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Last updateTue, 28 Oct 2014 9pm

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Breastfeeding Your Newborn Baby

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Baby breastfeeding

Breast milk is the most ideal food for your baby and breastfeeding is considered the “gold standard” for infant nutrition. Most parents want to know how often and how much to feed their baby. The answer... babies are unique individuals and although there are some common patterns among them, they all vary in the amount and frequency that they eat.

You will notice that your baby will eat different amounts at each feeding. Watch for your baby’s hunger cues and try to feed him before the crying begins, since this is considered a late sign of hunger. Some classics signs of hunger include:

  • Rooting 
  • Bringing hands to the mouth
  • Smacking the lips 
  • Making sucking movements of the mouth
  • Sighing, sobbing or cooing
  • Increased alertness
  • And rapid eye movements

In the first couple of months, you will need to feed your baby around the clock (day and night). Babies eat every 2-4 hours depending on how well they nursed previously and as stated before, babies eat different amounts at each feeding. Think about your own eating habits:

  • Do you eat the same amount of food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...Doubtful. 
  • Do you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day...Probably not.
  • And, does it take you the same amount of time to eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day...Doubtful.

This will be the same for your baby. If your baby has a small feeding, she will probably be ready to eat sooner than later. And when she has a big feeding, she may sleep a bit longer.

So how do you know if your baby is getting enough? A good guide for adequate intake is if baby is sleeping 2-3 hours between feeds, is having bowel movements, and is having 4-6 wet diapers a day in the first few days of life. By the sixth day of life, your baby should have 6 or more wet diapers per day and the stool should become yellow and seedy. Don't be alarmed by frequent dirty diapers, it is not unusual for breastfed babies to have a bowel movement every diaper change. Here is a handy chart to help you keep track of how many wet and dirty diapers are needed to ensure adequate nutrition in the first few weeks of life:

 

Day of Life

Urine

Bowel Movements*

1

1

1

2

2

2

3

3

3

4

4

3+

5

5

3+

6+

6-8

3+

 

A healthy breastfed baby gains approximately one ounce per day after the first week of life. Typical weight gain after the first week of life is about 5-7 ounces per week. Unlike formula fed infants, breastfed infants tends to gain weight rapidly in the first 6 months of life and then weight gain slows for the second half of the year. Download this World Health Organization growth chart to take to your pediatrician visit. Unfortunately, some pediatricians still use the old growth charts which were developed utilizing patterns seen in formula fed infants. Because of this, many breastfeeding moms have been encouraged to supplement their breast-fed infant unnecessarily. Get your WHO Growth Chart Here

Breast milk can be pumped (using a manual or electric pump) and stored for later use. Not sure which type of pump to get? No problem, learn more about breast pumps in our article: Types of Breast Pumps. Did you know that health insurance companies are now providing breast pumps free of charge? It's true, learn more about Breast Pump Reimbursement here.
 
Once you have pumped your breast milk, be sure to label the breast milk storage container/bag with the date and time of pumping and store it appropriately. Find out how to store your breastmilk here and how to defrost/thaw your milk here.
 
Keeping a log of your baby’s activities throughout the day is a great way to begin learning your baby’s patterns. This will help you keep track of how much your baby ate and how many diapers a day your baby is going through. Download your feeding log here.
For more information on breastfeeding, visit our Breastfeeding section or read our featured articles.

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