Frequent feedings (every two or three hours) will stimulate your body to make adequate amounts of milk. Unless there are unusual circumstances, a mother's body responds to the frequent emptying of her breasts by replenishing with more milk; the theory of supply and demand.
Soon after the baby is born, feedings usually take 15-20 minutes per side and most mothers offer both sides at each feeding. Later, as the baby becomes more efficient, an entire feeding may only take 10-15 minutes! There may be times that a baby is completely satisfied after one side. This is normal. Always offer the second side and if the baby does not take it, start on that side with the next feed.
Research provides strong evidence that human milk feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of infectious diseases including meningitis, blood infections, diarrhea, respiratory tract infection, intestinal and ear infections, urinary tract infection, and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants.
Some studies suggest decreased rates of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of life and reduction in incidence of diabetes mellitus, childhood cancers, overweight and obesity, and asthma in older children and adults who were breastfed, compared with individuals who were not breastfed.
Does this mean breastfed babies never get sick? No, they can and do. However, the illness is generally less severe and lengthy than if the baby were not receiving his mother's milk.
When babies are born, their immune systems are very immature and they have less ability to fight illness-causing germs. Through your breast milk, you give your baby immunities to illnesses to which you are immune and also those to which you have been exposed.
Your breasts produce colostrum beginning during pregnancy and continuing through the early days of breastfeeding. This special milk is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates, protein, and antibodies to help keep your baby healthy. Colostrum is extremely easy to digest and is therefore the perfect first food for your baby. It is low in volume (measurable in teaspoons rather than ounces) but high in concentrated nutrition for the newborn.
When your baby is breastfed early and often, your breasts will begin producing mature milk around the third or fourth day after birth. Your milk will then increase in volume and will generally begin to appear thinner and whiter (more opaque) in color. In those first few days, it is extremely important to breastfeed your newborn at least 8-12 times each 24 hours, and more often is even better. This allows your baby to get all the benefits of the colostrum and also stimulates production of a plentiful supply of mature milk. Frequent breastfeeding also helps prevent engorgement.
Besides the fact that your milk is made especially by you for your baby, the following are true as well:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it!
- Breast milk is always the right temperature and readily available
- Breast milk is free!
- Breastfeeding decreases chances of baby developing allergies, asthma, ear infections, and respiratory infections
- Human milk is designed for human babies
- Breast milk is more easily digested than formula
- Breast milk contains immunities to diseases and aids in the development of baby's immune system
- Breast milk provides perfect infant nutrition
- Breastfeeding mothers spend less time and money on doctor visits
- Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby
- Baby’s suckling helps shrink mother's uterus after childbirth and helps prevent post partum hemorrhage
- Nursing helps mom lose weight after baby is born
- Breastfeeding decreases mother's risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer
- Breastfeeding helps to protect mother’s bones later in life
- Breastfeeding satisfies baby's emotional needs
- Formula-fed babies are more at risk for obesity in later life
- Breastfeeding results in less sick days for parents who are working or going to school
- Formula is expensive!
- It is the GREATEST lifelong gift a mother can give her child!
For the first six days, your baby should have as many wet diapers as the baby is days old (i.e., two days old/two wet diapers) and one or two stools. Once the milk comes in, you baby should have six or eight wet disposable diapers and at least one or two bowel movements in 24 hours. This usually indicates the baby is getting an adequate volume of your milk. Also, you will begin to hear gulps and swallows after the first two or three days and you will also see the baby transition from having tight arms and fists when he is hungry to being relaxed like a rag doll when he is satisfied.
There are lots of things fathers can do with a baby besides feeding him. Bathing provides lots of skin-to-skin contact and fun, too! The father can massage and stimulate the baby a bit as he gets sleepy during a feeding and can check for relaxed arms as the baby feeds. He can bring you a glass of water or help out with household chores. If you choose to teach your baby to take a bottle after breastfeeding is well established (four to six weeks), the baby’s father can offer the bottle while you take a break or pump your milk.
It is very possible to breastfeed multiples! Many mothers of twins are successful at exclusively nursing their twins from birth. Others use a combination of breastfeeding and bottles using expressed breastmilk or supplemental formula.
Mothers who smoke are encouraged to quit. However, breast milk remains the ideal food for a baby even if the mother smokes. Although nicotine may be present in breast milk, adverse effects on the infant during breastfeeding have not been reported. AAP recognizes pregnancy and lactation as two ideal times to promote smoking cessation, but does not indicate that mothers who smoke should not breastfeed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a mother give her baby only breastmilk for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire.
When mothers hear that colostrum is measurable in teaspoons rather than ounces, they often wonder if that can really be enough for their babies.
Your colostrum is just the right amount for your baby's first feedings! A 1-day-old baby's stomach capacity is about 5-7 ml, or about the size of a marble. On the first day of life, a newborn's stomach will not stretch to hold more. Therefore, extra milk is most often spit up.
By day 3, the newborn's stomach can hold about 0.75-1 oz, or about the size of a "shooter" marble. Small, frequent feedings assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs.
Around day 10, the newborn's stomach capacity is now about 1.5-2 oz, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Continued frequent feeding will assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs, and your milk production meets his demands.