Breastfeeding 101: How much? How often? The Ins and Outs of Breastfeeding from Day One

breastfeeding guidance

The joy of holding your newborn for the first time is magical and can also be overwhelming when it all sets in. You want to bubble-wrap them and make sure they’re safe, comforted, and blissfully happy. In the beginning, that all starts with the basics—food and comfort as they transition into this new world they’ve joined.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended exclusively breastfeeding for about the first six months and continued with solids through two years. So, how can you achieve this? It’s no secret that as natural as breastfeeding is, it’s a whole new world and can be challenging to understand and conquer. In fact, 92% of parents who have breastfed report having troubles along their path.

That’s why we’re here! Keep reading for more information on the ins and outs of breastfeeding.

How Often Should Babies Feed?

Infants nurse between 8 and 12 times daily, but this can vary depending on their sleep pattern after breastfeeding. That said, you may wake up at least three to four times every night to feed them, plus every 2 to 3+ hours during the day.

It is also worth mentioning that breastfeeding can take 30 minutes or longer, especially during the early sessions when you and the baby are getting the hang of things. Rest assured, it gets easier as babies become more efficient at nursing and you find your groove!

We recommend feeding your baby as much as possible during the first few weeks after delivery. Why? Breastmilk production is hormonal and occurs on demand. Thus, the more your baby suckles, the more milk you will produce. This is especially important in the first month after delivery. As the baby grows, the frequency of their feeding schedules will reduce. After one to two months, most babies need to feed only 7 to 9 times during a 24-hour period.

We recommend offering the breast as often as your baby displays hunger cues.  Some cues that they are hungry look like:

  • Moving fists to the mouth
  • Sucking on hands or lip-smacking
  • Looking for the breast
  • Becoming more alert and active

You will get to know your baby’s cues as time goes on. It’s good to pay attention and continue to offer the breast often until you’re in sync.

Am I Feeding my Baby Enough?

In the beginning, it is important to breastfeed your newborn for as long as they stay on your breast with a good, pain-free latch. You can continue breastfeeding them until you notice the signs they are satisfied. This is the easiest way to be sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk during each feeding.

Keeping your baby breastfeeding for longer also stimulates milk production, which helps you build up a milk supply. At first, you can try feeding your newborn for at least 15 to 30 minutes per feed. As they get older, they’ll empty your breast much faster (about 8 to 10 minutes.)

Watch out for the following signs to tell whether your baby has fed enough:

  • Appearing content
  • Falling asleep after feeding (your breast also feels less full)
  • Stopping feeding on their own (discontinuing sucking
  • Turning away from the breast
  • Content and not demonstrating any hunger ques

Tracking their milk intake can be helpful to ensure they’re getting enough to eat. You can do this by using a baby scale and weighing both before and after a feed. Your baby should be gaining weight consistently as they grow. If you’re concerned that they’re not getting enough to eat, rent a scale so you can weigh them before and after feeds and ensure their intake is where it should be.

When Do I Alternate Breasts?

Offering only one breast will interfere with the milk supply to both breasts and can lead to painful engorgement on the breast that is least nursed on. While your baby may prefer one side of the breast to the other, it is important to teach them to feed from both breasts at every nursing time.

You can change your baby to the other breast at each nursing session. Next time you start breastfeeding, offer the last breast your baby sucked in the previous session. In other words, start with a different breast every feeding session. You may consider keeping a reminder to help you track the procedure. (Hack: swap a hair tie from wrist to wrist, so you know which one you need to start with next time!)

Is it Necessary to Have a Breastpump and Pump Milk?

Many people set out with the intention of exclusively breastfeeding, only to have a wrench thrown in their plans at some point. Believe us, you’ll want to have a pump on hand for when this wrench comes into the picture.

Pumping breastmilk helps increase milk production and can even help you to build a stash to give your baby later. There are many other ways that having pumped milk on hand can come in handy. For example, maybe you have someone else that wants to feed your baby, or you’re headed back to work, or you want to use breastmilk for other uses. Having a pump on hand and training yourself to use it can be highly beneficial for a number of reasons!

For many parents, they opt to both breastfeed and pump or even exclusively pump at some point. Some of these reasons include:

  • There are unresolvable issues with breastfeeding, and you still want to feed with breastmilk
  • You need to increase your milk supply
  • Your baby is not receiving enough breastmilk through feeding at the breast
  • You intend to return to work and want to continue to feed with breastmilk
  • You will be spending time away from baby and need milk on hand for someone else to feed

Bottom line: it’s highly beneficial to both have a breastpump on hand and know how to use it! The good news is that in the United States, insurances are required to cover breastpumps so it’s often free or a minimal out-of-pocket payment to get a pump. To see what you’re eligible for, fill out this quick 90-second insurance form!

When to Get Help or Meet With an IBCLC

If you have any issues along your breastfeeding journey, it is good to reach out to an IBCLC for support. Having an expert to assess the latch and talk through your struggles can make a big difference in your ability to master this journey.

Our team is here for you through your pregnancy and postpartum journey. Reach out to order a pump, meet with an IBCLC to discuss your breastfeeding concerns, or schedule a pumping consult to master your breastpumping journey!

Remember, it takes a village to raise a child and a whole army to master this part of your journey with your little one! The sooner you reach out for support, the easier your journey will be. You’ve got this!