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Breastfeeding commonly asked questions

Many mothers have questions when it comes to breastfeeding.  Here are some commonly asked questions to help you with breastfeeding.

What can I do if breastfeeding hurts?

Feeding can be uncomfortable for a few seconds, as the baby pulls the nipple into the back of their mouth. If it continues to be painful, perhaps your baby’s position is not quite right.

Take your baby off the breast by putting a finger in the corner of their mouth to release the suction, and try again as described above. However, trying again and again can cause more pain and damage, so you may need to ask for help.

How will I know my baby wants to feed?

When your baby is hungry, they will show signs like nuzzling, hand-sucking, or mouthing (opening their mouth and turning their head). Crying may be the last cue for feeding, and means your baby is getting distressed.

Try to feed your baby before the crying stage. Babies who cry for too long may refuse to feed, even if they’re hungry.

How often will my baby feed?

Babies vary in how often they feed and how long for. It’s common for newborn babies to feed frequently, especially in the evening. On a hot day, your baby may want to feed more often because they’re thirsty.

Breastfed babies need frequent feeding. Newborn babies feed at least 6–8 times a day, and up to 12 times. This helps them grow, and maintains breast milk supply.

During the day some babies may sleep only for short times and want to feed often, while others may go for 3–4 hours between feeds. Some babies sleep for long periods at night, while others wake several times for feeds. Breastfed babies need frequent feeds.

How long will my baby feed for?

Watch your baby’s sucking and swallowing pattern rather than timing how long the feed takes. Like adults, babies take different times to feed and drink different amounts at each feed.

Milk changes during the feed according to how thirsty and hungry your baby is, and a baby who drinks well will not take long.

Let your baby feed at the first breast until satisfied. Wind them, then offer the other side.

Some babies like a break between breasts for a cuddle, or for kicking on the floor with their nappy off.

If your baby falls asleep during a feed, try changing their nappy, taking off some clothes or stroking them, to wake them enough to finish the feed. If your baby doesn’t want the second breast, start the next feed with this breast.

Is my baby getting enough milk?

You will know that your baby is getting enough milk, when they are sucking and swallowing well on the breast. Your baby will be waking for regular feeds, and be alert and responsive to you. Expect to have at least six really wet nappies every day, and at least one large poo (bowel motion) a day until 4 weeks of age.

After 4 weeks some babies do poos at every feed, while others only poo every 7–10 days. When your baby is gaining weight over time, you know they arefeeding well. Overall weight gain is important, not just one weight increase on its own.

Is my milk supply okay?

The size of the breasts and feeling full are not signs of how much milk the breasts hold. The breasts adjust to your baby’s needs. The more milk your baby takes, the more the breasts make.

The baby’s sucking stimulates the breasts to produce more milk, so if your baby isn’t feeding well or you start to use formula, your baby will take less from the breast, and the milk supply will decrease. If your baby cries after feeding, the problem may be tiredness or wind, and not hunger.

How will I manage hungry times and growth spurts?

During hungry times and growth spurts, your baby may want to breastfeed more often.  This is normal - it’s how your baby increases the milk supply. It usually lasts for 2 or 3 days. As your baby takes more milk through extra feeding, they will soon settle. Hungry times do not mean that your baby is ready for solid food.

If you’re worried about your baby:

  • not waking for feeds

  • sleeping for long periods during the day and not feeding well

  • not having many feeds

  • being too tired to feed

  • they need to be seen by a doctor urgently.

If you’re unsure, phone PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 or talk to your midwife, Plunket nurse, La Leche League, or lactation consultant.

When should I start to give my baby solid food?

The ideal time to give solid food is around 6 months, when your baby is showing signs of being ready for and needing extra food.

What if my baby loses weight?

Babies may lose up to 10 percent of their birth weight in the first few days, but should get back to their birth weight within 2 weeks. If you’re worried about your baby’s weight, talk to your Plunket nurse.

More information

Take a look at Establishing a Breastfeeding Partnership on the Raising Children In New Zealand website where experts answer breastfeeding questions such as ‘How often?’, ‘How much?’ and ‘How do I know if I’m getting it right?’

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