Unlike formula feeding, there’s no bottle with measurement on the side to show you just how much baby has fed. That uncertainty can lead some moms to worry whether baby’s nutritional needs are being met. Kim Smith, a registered lactation consultant in Regina, offers these guidelines.
When nursing, allow your baby to stay on one breast until he falls asleep and is no longer suckling or has come off on his own and then switch to the other side. “Sometimes babies will take it, sometimes they will not,” she says.
Don’t judge an effective feed by the clock alone. For example, Smith says that a 10-minute feed might be fine for one baby and not another. “If baby comes off awake and content, or was active through the feed and dozes off, that is likely long enough for that baby, so long as other factors like output and weight are on target.”
But watch for a baby who seems tired, or dozes or struggles to stay awake during the feed. In the early days of nursing, the issue can be related to other factors such as mom’s pain meds, jaundice or due to some separation from mom after birth.
“If it doesn’t resolve in a short time frame, we would look at causes of low milk supply and the baby’s latch and ability to extract milk—ruling out tongue-ties and other structural issues in mom and baby.”
Pay attention to how your breasts feel after a feed. However long you nurse, breasts should feel lighter. “An empty breast makes more milk than a full breast,” says Smith, adding that the latter slows down production. “It’s really important that we get that milk flowing in these early days as it is key to establishing a hearty long-term supply.”
Nursing is a skill that can take time to master. If possible, get a head start during pregnancy by checking out breastfeeding support groups or classes to help you prepare.
When it comes to breastfeeding, comfort for both mom and baby is key. “If a mother is not comfortable, positioning and latching is harder, and in fact, let downs of milk may be inhibited, making for a fussy baby,” says Smith, who adds that being relaxed allows hormones to release milk. “Oxytocin can be hindered by adrenaline, which we will produce in response to fears, threats or discomforts.”
Consider creating a nursing nook. This is a go-to spot where you feel both emotionally and physically comfortable. Ideally, it should include a chair or another piece of furniture that supports your back and arms and allows you to recline slightly. (Double bonus if you can put your feet up.)
To help with longer feeds, Smith recommends stocking the area with water, snacks you can eat with one hand and some entertainment such as books, magazines, TV (with remote at hand) and a phone.
Introduce a bottle of expressed breast milk at 4–6 weeks (once breastfeeding is firmly established). This is a great opportunity for dads to get involved, particularly if your baby won’t take a bottle from mom.