Whether you are a new mom or an experienced mother of a few, breastfeeding your newborn can be challenging. Breastfeeding can be different for every baby, and it comes with new obstacles each time. It is recommended(opens in a new tab) that your baby be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, so many moms will need to master the task.
While breastfeeding your child is a natural process, every mom could use a little bit of guidance and support. We know that breastfeeding isn’t always straightforward or simple. Whether you have general questions or are experiencing difficulties, we would like to support you and your family in your feeding goals. That's why we've outlined everything you need to know about breastfeeding – and how we can help.
How to Know When Your Baby is Hungry
Newborns tend to feed very frequently in the early weeks, as their stomachs are small and they digest milk quickly. Your baby may give you some early hunger cues, such as:
- Rapid eye movement under the eyelids
- Body movements
- Small sounds
- Sucking movements of the mouth & tongue
- Sticking tongue out
- Rooting (turning head toward breast)
- Hand to mouth movements
- *Crying is a late sign of hunger*
On the other hand, your baby may be full if they close their mouth, turn their head away from the breast or bottle, or relax their hands. As your baby starts to grow, they'll begin sleeping for longer stretches and will have fewer, but longer feedings.
How to Know Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk
A newborn’s stomach will be very small in the first few days. Breastfed infants between the ages of one and six months consume an average of 19 to 30 ounces of breast milk each day. But keep in mind that each baby is different and their stomachs and appetites will grow each day. Your baby will gain approximately one ounce of weight each day from birth to three months old. However, your infant may lose a bit of their birth weight in the first few days (up to 1 oz per day). From the second week on, gaining four to seven ounces per week is normal. Your pediatrician will monitor your baby’s weight at their initial checkups.
It can be difficult to tell if your baby is getting enough milk at the breast. Here are some signs that may help:
- Latch-on is easy with vigorous sucking at the breast
- Baby’s jaw drops and holds for a second with a “ca” sound
- You feel a drawing/or hugging action on the areola
- Breasts are softer after the feeding
- Feeling a let-down reflex or seeing a change in the baby’s feeding rhythm (longer sucks and swallows)
- Seeing milk in your baby’s mouth
- Hearing the baby swallow when milk is in
- Adequate wet and dirty diapers (see chart below)
|Day1||<1 tsp (5-7ml)||1||1||Black|
|Days 5-7||1.5-2oz (45-60ml)||5-6+||4+||Yellow/seedy|
|Weeks 2-3||2-3oz (60-90ml)||5-6+||4+||Yellow/seedy|
Stools will vary in consistency and frequency as your baby adapts to breast milk, but they should become more regular over time. Here are some other telltale signs that your baby is getting enough milk:
- Your baby is gaining weight and growing.
- Your baby’s urine is pale in color.
- Your baby is calm and relaxed after eating.
- Your baby switches between short sleeping periods and wakeful, alert periods.
- Your breasts feel sore after feeding.
At each wellness visit, your pediatrician will track your baby’s weight and length/height to make sure they are growing appropriately and getting enough to eat.
Getting Your Baby to Latch
A good latch is crucial for successful breastfeeding. It makes it easier for your baby to get the nourishment they require and guarantees comfort for both you and your baby when they are properly latched on to your nipple. Here are a few tips to get your baby to latch:
- Create a calm environment by relaxing in a quiet area and in a comfortable position.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin to your breasts before beginning to breastfeed.
- Position baby rotated into mom “tummy to tummy.”
- Line baby’s nose to your nipple. Allow baby to smell.
- Touch their lower lip with your nipple to trigger the rooting reflex and help them open their mouth wide.
- Watch for a gape or wide open mouth that occurs as baby tilts the head back, then gently assist baby forward (up and over the nipple) so that the tongue and lower lip seal to the breast first
- Avoid moving breast to baby--follow baby's lead, think “baby to breast.”
- Let your baby lead; when they are hungry, they may bob their head against you, try to make eye contact, or squirm in your arms.
- Support your baby’s head and shoulders as they search for your breast.
Getting your baby to latch can be challenging. If you continue to experience difficulty, you should reach out for help from a lactation consultant.
If you're struggling with breastfeeding, know that you are not alone; experiencing issues while breastfeeding is very common. Whether you’re struggling to get your baby to latch, having issues with milk production, or are experiencing issues with your breasts, there are plenty of resources available to get the help you need, including lactation consultants.
Lactation consultants are certified breastfeeding professionals with knowledge and skill in providing breastfeeding support. A Capital Area Pediatrics lactation consultant can provide you and your family support in a wide variety of issues, including:
- Latch help.
- Painful nursing.
- NICU babies.
- Weight loss.
- Use of a nipple shield or supplementing nursing system.
- Supply issues.
- Supplementation with breast milk or formula.
At Capital Area Pediatrics, we understand that breastfeeding is complex, and we support whichever way you choose to feed your baby. No matter what your situation is, our lactation consultants and pediatricians can offer you support and education for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. If you are experiencing difficulty breastfeeding, or have general questions, let the lactation consultants at Capital Area Pediatrics help.
If your child needs pediatric care, Capital Area Pediatrics offers top-tier pediatric care to families throughout Northern Virginia. Our dedicated team is committed to providing everything from lactation services for mothers to wellness visits for your child. All of our providers, including those at our Herndon locations, are accepting new patients and would be happy to reconnect with our existing families, though it is important to note our Ryan Park / Ashburn locations are not currently offering lactation services. Request an appointment online, or find a location near you today.