By Carly Hill
This is a preview of Chapter 9 from SmartMom’s The Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding. Download the SmartMom app to access the full guide and our private community of 160,000 moms.
Once you’ve got the first week of milk madness under your belt, you’ll probably ask yourself, in a haze of exhaustion, “Is this normal?” about anything and everything. While you continue to wonder what to expect with a newborn that is nursing, the truth of the matter is that every breastfeeding journey is different, every nursing mom has her own set of stories, and we are confident breastfeeding is an art that you can master.
The more frequently you nurse, the greater your milk supply will be. Parents fall into one of three camps. There are those who opt for a baby-led schedule, those who opt for a parent-led schedule, and then those who opt for a combo of the two.
Here’s a look at the different approaches.
A very popular question in the SmartMom app is, “Are feeding intervals timed from when my baby starts or is finished nursing?”
The experts over at KidsHealth.org suggest counting “the length between feedings from the time when your baby begins to nurse – rather than when he or she ends – to when your little one starts nursing again.” So, when your doctor asks how often your baby is feeding, you can say “about every 2 hours” if your first feeding started at 6 a.m. and the next feeding started around 8 a.m., then 10 a.m., and so on.
A few signs to look out for to see when your baby is hungry:
In turn, here are signs that your baby might be full:
The rule of thumb here is to watch your baby, not the clock. Let your baby nurse as long as she wants on one side before switching. This ensures that she gets to the higher-calorie hindmilk. It’s hard to give a time frame of “what’s normal” because truthfully, some babies will nurse for 5 minutes and other babies will stay on the breast for an hour. Both are normal. We can safely say the average time is about 30 minutes per nursing session.
Quick Tip: If your baby takes her time while nursing, chances are she’ll stay fuller a little longer. Also, babies become more efficient the older they get, so what took them 20 minutes as a newborn might only take 5 when they are a few months old.
When babies are going throw growth spurts around 3 months and 6 months of age, they may start nursing more frequently – referred to as “cluster feeding.” It is recommended that you allow frequent nursing to accommodate your baby’s needs. Your baby will naturally settle back into a normal nursing pattern when the growth spurt was over.
Unlike moms who are measuring ounces as they bottle feed, as a breastfeeding mom you’re not able to quantify how much milk baby drinks from your breast. The bottom line is that your body will produce what your baby needs and if you let her nurse until she’s satisfied, your body will be sure to produce enough milk for the next feeding. However, if you are struggling and want to understand the amount, you can consider pumping to see how many ounces you produce and feed your baby from a bottle.
Research indicates that breastfed babies drink an average of 25 ounces per day between 1 and 6 months old. If you want to figure out how much expressed milk to feed her in a bottle, Kelly Mom has this handy calculator you can try.
Breastfeeding can be a confusing and difficult journey, so ensure you have a support system cheering you on and helping you through the ups and downs. SmartMom is a community of 160,000 moms and growing. We have breastfeeding moms, formula feeding moms, pumping moms and everything in between. Download the SmartMom app to ask questions, lend advice, and get support 24-7 – even during those 4am feedings!