I am the adopt_a_mom
Mentee Coordinator, which means I am the one who coordinates the pairing of new moms with our experienced breastfeeding mentors. I wanted to take a moment to address a few common concerns that I see in applications. Hopefully this information will help you avoid a few of the common breastfeeding-related stressors in the first weeks of your baby's life!
The following image is a representation of how much liquid an infant's stomach can hold at one day, three days, one week, and one month of life. The blue liquid in the bottles represents the maximum
stomach capacity of the newborn. As you can see from the image, the amount of sustenance needed per feeding in the first few days is tiny!
This image demonstrates stomach size in a slightly different way:
This is an important thing to be aware of, because women are often told in the hospital that their colostrum is not enough and that their babies need additional milk. That is simply not true for the vast majority of infants! A newborn does not need two ounces of formula, though the natural sucking instinct means the baby will continue to suckle at the bottle, even after s/he is full. The tiny amount of colostrum your breasts produce in the first few days is more than enough to meet the nutritional needs of a newborn, and is a superior was to raise blood sugar, help your baby pass the meconium (first poop), and flush out jaundice.
Don't worry about your baby overeating at the breast, though. While a baby can be overfed by a bottle, this is because the baby cannot control the flow of the bottle. S/he does
have control over the flow at the breast and can learn a non-nutritive suckling pattern that causes very little milk to be transmitted. Comfort suckling at the breast is a good thing for both mother and baby, so don't limit your baby's time at the breast out of fear that s/he will over eat. Direct-breast feeding will not lead to a baby overeating!How do you know your baby is getting enough milk?
What goes in must come out. In other words, if your baby is making enough wet or dirty diapers, you know your baby is getting enough to eat. A normal diaper output is one sopping wet diaper (about 3 tablespoons of liquid) per day of life until baby is a week old, and then 6+ sopping wet diapers a day from then on. Disposable diapers are so absorbent that it can be hard to tell how wet they are, so if you or your doctor are concerned about your baby's diaper output, consider using cloth diapers for a few days, as they show wetness better. Poopy diapers also can mask a wet diaper, so most experts say to count a large poop as a wet diaper as well.
Breastfed babies usually regain their birthweight within two
weeks, not the one week that most doctors expect from formula fed infants. As long as baby is making good wet/dirty diapers and is showing a steady gain, your baby is getting enough to eat. Once your milk comes in, baby's weight gain will average 6oz a week (this is just an average, some gain more or slightly less). If you or your doctor are concerned about your baby's weight gain, talk to an IBCLC* to troubleshoot common problems like bad latch before turning to supplementation, as most weight gain issues are correctable through proper latch and positioning.
The most important thing is to feed your baby often, as often as s/he indicates hunger -- feeding your baby when s/he shows early hunger cues
will make breastfeeding easier for both you and your baby. Early hunger cues include smacking/licking lips, sucking on hands, opening and closing mouth (baby fish lips). Crying is a late
Some babies are sleepy (especially if they have jaundice) and need to be woken to eat. If your baby isn't eating every 2 hours, isn't making enough wet diapers, isn't showing a consistent growth pattern, or has jaundice, make sure you wake your baby to feed every two hours, then continue to feed him/her on demand as s/he becomes more alert.
Newborns should be fed at least
every two hours in the first weeks of life, but some will need to be fed more often. This doesn't mean your milk supply isn't sufficient or that your milk isn't satisfying enough. Quite the opposite! Breastmilk's nutrients are highly biolavailable, meaning that your baby can quickly and easily absorb all the nutrients and digest the milk -- this means more frequent feedings. Overfilling your baby with a bottle of formula may make him or her go longer between feedings, but that isn't a good thing -- frequent nursing makes baby more comfortable, makes mom
more comfortable (avoids engorgement), helps establish milk supply, and keeps baby's stomach from being stretched beyond capacity.
Your baby will have frequent growth spurts in the first few weeks of life, during which time s/he will want to nurse more frequently. This is normal, though it can be frustrating or stressful for a first time mom. It doesn't mean your supply is dwindling. It just means your baby needs to eat more to support the massive growth that s/he is undergoing! If you allow your baby to nurse on demand, your supply will continue to meet his/her needs. This great article
by Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC*, covers the biological basics of how milk production works. Remember that milk supply is largely an issue of supply and demand. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you will make. breastfeeding
is an active community for breastfeeding moms on LiveJournal. The ladies in this community are very fast to respond to questions or concerns. boobie_bootcamp
is another good community for first-time breastfeeding moms.Kellymom
is an excellent resource for answering all your breastfeeding related questions.
Dr. Jack Newman, who is one of the foremost lactation experts, has a wonderful series of handouts and videos
covers common breastfeeding questions and concerns, including videos on latch.
Dr. Thomas Hale, an expert in medications and their interaction with lactation, publishes a book called Medications and Mothers' Milk
that is searchable on Amazon.com and includes research on the safety of various medications while breastfeeding. Most medications are
compatible with breastfeeding or have a breastfeeding-safe alternative. For medications not included in this book, Dr. Hale also has a forum
where he will answer questions or address concerns.
If you would like to be paired with an adopt_a_mom
mentor for more information and breastfeeding support, you can do so at any during during pregnancy or post-partum. Pregnant moms can apply in this
post and moms who have already had their babies can apply in this
post. All comments/applications are screened for privacy. None of your personal information (including your status as an AAM mentor) will be divulged without your permission outside of the closed adopt_a_mom
community (which is for mentors only).
Hopefully you have found some of the information helpful, or at least interesting. Good luck breastfeeding your new babies!
*IBCLC stands for "Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant." These highly trained professionals have thousands of hours of training and in-the-field experience in the area of human lactation. If you do find yourself encountering a breastfeeding problem, an IBCLC is the best resource for answering your questions and helping you find a solution. You can search for an IBCLC in your area through this page.