When you have a newborn, the constant worry of making sure your baby is getting enough to eat is completely normal! Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the key to feeling confident about having a fed baby is optimizing each and every feeding. Below are a few of our favorite tips:
8-12 Feedings Per 24 Hours
A good rule of thumb is that infants need to eat 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. While this is sometimes not what we want to hear, as it means waking up every two hours to feed a baby, it is helpful to know this is normal. When you are able to get in those 8-12 feedings, you know your baby is getting enough to eat, and feedings are being optimized.
Watch For Delayed Cues
As new parents, our two main concerns are eating and sleeping. However, sometimes the two can work against each other. Some routines that many new parents do to help a newborn sleep can also delay hunger cues. While sometimes this is fine, sometimes it can make feedings more challenging as a babies also get hangry. Swaddling and sleep training too early both can delay hunger cues and make feedings a bit harder. If your baby loves to be swaddled, sometimes waking them up every few hours to make sure they get their 8-12 feedings can be helpful.
Breast Compression and Massage
While your baby is nursing, a simple breast massage or breast compression can help the milk move through your breast and into your baby’s mouth. This is also helpful when your baby is falling asleep at the breast during a feeding, as the increase of milk will cause your baby to swallow more milk.
Sucking vs Swallowing
A great way to know that your baby is actually eating is to listen for swallowing. However, you may hear a bit more sucking instead of swallowing, but that is completely normal! When you have colostrum, you should hear about ten sucks for every swallow. When your milk has come in, you should hear about one or two sucks for every swallow.
Switching Breasts During Feeding
If you have been doing compression and breast massage, but your baby keeps unlatches, or swallowing is slowing down, try switching breasts. The second breast will have more milk, and can satisfy your baby if he or she is still hungry. If your baby denies the second breast, that is fine and usually means your baby is satisfied. At the next feeding, offer the second breast first to ensure that there is a large supply of milk ready for your little one.
Full Breasts vs Empty Breasts
After a successful feeding, your breasts should feel softer and lighter. If after a feeding they still feel heavy, full, and/or hard to the touch, it might be necessary to speak with a lactation consultant to see if milk is being properly drained from your breast at each feeding.