Generally speaking, you will be advised to feed your baby when he is hungry, usually anywhere from 6 to 10/12 times a day. This is called feeding on demand and it is very important for growing your milk supply at the same pace as your baby’s needs increase. Your breastmilk supply will adjust to your baby’s appetite and growth rate.
Seek advice from your midwife or Health Visitor if you have further concerns.
The length of time it takes your baby to feed will depend on how quickly your milk ejection reflex happens and how old your baby is. At first, your baby may take 15 minutes or more, but as he gets older and gets the hang of things, he may only need 5 to 10 minutes. It is also important to remember that every breastfeeding experience can be different.
The amount of milk you make depends on individual circumstances and stage of breastfeeding. It is variable from mum to mum and breast to breast. In the first days after birth, you will produce colostrum. Over a few days this will increase from a few drops to greater volumes and changes to mature milk.
As long as your baby is growing, gaining weight and thriving, your baby is getting what he needs.
- Numbers of wet/dirty nappies: The best way to tell whether your baby is getting enough to eat is by the number of wet and dirty nappies your baby has. After the first few days, during the first 6–7 weeks of life, your baby should be having about 6 very wet nappies and several dirty nappies in 24 hours.
- Good skin colour and muscle tone.
- Your baby is alert and reasonably content.
- Appropriate weight gain, growth in length and head circumference: On average, breastfed babies will lose from about 6% to 12% of their body weight in the first 3–5 days and will recover their original weight in about 8 to 21 days.
Let your baby drain one breast completely before offering the other breast. Start the next feeding session with the breast your baby finished at the last feed. The thicker and fat-rich hindmilk comes later in the feed which is essential for your baby’s growth. You may have times when your baby wants to feed from both and other times only a snack – this is baby led feeding.
You may have milk left after a breast feed if your baby falls asleep or just has a power snack. Your baby may wake earlier for his next feed and start with the “fuller” breast.
It is important that you get familiar with your breasts so that you know when they are full and heavy, or tender.
It is recommended that you feed your baby on demand and regularly so that your breasts are comfortable and your milk production is optimal.
In the first week after birth, it is normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier and a little tender as milk is “coming in” and your milk production is being established.
If your breasts feel full and uncomfortable after your baby has fed, you could use a breastpump to express some milk off the breast, until it feels softer and more comfortable.
Once your body adjusts to your baby’s nutritional needs, you will only make the milk he needs. Normally after 9–12 weeks, you may find that your breasts will feel softer than previously, this is normal.
Each breastfeeding experience can be different, some mums have a larger storage capacity for milk in their breasts and some have smaller storage capacity. When you feed your baby on demand you may find that your baby may feed from both breasts and empty, other times may only have a power snack and some milk may be stored.
After you feed your baby, your breasts should feel soft and comfortable. If you express you can effectively remove all the available milk that is stored – check that the vacuum setting and shield size are correct to support this.
- The most effective way to increase your milk supply is to ensure you are regularly emptying both breasts. This will tell your body to produce even more milk.
- If your baby breastfeeds frequently (every 3–4 hours) then you will be feeding your baby approximately 6–8 times a day. Instead of feeding your baby every 3–4 hours, try to feed your baby every 2–3 hours in the day, aiming for 8–12 feeds in 24 hours.
- Night time feeds are also crucial in increasing milk supply, as they boost the prolactin milk making hormone, so try get at least 2 night time feeds.
- Instead of giving your baby a dummy, try breastfeeding first so that you are not missing a hunger cue.
- Try to make breastfeeding a positive experience by having lots of skin to skin contact with baby and gently massage your breast. This will boost the hormone oxytocin and stimulates the brain to produce prolactin.
- You can also increase your milk supply by expressing when you baby doesn’t want a feed. Using a double electric breastpump with 2-phase Expression Technology allows mums to get up to 18% more milk out of the breasts compared to a single pumping session.
- Double pumping is more time efficient and also gives a higher energy content in less time.
Length of feeding varies throughout the day due to differences between babies and mums, breastfeeding efficiency, baby’s age and degrees of hunger. In the first few months post birth most babies tend to cluster feed during different parts of the day. Often babies cluster feed in the evening which is normal. You will have the same milk storage capacity in the breast throughout the day and may find that your baby has a fairly regular pattern earlier in the day but in the evening may enjoy cluster feeding.
Another reason for cluster feeding is that the release of the hormone Oxytocin is less during late afternoons and evenings. Other factors such as the daily circumstances of managing a household, tiredness, and a new baby can influence your milk hormones. As long as your baby is feeding well and gaining weight, enjoy this intimate feeding time with lots of skin to skin contact.
Let’s review how your baby gets breastmilk out of the breast. First, your baby forms a good latch to create suction in his mouth. When your baby’s tongue is at rest, the suction level in your baby’s mouth is low and no breastmilk flows.
When your baby lowers his tongue, the suction increases and breastmilk starts to flow. Your baby is always in control of the flow of the breastmilk and how much of it he will drink.
Nipple confusion can occur in some breastfed babies when they are given a bottle with a conventional teat that allows milk to flow freely into your baby’s mouth, before breastfeeding is well established.
Conventional teats change the mechanics around how your baby feeds, which essentially means your baby has to learn a new method for feeding.
Usually, this feeding method requires less work on the part of your baby, so over time they find it “easier” (since milk flows freely) and sometimes will not want to go back to the “harder” feeding method (where they need to suck) needed at the breast.
This harder feeding method is critical for supporting speech and oral development for your baby.
With Calma, babies do not have to change their feeding behaviour they have learned at their mums breast. Whether you breastfeed or use Calma – the milk only flows when the baby applies vacuum.
Calma is the only research based feeding solution that mimics the unique breastfeeding sucking behaviour of a baby. Switching from breast to bottle and back to breast again has never been easier.
If your baby is draining the milk quickly, gently remove the teat from his mouth and pace him. Your baby is applying a similar vacuum strength on the teat as he would at the breast.
Ideally breastfeeding should be established after birth, before starting to express. Many health professionals will advise that you wait 6 weeks before you express however in some cases, when breastfeeding is working well, you can start to express earlier.
Yes you can, even immediately after birth. If for any reason you are not able to feed your baby.
If you have a premature baby or know that your baby will have feeding difficulties such as cleft palate, you can express from birth.
Hiring or loaning a hospital grade double electric breastpump can meet your immediate needs if your baby is not feeding well.
If you are exclusively pumping you need to mimic a new-born feeding pattern of 8-10 sessions in 24 hours at least twice in the night until your milk supply is established.
If the baby has only had a power snack from one breast, you can express from the other breast immediately or even whilst the baby is feeding.
If the baby has had a full feed and the breast feels empty, on average it takes about 60 minutes for your breast to produce the amount of milk your baby will need at the next feeding session.
Therefore the best time to express milk to store is about 60 minutes after a full feed.
- Is your nipple moving freely in the tunnel?
- Is minimal or no areola tissue being pulled into the tunnel of the breastshield?
- Do you see a gentle, rhythmical motion in the breast with each cycle of the pump?
- Do you feel the breast emptying all over?
- Is your nipple pain-free? If your answer to any of the question is “No”, try a larger or smaller breastshield.
It is recommended that freshly expressed breastmilk is stored in the fridge, but if you want to store it for longer you can put the breastmilk in the freezer.
It is important not to store the milk in the fridge door. Opening and closing causes changes in temperature that may be harmful to the breastmilk.
Also, you can freeze your breastmilk into cube trays so it is in convenient amounts to thaw and use. Remember to sterilise your ice cube tray and place it carefully inside the zip lock freezer bag to keep it free from contamination by other food products and air.
Medela’s Pump & Save bags are convenient because they are practical, easy for direct pumping and they are compact for storing and freezing breastmilk.
Leave frozen milk in the fridge to defrost slowly and then at room temperature. A bottle warmer can be used to thaw breastmilk to body temperature, but do not heat breastmilk in the microwave. Heating breastmilk in this way can create “hot spots” which can be dangerous for the baby. Once thawed, the milk should not be reheated again.
It is important that you use the breast milk as soon as it is removed from the refrigerator or the breast. Use it within 30 mins to 1 hr and discard immediately after. Feeding your baby with milk left over from a previous fed is not recommended as your baby’s saliva will start to digest the milk and bacteria could germinate in the milk.