By Stephanie Moore, RN, BSN, IBCLC Sweet Pea Baby Planners Lactation Expert & Owner/Lactation Consultant at Becoming Mothers
I remember well the anticipation of our first child. My daydreams would mostly drift to the upcoming birth and then thoughts would shift to infant care and the books that I had not yet read. It is not uncommon for expectant mothers to feel their anxiety pique when thinking about breastfeeding and finding balance once the baby is born.
Breastfeeding is natural and is considered the physiologic norm. That doesn’t mean that mother and baby always know what to do and how to deal with some of the challenges that commonly occur during the first weeks together. With some basic understanding of how breastfeeding works and what the expected norms are as they relate to the breastfeeding dyad, breastfeeding can be the wonderful experience.
So let’s talk Breastfeeding and Newborn 101. The first few months of baby’s life are often referred to as the “4th trimester” meaning our babies are adjusting to life outside the womb. Keep these things in mind for when your baby does something new at 3AM when thinking logically is not always ones forte.
- Babies eat, sleep, pee, and poop. Thank goodness for baby’s simplicity. However, if baby does not do any one of these things, a call to the primary care provider is warranted. Some guidelines: Newborns need to be fed at the breast or with an alternate system 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. The first week, newborns wet the number of diapers equal to the number of days old and after the first week, around 6-8 times. A full bladder is about 3 tablespoons so pour this amount of water in your preferred diaper to see what it feels like. Babies usually poop 2+ times a day. Their stool might be only a streak on the diaper or the oh-my-gosh, MBO (major blow out!). Newborns sleep around 21 out of 24 hours.
- Breasts are not utters! Although it feels like they are, when baby suckles at the breast, breast milk is being produced.
- Move the milk and feed the baby. The more the milk is moved from the breasts, the more milk produced. In fact, when breasts are engorged with milk, the physiologic mechanism is to cut back on production.
- Babies invented fast food and when they want to be fed, they’re not waiting in line! We may have our “agenda” but babies don’t. Their stomachs are small and when they are hungry, they let us know, loud and clear!
- Yes, babies can be hungry again! Babies go through growth spurts with the first one being between one and 3 weeks. When she is hungry, she is hungry. Follow the baby’s lead and feed her. When milk substitutes are introduced, the lactation mechanism is interrupted.
- Sore, cracked, nipples are not the norm. The position the mother uses to bring the baby to the breast and the latch the baby establishes on the breast most commonly make the difference with regards to comfortable breastfeeding. When the position and latch are off, the tissue of the nipple and areola can be traumatized. Remember, babies “breast feed”, they don’t “nipple feed”. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, take a look at your baby and correct anything obvious. If things still don’t feel comfortable, break the baby’s latch and start again.
- Nursing mothers want to continue eating a culturally appropriate and healthy diet. Only if ones baby appears to be noticeably uncomfortable should the diet be altered. The list of foods to eliminate from ones diet is extensive so it is a good idea to speak with a lactation professional to determine if the baby’s behavior is typical newborn behavior or due to maternal diet. A restricted and limited diet doesn’t so much make for a happy mom. Along those same lines, it is important to maintain hydration so that your urine is dilute. It is a myth that nursing mothers need to drink gallons of water in order to produce breastmilk.
- Babies sleep all day and play all night. Until your baby makes the shift to sleep more at night and is more alert during the day, use modern technology and let the machine pick up messages, send an email to solicit meals, sibling care, and household errands, and take a nap with your baby at 3 in the afternoon. It will make the 3AM wake up call a bit more tolerable
Mothers spend 24 hours/day with their newborns. Babies and their mothers are an intimate dyad. If at any time, you feel that something is not “right” with your newborn and/or with regards to breastfeeding, it is important to call your baby’s primary care provider and /or lactation professional in the community.