Breastfeeding 101: The First Six Weeks
The first question you may be asking is: Why the first six weeks? Why am I taking the time to talk about them all by themselves?
Simple: For most women, the first six weeks are the hump. This is a time when babies are constantly growing, demanding more and more milk, and your supply is constantly changing to keep up. At the same time, you have a newborn. Newborns can be sleepy, gassy, fussy, up all night...many of these issues are not breastfeeding specific issues but they all add to the stress you are under.
This won't last forever. It gets really good after the first few weeks. Tune in next time for raves about breastfeeding down the road!
AM I MAKING ENOUGH MILK?
One of the most common concerns of the new mother is whether or not she is making enough milk. You ought to know that something like 98% of women are physically capable of producing enough milk, so your odds are very good. There are a lot of confusing signs and symptoms, though, so it's important to know when there's a real problem and when there's not.
I can't say it any better than this article: www.kellymom.com/bf/supply/low-supply.html
If you don't read any other articles I link to, please read that one! It starts out with many common signs women see that make them think they are not making enough milk. There are only two ways to know for sure...wet diapers and weight gain. If your baby does not wet at least 5 or 6 diapers in a day, then your baby may be dehydrated.
From Kelly Mom:
WET DIAPERS: 5 - 6+ sopping wet diapers per day (after 1st week).
Expect one wet diaper on day one, increasing to 5-6 by one week. To feel what a sufficiently wet diaper is like, pour 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of water into a clean diaper (if baby wets more often, then the amount of urine per diaper may be less). Urine should be pale and mild smelling.
WHAT DO I DO IF I'M NOT MAKING ENOUGH?
If you suspect your baby is not getting enough milk then you should contact a board certified lactation consultant. There may be ways to increase your supply, but you and your baby need to be closely monitored to ensure that the #1 most important thing happens – your baby gets fed! The article I quoted above also had some suggestions for increasing milk supply and includes things that could potentially be going wrong. (Supplementing, nipple confusion, pacifiers, nipple shields, scheduled feedings, sleepy baby, cutting short feedings, offering only one breast, baby health problems...)
I also want to note that there is a very small percentage of women (less than 2%) who do not make enough milk for their babies. Many of these women can be part-time breastfeeders and I'll have more information on that in my topic on supplementing.
WHAT ARE FEEDINGS LIKE? www.kellymom.com/bf/normal/newborn-nursing
(Skip down to the “Weeks two through six” part.)
On average, a baby under six weeks will nurse 8-12 times a day for 30-45 minutes. This is true for the first week and continues for the first six or eight weeks. I want to stress the AVERAGE part of this. All babies are different. You may get lucky. I have a friend who has a powerful supply and letdown and can nurse even a newborn in 15 minutes or so. You may get unlucky....my son wanted to nurse 15 times a day for the first few weeks. You don't even want to know about the growth spurts!
It is impossible to feed a breastfed baby too much, only too little. Never withhold milk from your baby.
Growth spurts are what they sound like – times when the baby is doing an extra bit of growing. They often eat much more, sleep more, and can get fussy. The first six weeks contain two doozies – the 3 week and the 6 week growth spurt. (Note: these are approximate and average times...babies can go through growth spurts at any time.) If your baby suddenly wants to nursed every hour or two, then they are probably growth spurting.
I can talk personally about this one. I mentioned in the previous topic that my son had some weight issues at first – he lost almost ten percent of his body weight and he barely gained it all back by the two-week deadline. The reason was obvious, in our case: I could barely wake my son to eat! I had milk. I pumped it and in fact, ended up using dropper feeding to get it into him from time to time. This is a struggle, to a greater or lesser extent, for many moms. If your baby is sleeping too much, he may not be getting enough to eat and it also may be effecting your supply. Here are some tips on helping a sleep baby at the breast: www.mother-2-mother.com/cc-baby-A.htm#Slee
Breastfeeding works best when babies are allowed to nurse when they want and as long as they want. Scheduling can even be dangerous in the wrong baby. Kelly Mom has a bunch of articles on this and you can peruse them at leisure, but the book I really recommend (and will recommend again and again) is “Child of Mine” by Ellen Satter. She's a very popular nutritionist and she has great advice on feeding from birth throughout the entirety of life. I'll bring her up again when we get to starting solids. For now, though, I recommend reading what she has to say about scheduled feedings and other early feeding concerns.
This is one of those articles to just kind of bookmark and reference it when you see your baby's diverse poops and are concerned about it. It won't mean much now. It's called, “The Color of the Day.” www.drjaygordon.com/development/pediatrick
DO I HAVE TO CHANGE MY DIET? www.kellymom.com/nutrition/mom/mom-diet.ht
Newborns often have a high need to suck, but it is not recommended to give a pacifier early on. Some babies will end up using your breasts as the pacifier. Some will want to comfort nurse all the time. Some will just want to do it on occasion. Some moms can handle letting their babies suck all the times and some moms can't. This article covers a lot of topics...I recommend clicking on the ones on comfort nursing, although if you're interested in sleep, feel free to browse those too. I'll be addressing sleep in a later topic. www.kellymom.com/parenting/sleep/comfortnu
I already gave you the scoop on nipple confusion in “Getting Started” but I want to stress that nipple confusion remains a threat for the first 6 weeks or so. It is best to avoid giving bottles or pacifiers during this time. It is still possible to use alternatives to bottles such as finger feeding, droppers, cups, or supplemental nursing systems. After six weeks your breastfeeding relationship is well established and introducing a bottle should be fine. For those of you who plan to return to work at six weeks, I will have some special notes when I talk about returning to work.
I really should have gone into this in “Getting Started” but it was too long, so it's getting thrown in here. Nipple shields shouldn't be used at random, but if you are using one appropriately and under the care of a lactation consultant, they have been known to save some breastfeeding relationships. Here's the scoop: www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/baby/wean-shi
A NOTE ON GETTING STARTED
If you haven't read the “Getting Started” topic I posted then I encourage you to do so. A good start makes the first few weeks easier. If you have to undo nipple confusion or wean your baby off of supplements then things are much harder. Sometimes the difficulty cannot be avoid, but if it's at all possible, then it's best to get off to a good start.
(Experienced moms, please chime in with your own survival tips!)
These are mine:
1.Be willing to co-sleep. I refused at first, determined that my son would be able to sleep in a crib from day one. At about 2 weeks old, I took him into my bed and it saved my life! The endless walk down the hall became the quick roll to the bedside bassinet. (I got the Arm's Reach co-sleeper with I thoroughly recommend to any mother....that way the baby sleeps next to you but can't get squished!)
2.Learn to nurse on your side. This is a difficult position to master and may take practice. It's best to learn a new position when your baby is hungry but not frantic or starving. Once you get this down, though, night feedings become a piece of cake! I slept through them.
3.Don't plan to do anything but feed your baby for the first six weeks or so. Let the housework go.
4.Try to relax. Get some favorite movies or TV shows together or maybe a book on tape and just try to go with the flow. If you distract yourself with comfy favorites, you may not even notice how often your baby is nursing.
5.Get a copy of “The Happiest Baby on the Block.” (Your library probably has one.) It's got great tips for understanding and caring for newborns. Their description of the first three months of a baby's life as “the fourth trimester” really opened my eyes to how vulnerable a brand new baby really is. It helped me to understand my son.
And now....time for comments and questions!
I would like to give a sweet mama from babyfit a special thank you for giving me permission to use her info. Thank you Christine Amsden!! Also, I want to invite you all to look at her new website! www.christineamsden.com
Edited by: ROAD2HEALTHY at: 1/5/2009 (16:26)
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