One of the things most new mothers struggle with right after birth is how best to breastfeed their babies. Very often, a new mother will either deal with lack of milk supply or failure of their newborn to latch properly to their breast. To add to this, when to breastfeed, how long to breastfeed, best breastfeeding positions, and when to know if your baby is hungry are some of the issues that new mums deal with.
And while breastfeeding may look easy, especially for mums that you’ve seen breastfeeding their babies at clinics or public places, it honestly never is as natural as most people think it is. Regardless of whether your breastfeeding experience as a mum was a walk in the park or whether it was a struggle a couple of times before you got it right, there is always something to learn that can help you feel empowered and confident when breastfeeding your little one.
As such, the more knowledgeable you get about positioning your baby when breastfeeding, how to know if your little one is getting enough breast milk, and when they are hungry will help boost your confidence. Remember, nursing is one of the most rewarding things about motherhood, and the quicker you are able to find the best technique for breastfeeding, the better it is for you and your baby.
Length of a Breastfeeding Session
When it comes to how long a breastfeeding session should last, one of the things that we generally advise new mothers to do is to watch their little ones and not the time. If you and your baby are comfortable, let your baby feed for as long as s/he wants. While some people associate long feeds to nipple cracking and soreness, that is rarely the case. In most cases, nipple cracking and soreness happens as a result of a sitting position that isn’t ideal or when your baby doesn’t latch properly.
That said, when nursing your baby, it’s important to let your little one take their time and set the pace. Usually, a breastfeeding session can last from anything between 20 to 30 minutes. However, it’s important to note that right after birth, a feeding session can last more than 30 minutes. This is also the same when your baby is going through a growth spurt.
During each feeding session, ensure that each breast is well-drained. This technique is very important instead of having your baby feed from both breasts at each feeding session. As such, you need to get the cue to switch from one breast to the other from your baby. If they are done with one breast, offer him or her the other breast. If they don’t want the other one, don’t force them. Instead, offer that breast at the start of your next feeding session.
When your baby newborn feeding, s/he will let go off your nipple. In the event that they don’t let go off your nipple, you’ll know when they are done when their suck and swallow pattern slumps. When this happens, you can easily unlatch your baby by pressing your baby’s lower chin and slowly pulling off your breast from their mouth.
How Often to Breastfeed
One of the greatest breastfeeding techniques that most mums use is breastfeeding on demand and not on schedule. What does this mean? Breastfeeding your baby when they are hungry instead of following a schedule. While it’s a given that most mums always have to initiate breastfeeding the first two days after delivery given the low demand, these changes on the third day when your little one starts to experience hunger.
In a day, your newborn needs to be fed eight to 12 times regardless of whether demand is high or not, especially the first weeks. That means a feeding session every two to three hours both day and night. Because every baby is different in their own way, feeding patterns vary from one baby to another. However, you will need to breastfeed your baby either less or more frequently.
If your baby is constantly hungry and impatient, you may find your feeding sessions going for more than an hour. On the other hand, if your baby gets satisfied easily, then you can have a feeding break that can last anywhere between three to four hours. While nursing constantly can be a bit tiring and overwhelming, it’s temporary.
And, within no time, there will be an increase in your milk supply, and your baby starts getting bigger which will result in you getting more breaks between nursing sessions. Remember, breastfeeding has plenty of benefits for you and your baby.
How to Know if Your Baby is Hungry
If you wish to master the art of breastfeeding, then it’s important to breastfeed your baby when s/he seems hungry. While crying is one of the ways that your baby uses to communicate when they are hungry, that’s not always the case. Constant crying from your baby may be a sign of something else apart from hunger.
The rule of thumb is to always feed your baby when they show any of the below signs and not wait for them to cry until it becomes difficult, calming them down. That said, below are some signs to watch out for that can help you know when your baby is hungry:
- Opening their mouth
- Moving their head from one side to the other
- Sucking ferociously on their fingers
- Nudging against your breasts
- Displaying the rooting reflex (the baby turns her head with her mouth open especially after his or her cheeks have been touched)
- Cockling their lips and making smacking sounds
- Crying which can be low-pitched when they start and then rising as they become more irritated
As your baby keeps on growing, s/he will start to feed a lot more, and you might experience longer feeding sessions. However, there are times when they will be hungrier than is the norm. This happens when they are going through growth spurts. As mentioned, babies tend to feed a lot more during growth spurts, and this can happen anywhere between seven days to six months.
During growth spurts, ensure you follow your baby’s feeding cues and ensure you increase the number of feeds to satisfy their hunger.