Of course some mums will find the early days of breastfeeding challenging (and that’s why I’m here to help!), but I also receive many worried phone calls from new mums anxious about their baby’s breastfeeding behaviour, when actually they are doing fabulously well and their baby is behaving exactly as we’d expect. I’m delighted to be able to reassure these mums, but what I realised is that while there are many many resources out there describing problems and potential solutions, there is almost no information to help mums identify that they are doing well.
So I thought that I would write this blog post to help reassure new mums that they and their baby are totally normal!
A Healthy Normal Breastfed Baby:
Feeds Frequently – Your baby was fed a constant stream of nutrition in the womb and is now slowly getting used to the idea of a “meal”. Their natural instinct is to take in small amounts of food at frequent intervals. They will slowly learn to eat larger amounts in one go, but initially nearly all babies require 8-16 feeds every 24 hours.
Stays Engaged During Feeds – by this I don’t mean they need to have their eyes open, but rather that they maintain sustained bursts of deep sucking at the breast. The deeper and slower the suck, the bigger the mouthful of milk. Great drinking at the breast usually looks a bit like this: https://www.breastfeedinginc.ca/videos/really-good-drinking/. If your baby consistently takes a only few sucks and falls asleep at the breast, then you should seek out the advice of your local lactation consultant.
Looks Satisfied After a Feed – A well-fed baby will spontaneously unlatch from the breast and look visibly satisfied from the feed. They may even get the famous “milk drunk” look in their eyes! Do bear in mind though that breastmilk is the biologically normal food for your baby to eat, so he finds it easy (and quick!) to digest. So don’t be surprised when he wants another feed an hour or two later (see feeds frequently above…)
Poos (A lot!) – once your milk is “in” and until your baby is about 8 weeks old, she will have frequent bowel movements. When well fed, most babies will make at least 3-4 poos per day of at least a £2 coin size. Of course, your baby may make many more than this (totally normal) or fewer than this but larger in volume (also normal!). Whatever the pattern, you should be seeing plenty of poo!
A Healthy Normal Breastfeeding Mum:
Feels Comfortable During Feeds – while the early days may have a little sensitivity (often even touching your breasts is uncomfortable in the week after birth) you should on the whole be feeling comfortable during breastfeeding. There is a normal “tugging” sensation during a feed, and if you are particularly full it may be uncomfortable for a minute or so, but nothing you would describe as a pain.
Has Nipples That Aren’t Misshappen after a feed - while we all have a wide variety of nipple size and shape (all of which are normal and are perfectly functional), your nipple should come out of your baby’s mouth pretty much the same shape it went in. If your nipple is shaped like a new lipstick or squashed or flattened it would be good to have a lactation consultant take a look at reasons why this may be happening.
Has no Backache or other pains from breastfeeding - when breastfeeding is going well for you and your baby, you should be able to sit/lie in a position that is comfortable for you, with no tensing of your muscles and no lower back pain (or pain anywhere else!)
Feels Positively About Breastfeeding – yes it can be intense and demanding, but your overall feeling should be that you are not only giving to this breastfeeding relationship, but that you are also getting something out of it. This is vital to maintaining a healthy positive breastfeeding relationship with your baby. If this doesn’t describe how you feel about breastfeeding, please do get in touch with a lactation consultant who can help you and your baby find a path that does take care of both of your needs.
New born babies are adjusting to you as much as you are adjusting to them
Your baby is getting used to life “on the outside” and that takes an awful lot of adjustment. For most babies it takes 6-12 weeks to full get used to life outside of the womb. This is often known as the fourth trimester and there are many fabulous articles describing this phenomenon. Very often, the normal infant behaviour associated with this time is misinterpreted as something being “wrong”, especially with the breastfeeding. The chances are that if the above signs are true for you and your baby then breastfeeding is going well and you are doing fine. Of course, if you feel that this article doesn’t ring true – don’t panic – very often a small tweak from a supportive lactation consultant can get you right back on track.
Wendy Lever IBCLC