When it comes to nursing, it's best to listen to your baby's needs rather than to follow your own agenda.
Breastfeeding 101: Letting Your Newborn Set the Schedule
The words "newborn" and "schedule" don't always go together, particularly when it comes to breastfeeding, says Kathleen Gale, a lactation consultant and registered nurse with Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. Although some mothers try to set a breastfeeding schedule, Gale says that most lactation consultants are not proponents of such rigidity. "We teach that a mother should learn the feeding and satiation cues of a baby and be led by the baby's cues, especially in the very beginning," says Gale, who is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). "Every mother produces milk at a different speed. Every mother has different storage capacity in her breasts. And every baby is different in his or her capability of removing the milk."
In the first month, Gale says, a baby will usually eat 8 to 12 times a day. It's best to feed him before the crying begins, Gale says. Be aware of early cues that signify hunger, such as a tongue movement in mouth, including lip-smacking and tongue-smacking; opening the mouth wide while turning the face toward something that he's touching; clenching fists and bending the arms, while holding hands near his face or in his mouth.
Gale says that the length of each feeding varies from person to person. Some babies can spend as little as five minutes on each breast; others may take 20 to 30 minutes per breast. If it takes longer than that, moms should speak with a doctor or lactation consultant. "If feedings last more than 40 minutes repeatedly, that might be a sign there is an issue, either a low milk supply or something with the baby's sucking skills," Gale says.
While the baby is nursing, Gale says, she will give off cues indicating satiation. These include the arms and hands gradually relaxing throughout the feeding, and if the baby stops rooting and showing signs of hunger.
In addition, weight gain and frequent diaper changes indicate that the baby is getting enough milk. Newborns have similar patterns the first few days when it comes to output, making it simple to track how they're doing. "With each day of life, numbers of pees and poops increases," Gale says. "On Day One we expect a minimum of one of each, day two it's two of each, day three it's three, day four it's four, and then it stays at four stools and goes up to six urinations a day, until about one month, then the stools start to decrease."
Gale recommends using a diaper and feeding log (you can find a good one at KellyMom.com) to note feedings and output for the first two weeks. "Having a record of the number of feedings and the number of pees and poops helps you to see if things are going normally," she says. "If they're not, you know to call the doctor."
Overall, Gale says that it's important to listen and be responsive to your child and adapt to his schedule, rather than expecting the reverse. "A baby cannot be spoiled," she says. "When a baby learns that a parent is going to respond quickly to their expression of need, the baby learns trust earlier rather than later."
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.
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