BHealthy Blog

Making Breastfeeding Easier

Jessica Donahue, RN, IBCLC, Baptist Health

As an expectant or new mother, you have undoubtedly heard over and over again the benefits of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is best for your baby. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for you as a mother. Your baby will be smarter, healthier, and happier if you breastfeed. Breastfeeding is FREE!  So why is it that despite all these benefits less than half of all women in Arkansas are not still breastfeeding their infants at 6 months of age as recommended by all leading health experts?

As a lactation consultant for over 15 years, I have helped many new mothers get breastfeeding off to a good start.  Over the years I have determined that there are three reasons that new mothers stop breastfeeding too soon:

  • Pain
  • Perceived insufficient milk supply “I don’t think I’m making enough milk”
  • Returning to the workplace

In order to understand and resolve any one of the above problems, it helps to first know what is normal and what to expect when it comes to breastfeeding for the first 10 days of your infant’s life.

The Normal Breastfeeding Timeline

The first 24 hours

Most babies will nurse better at this time than they may for the next couple of days.

Expect small frequent feedings from your newborn. Their stomach is about the size of a tablespoon!

Positioning and technique are everything at this point! Be sure and get help from the hospital lactation consultant to get these first important feedings off to a good start.

Remember, your baby is getting plenty of milk if he is meeting the goals for wet and dirty diapers on the newborn feeding record.

Days 2-4

Baby may be sleepy during feeding attempts.

Since frequent removal of colostrum (the first milk you produce) from your breasts is the key to developing a good milk supply, pumping or hand expression may be a good idea if you are not recognizing obvious signs of effective feeding from your infant. Ask the lactation consultant in the hospital to point out the signs of effective feeding during one of your sessions.

If baby is not waking on his own at least every 3 hours, you must wake him so he is eating at least 8 times in 24 hours.

Remember, your baby is getting plenty of milk if he is meeting the goals for wet and dirty diapers on the newborn feeding record.

Days 3-5

You may experience some temporary engorgement (tender, full breasts) as you begin producing more milk. The most important thing is to keep the breast empty by effective feeding or pumping.

Your growing milk supply will appeal to baby’s desire for instant gratification and you should begin to see and hear his suck and swallow as obvious signs of effective feeding.

Small frequent feedings are normal and necessary at this stage. Determine effective feeding by observing infant output. (refer to feeding record)

Some nipple soreness can be present at this time and should be resolved by day 7-10 with normal comfort measures such as lanolin, hydrogel dressings, and good positioning. Pain that makes breastfeeding intolerable and /or cracked and bleeding nipples are NEVER normal and need immediate attention from a healthcare professional familiar with breastfeeding management.

Remember, your baby is getting plenty of milk if he is meeting the goals for wet and dirty diapers on the newborn feeding record.

If you are not comfortable with how feedings are going at this point, get help now. It’s easier to correct breastfeeding problems early rather than later. Call the breastfeeding helpline at your hospital, or contact your infant’s healthcare provider to get a referral to a lactation consultant in your area.

Days 6-10

Baby should appear satisfied after feedings and your breasts will feel softer after feedings. Your breasts may leak in between feedings; this will probably subside after a few weeks.

Baby should have 6-8 wet diapers and 3-4 yellow stools per day for the first 2 months of life. Refer to your newborn feeding record.

Breastfeed 8-10 times per 24-hour period, but baby may begin to have one longer interval (up to 5 hours) between feedings.

By the end of the second week, most babies will have regained their birth weight.

Congratulations! You are now off to a great start with breastfeeding. Be sure to keep your well-baby appointments with your pediatrician, and feel free to call the breastfeeding warm line at Baptist Health (501-202-7378) if you have any questions.

Successful breastfeeding happens with support. Jessica Donahue is an RN, IBCLC at Baptist Health Expressly For You, an outpatient lactation center dedicated to helping new mothers make breastfeeding easy. This article is the first in a four-part series that will help new mothers get breastfeeding off to a good start and offer resolutions to the three most common problems new mothers encounter with breastfeeding.

Next Topic: PAIN

Some additional tips:

Think about taking a prenatal breastfeeding class at the hospital where you will deliver.

Ask your obstetrician and pediatrician who they refer their breastfeeding patients to for support.

Attend a La Leche League meeting in your area.

Call the Breastfeeding warm line at Baptist Health to speak with one of our lactation consultants, 501-202-7378. Your appointment may be covered by your insurance under the Affordable Care Act.