The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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1. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
“Watch and listen to your baby’s sucking and swallowing patterns,” says Nancy Erickson, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a spokeswoman for the International Lactation Consultant Association. A baby who is getting enough milk takes long, drawing sucks, and her swallowing is audible. “The pattern should be rhythmic, with some pauses between sucking bursts,” she adds. “When the baby isn’t getting much milk, her sucks are short and choppy.” Another way to gauge whether your baby’s intake is adequate is to monitor her diapers: She should have at least six to eight wet diapers a day, with an average of two or more bowel movements.
2. How often should I nurse my baby? Every baby is different, but in general, a newborn up to about 3 months of age should nurse between eight and 12 times a day. But rather than keeping a tally or trying to get your baby on a schedule, the most important thing you can do is pay attention to her signals and feed her whenever she seems hungry. “Babies give hunger cues, including rooting, opening the mouth, turning the head and making fussing noises,” says Margot Mann, I.B.C.L.C., director of the Riverdale Lactation Center in New York City. “Crying is the cue of last resort.”
3. Is it normal to feel pain during breastfeeding? “Some women do feel tenderness or discomfort when the baby latches on,” says Corky Harvey, R.N., a lactation consultant and co-owner of The Pump Station, a breastfeeding-support center in Santa Monica, Calif. “But it shouldn’t last for more than 20 seconds.” Shooting pain, she adds, is a sign that something isn’t right. If you experience such pain, it probably means that your baby isn’t latched on properly and is sucking only on the nipple, rather than the nipple plus at least 1 inch of the areola. (See next question for tips on getting a good latch.)
4. How can I get my baby to latch on correctly? “As long as your baby has taken your entire nipple and a large portion of the areola into her mouth and her lower lip is flanged out, she’s latched on properly,” Mann says. Following are tips for ensuring a proper latch:
> Get comfortable. Consider using a rolled-up blanket or towel to prop your baby up so you don’t have to lean over her. Or try using a specially designed breastfeeding pillow, such as the Boppy or My Brest Friend.
> Position your baby so she is lying on her side, her belly tight against yours.
> Support your baby’s head and neck by placing one hand behind her neck; your thumb should be near her ear, your middle finger on her jaw.