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More or less?

You may feel as though your breasts are in a re-write of Goldilocks, worrying that you are feeding baby too little or too much but never just enough. Relax Mummy Bear; you are doing your best.

Your milk machines work on a supply and demand basis, so for the first few weeks let baby feed as often as he wants, this may be around 6 times or more, for the first few sleepy days after birth (they may need waking to feed), increasing as they get over their jet lag.

There is no maximum number of feeds but things usually settle down to 8 – 12 feeds a day after a week or so. Initially your baby will be digesting a feed within a couple of hours or less, which is why they may seem constantly hungry. As their tummies grow they will steadily stay fuller longer which is why the time between feeds usually increases.

It is common for babies to lose up to 7-10% of their birth weight, so an initial dip does not mean that your baby is not getting enough milk. At 2-3 weeks old most babies are back to their birth weight or beyond.

You can be reassured that your baby is feeding well by what you see in their nappies. In the first 48 hours after birth you should see two or three wet nappies, which increases to six or more in any 24 hour period from five days old. Too few wet nappies could indicate your baby is dehydrated. They should also be having a poo at least a few times a day in the first 6 weeks (and sometimes many more), which will change from black meconium, through green and on to yellow (think korma) by the end of week 1.

Other useful signs of effective feeding are that you are not experiencing significant pain (some tenderness at the beginning is normal), that your baby is doing rhythmical sucking and swallowing (with short pauses) during a feed and that your breasts start to feel softer and less full when they have finished (once your ‘mature’ milk has come in around 2-5 days).

If your baby consistently has to be woken up for feeds, makes clicking or smacking noises whilst feeding (rather than contented sucks), or is slow to re-gain his birthweight, have a chat with your midwife.

The early days and weeks of breastfeeding are undoubtedly the hardest for most mothers and you may find talking to other mums reassuring so that you know that it is not just you.

Night feeds

Babies come programmed to like boobs but they are not hardwired to know the difference between night and day. This is a necessity, not a design flaw as their stomachs can’t hold all the milk they need in 12 hours. For the first few months you may feel as though you have a neon sign across your chest flashing ‘always open’ as baby will be placing orders throughout the night!

The good news is the 24-hour café will gradually get less busy! Between six and 12 months your baby may begin to start managing without night feeds, although since your breasts provide incredible comfort, as well as nutrition, you may find your baby feeds more often when they are ill, teething, looking for reassurance and going through developmental changes. There isn’t a one size fits all sleep schedule but you can help your baby to learn the difference between day and night by making night feeds as quiet and calm as possible.

Newborns often fall asleep while feeding and there are even components in your breastmilk which helps them to do so! By about 3-4 months a baby can start to learn to fall asleep without suckling at the breast each time if that is what you would like to work towards. A song or story work well as a buffer between the two. Make sure you wind baby sufficiently after a night feed so that they can settle comfortably into sleep.

Once your baby is going longer between feeds, a top up or dream feed might buy you a few more hours sleep (although this doesn’t always work!). By semi waking baby and feeding them before they wake up independently, you can fill their stomachs before they are woken by an empty one! You will need to wait three or four hours from the last feed otherwise you will be trying to feed a full baby.

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