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Feeding Your Baby

One of the most wonderful ways that you will connect with your baby is through feeding.

You are providing nourishment, comfort and closeness. To help smooth the way, we have gathered some background and tips to help you understand your baby’s behavior and make feeding as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Be Patient:

Babies aren’t born knowing why they are eating, but they learn to do it anyway. While your baby was growing inside you, no sucking or swallowing was required to obtain nourishment.

Fortunately, nature has given babies reflexes that help them learn how to eat. Over time, your baby will figure out that eating satisfies hunger, you are the one providing the milk and that good things come from cooperating with you during feeding.

Nature Helps:

Use the rooting reflex to start feeding your baby. Babies come pre-programmed with a rooting reflex. Stimulate this by touching or stroking your baby’s mouth or cheek with your breast or finger.

Your baby will automatically turn his or her head in that direction, with mouth open and head bobbing much like a baby bird reaching up to the mommy bird for food. When your baby feels something on the roof of the mouth, he or she will respond by sucking — whether or not this is a thumb, shirt sleeve or nipple.

Timing Helps Too:

Try feeding when your baby is calm and alert. When the sucking reflex brings a mouthful of liquid, your baby will learn to keep his or her mouth on the nipple and swallow the milk. These actions are a series of reflexes that work best when your baby is calm and alert.

If your baby is fussy, crying or too sleepy, these reflexes are interrupted, and your baby likely won’t respond as he or she should to successfully nurse. This is true whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.

Sleep Cycles Rule:

Don’t assume your baby’s fussiness means hunger. Please don’t worry when your baby acts dissatisfied and won’t settle down to sleep after feeding. This isn’t hunger. It is the difference in sleep/wake cycles that we discussed in the Baby Care section of this binder. Also see the article in this section on “Baby’s Second Night” for help in understanding that this will improve over time.

Feed Frequently:

Start by feeding your baby every 2-3 hours. It’s best for both of you. Your newborn’s tummy is tiny, so it will need to be refilled frequently. We want you to feed your baby every 2-3 hours, but we know that there will be times the baby wants to sleep longer than that.

During your hospital stay, if your baby has been sleeping for 4-5 hours, and you have not been able to awaken and feed the baby, please contact your nurse. She may be able to help you wake your baby for a successful feeding.

Breastfeeding your baby this frequently will empty your breasts, stimulate milk production and provide your infant with the best possible nutrition. Your breast milk will increase most noticeably after 48 hours and probably by 72 hours. As you continue to nurse your baby, you will hear and see more evidence of milk production.

Colostrum Counts:

This is the perfect high-nutrition food for your baby’s first days. To prepare for your baby’s arrival, your body has been producing colostrum, a yellowish breast fluid packed with the nutrients, protein and antibodies your baby needs.

While the quantity of colostrum you produce may not seem very great, it is extremely high in calories, and you will have the right amount for your baby if you breastfeed frequently enough.

Is my breastfed baby getting enough milk?

To be sure your healthy, full-term newborn is getting enough milk, pay attention to baby's feedings, weight and "output": 
  • Your baby should nurse frequently, often every 1 1/2 to 3 hours, averaging 8 - 12 feedings per day.
  • For the first 3 - 4 days, expect as many wet diapers and as many stools as his / her age of life.  This means one wet diaper and one stool on Day 1, two wet diapers and two stools on Day 2, etc.
  • After your breast milk comes in (sometime from Day 2 to Day 5, expect your baby to have 4-5 wet disposable diapers or 6 - 8 wet cloth diapers.
  • After their mothers' breast milk comes in, some babies have a stool with each feeding.  Other babies; may have anywhere from 2 -5 stools in 24 hours.
  • Stools will change in color from a dark, tar-like consistency to greenish/brown to yellow, loose and seedy.
  • Do not worry if your baby loses up to 10 percent of his or her birth weight by the time you are discharged. Once your milk supply becomes more plentiful, expect your baby to gain 4 - 7 ounces per week and be close to birth weight by 2 weeks of age.

When to call your health care provider or lactation consultant:

  • Any day after Day 2 that your baby has fewer than 2 bowel movements.
  • If your baby's stool is not yellow by Day 7.
  • If your baby shows persistent hunger cues, such as rooting, hand to mouth or unrelieved fussiness or takes pacifier excessively.

Remember that we are here to help you.

Be sure to share your questions and concerns with us. You can email us and we will reply to you within 48 hours.
If you would like to speak to a lactation consultant, call us at (402) 815-8791.

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