What is normal for breastfeeding?

What are the norms for breastfeeding?

Since breastfeeding has only begun to increase in frequency over the past several years, misconceptions about what is normal still run rampant, even among some in the medical profession. Many women do not have mothers or grandmothers who breastfed to help them through the tough times or to offer advice, so here is some to get you started.

Is it supposed to hurt?
No, breastfeeding should not hurt. It is possible for your nipples to become dry from the use, especially in the early days, which can be a little painful. If you have that problem, try some lanolin cream on the nipple. If you are having persistent, intense pain while baby is eating looking into physical difficulties such as tongue tie, infections, or improper latch. A lactation consultant or a contact from your La Lache League should be able to help you.

My baby just ate! Why does he want to eat again?
Babies, especially newborns, have a tendency to cluster feed. This means they may pick a time of day, often the evening, where they want to eat nonstop. They can nurse continually for hours or nurse on and off every half hour. This does not mean you do not have adequate supply, it s completely normal. Remember also that breast milk is far easier on little tummies and is digested easier. Babies fed with human milk will need to eat more frequently than those fed with artificial milk. Frequent feeding is normal, but do not worry, it will only last a few weeks. During this time ask for some help, put your feet up, turn on the TV, and bond with your baby. Days will come quicker than you realize when it will be hard to get them to sit still and cuddle this long. This frequent feeding is also essential to establishing your milk supply, see below.

How does supply work?
The first forty days of breastfeeding are critical to establishing a good milk supply. Once this period has passed, it can be very difficult to increase the supply again. Feeding on demand, around the clock, lets the baby tell your body how much milk it will need. Milk is produced by supply and demand. When your milk first comes in, your body produces an abundance, which is why you can get so engorged (if you baby is a frequent nurser from day one and you have no issues, you may not notice this as much). As the baby eats, it is telling you body how much to continue making. The emptier the breast is, the quicker your body will make milk. As it becomes fuller, production will slow down. That is why it is important not to wait until you feel ‘full’ to nurse. You will actually make more milk if you let the baby nurse when he wants.

Scheduling feedings this young will not work. It will disrupt the natural relationship between your body and your baby. It can greatly reduce supply later on. You should also not give your baby anything aside from your milk to maintain your supply. He does not even need water for the first six months.

Is it possible that I do not have enough milk?
The possibility of you not having enough milk, assuming you are breastfeeding on demand, is extremely slim. A very small percentage of women do not produce adequate milk. Most women have completely normal lactation capabilities but run into one of the following situations:
- They assume inadequate milk because the baby wants to eat frequently. If that is the case, see the question above. Frequent eating is very normal.
- Their breasts feel ‘empty’. Even if the breasts do not feel full, the milk is there. When the baby is eating frequently, they do not give them a chance to fully ‘fill up’. This is ok, in fact it is great! Even if the breast feels ‘deflated’, let the baby latch back on and he will be able to get more milk.
- They have tried to schedule feedings. This can be very damaging to milk supply. If this is your problem, speak with a La Leche League consultant for help to see if it is possible to salvage the supply.

If your baby is pooping regularly and gaining weight, you are doing fantastic!

Is it bad that I am nursing my baby to sleep?
Many people fear they are helping their babies develop 'bad habits', this is not true. Nursing is a great way to get babies to fall asleep! Think about it. The baby is warm, relaxed, comfortable, cuddled - is that not how we all like to fall asleep? If, as the baby gets older, you want to encourage the baby to fall asleep more on their own, focus on recreating the warmth and comfort they associate with nursing to help them fall asleep on their own.

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Patricia Walters-Fischer