If you're a new mom breastfeeding your baby for the first time, congratulations! And, get ready . . . you're likely to have a new question every day. Keeping your smartphone at the ready for 4 a.m. Google searches is probably a wise idea ("What do I do if my baby falls asleep while nursing?" and "How do I know if my baby's actually getting milk?"), but before it comes to that, check out our handy guide to some of the most important breastfeeding basics that new moms need to know.
Frequency: Healthy, full-term babies will feed as often as every hour, or as infrequently as every four hours, and thrive.
Common Challenges: Engorged breasts, a shortage of milk, dry or cracked nipples, and leaky breasts are nursings moms' most frequent complaints (the good news is, there are natural remedies for all of them). Blocked ducts, or mastitis, is a more serious (and, seriously painful!) condition that's still extremely common, but may require a trip to the doctor or lactation consultant.
How to Tell If Baby's Getting Enough Milk: Most pediatricians will tell you, if your baby's gaining weight at a healthy rate, that's all you need to know! From 0 to 4 months, a breastfed newborn should gain an average of 5.5 to 8.5 ounces per week. From months 4 to 6, newborns gain 3.25 to 4.5 ounces per week, and from 6 to 12 months, baby should gain between 1.75 to 2.75 ounces per week. Don't drive yourself nuts trying to measure every last ounce, though. It's normal for breastfed babies to gain weight at a slower pace than formula-fed babies, and every child develops at their own rate.
Keep reading for more answers to your top breastfeeding questions!
Breast Milk Storage Tips:
- It's always preferable to refrigerate or freeze your milk immediately after it's expressed.
- Breast milk can remain at room temperature for a maximum of six hours before it goes bad.
- Ideally, refrigerated breast milk is used within 72 hours, but can stay fresh for up to eight days if it's collected carefully and hygienically.
- Frozen milk should be used within six months, but can stay fresh for up to 12 months if it's collected carefully and hygienically.
Warming Frozen Milk: Never microwave or heat breast milk directly over your stove. Instead, purchase a bottle warmer or heat water in a cup or pot, then place frozen milk (in a bottle or bag) in the water until it heats through.
How to Increase Your Milk Supply: If your milk production isn't keeping up with your baby's needs, don't despair (or give up!). It's a surprisingly common issue for nursing moms, and there are plenty of ways to increase supply, from nursing "staycations," to hydrating to getting a good night's sleep (we know, easier said than done . . . ).
How to Transition to a Bottle: While you'll probably want to wait until your baby's into a well-established feeding pattern before introducing the bottle, doing so early (around 4-6 weeks) can ease the transition — especially if you're planning to return to work and will need to transfer feeding duties to a childcare provider. Start with a slow-flow nipple, and consider asking your partner, babysitter, or a friend to offer the first bottle to avoid confusion.