your baby to open his or her mouth nice and wide may take consistent positive reinforcement so they can learn to have a deep, flanged, latch.
How much and how often do you breastfeed?
There is no wrong answer to this question because your baby may want to breastfeed for reasons other than hunger. However, it is pretty common for newborns to feed more often than older babies due to the small size of their stomachs.
You can expect to nurse every 1.5-3 hours in the first weeks of life, transferring 1.5-3 ounces per feeding. Around 2-months old, you can estimate feeding about 4-5 ounces every 3-4 hours. More or less is dependent on your baby’s age, if they are in a growth spurt, or if they are also taking solids once they are older than 6 months of age.
How long do I feed my baby at each feeding?
Because it can be hard to know how much milk is transferring from your breast to your baby, this question is common, and again, there is no wrong answer. But babies who have learned how to nurse with a good latch are usually participating in nutritive nursing for 15-20 minutes at a time. There are also times when your baby may be sleepy, and they slip into non-nutritive nursing, where they may be moving their jaw, but they are not swallowing milk.
Watching your baby swallowing and drift off to sleep can help you learn your specific baby’s eating, and comfort cues.
How often should I switch sides when breastfeeding?
The most reliable way to ensure your milk supply is supported on both sides, to empty your breasts of milk routinely. One way this can happen is by alternating which side you start each feeding. For example, if you start on the right side and feed until you feel empty, you can then switch sides if your baby is still hungry. The next feeding, you would then start with the breast you ended on, to ensure it is being drained completely.
How often should I burp my baby?
You can burp your baby after every feeding, and for some babies once or twice in the middle of a feeding. Burping allows air that has been consumed to be expelled before digestion and can help with reducing spit-up and gastro-intentional discomfort later. However, if you have trouble getting substantial burps from your babe, don’t fret! Helping your baby by doing leg rotations, or “bicycle kicks,” can help their tiny tummies expel gas.
How do I know my baby has eaten enough?
Breastfeeding has one feature that can cause some a bit of anxiety. Because it is hard to measure how much milk your child consumes at the time of feeding, wondering how much a baby has eaten is a common question.
The most reliable source to understand if your child is getting enough nutrition is to keep track of their weight, and the number of wet and dirty diapers.
For newborns up to 4 days old, the number of total dirty diapers a day (pee and stool) should match their days of life. So on day one, they should have one or more diapers. On day two, they should produce two diapers, etc. After day four, having 6-12 dirty diapers is considered normal.
Another option is to use a nursing scale, and weigh your baby before and directly after he or she eats. And one more option is to pump breast milk and use a bottle so you can easily measure the amount of milk consumed.
If you have more questions that aren’t addressed here, we are lucky to have a local resource that is thorough and moderated by respected lactation professionals called BreastfeedChicago.org. For lists of lactation professionals in your area, several troubleshooting resources, or a community of support, consider putting it on your favorites tab.