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Breastfeeding Basics

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Getting Started

Your body has been getting ready to feed your baby throughout your pregnancy. Human milk is specially made for your baby. Consider the first few weeks a learning period for you and your baby. Give yourselves time to recuperate from birth. With time and practice, you will become a coordinated team. You will not see or measure how much milk your baby takes in, but you and your baby will show signs that your baby is getting plenty of milk.

Mother's Signs

  • Breasts feel full and heavy as milk changes from colostrum to mature milk. Leaking milk is normal and pads inside your bra may be helpful. Do not wear tight undergarments.
  • Breasts should feel fuller before feedings and softer after feedings. Listen for your baby’s swallowing. Knots or lumps in your breasts or under your arms are due to clogged milk ducts. You may need to contact a lactation consultant for assistance.
  • "Let-down" is the milk ejection reflex that starts milk flowing toward the nipple. Some mothers experience a “pins and needles” sensation and some don’t. This is normal.
  • You may experience some nipple tenderness when your baby latches on. This is normal and usually disappears at the end of the first week. If tenderness persists or worsens please call (757) 668-7405 or (800) 395-2453 to contact a certified lactation consultant.

Baby's Signs

  • Baby should latch on deeply and suckle rhythmically for at least 10 to 15 minutes on the first side, then switch sides. He/she may pause to rest and you will hear him swallowing. Your baby is finished when he/she pulls off or falls asleep.
  • Baby should breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours, or about every 1 1/2 to 3 hours. You may need to awaken your baby to feed if he/she does not “demand” after four hours.
  • Baby should be content between feedings. If your baby is often fussy or crying, contact your physician.
  • The color of your baby's stools will change from thick black meconium to dark green to yellow cottage cheese/mustard milk stools over the first 4 to 5 days. Baby should have 4 or more stools per day after the 4th day of life. Contact your physician if your baby is less than one month old and has less than 2 stools per day, unless your baby has one very large stool. 
  • Baby should have at least 6 wet diapers per day. The urine should be clear and almost colorless.
  • Baby should gain at least half an ounce a day and regain birth weight by 2 weeks of age.
  • Babies commonly experience a growth spurt between 2 to 3 weeks, 4 to 6 weeks and again at about 3 months when they seem to want to eat around the clock. This is normal and is not a sign of a poor milk supply. Let baby feed more often during these periods and within a few days you will return to your more typical pattern.

Helpful Hints

  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Fatigue can decrease milk supply.
  • Hold your baby skin to skin with you. This will help increase your milk supply.
  • Eat all your meals and snacks. Drink water or juice when you nurse your baby.
  • If you smoke, find help to quit. Nicotine can decrease your milk supply.
  • To make more milk, breastfeed or pump more often. You can also pump for 10-15 minutes after your baby feeds. Using a double-pump kit and an electric pump is best.
  • Limit or stop pacifier use. Put baby to breast as much as possible. This will stimulate your milk supply and help your baby grow.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 11/2017

(757) 668-7000