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Breastfeeding Basics

There’s no denying that breastfeeding is vitally important and has incredible benefits impacting the rest of Baby’s life – are you feeling the pressure? Please don’t, asks Sister Lilian!

Breastfeeding also happens to be one of the most natural things in the world and both you and Baby instinctively know how to do it. Usually all you have to do is believe in yourself and really want to breastfeed! You’ll probably feel a little bit nervous, so here are some basics to help banish that fear of the unknown.

Frequency of feeds is variable
Remember that the frequency and length of feeds will differ from baby to baby, so don’t try to feed on a schedule. For Baby’s first few days, she’ll suckle every one to four hours, but will only drink small amounts at a time because she’s got such a small tummy. After Day 3, Baby should feed every one to two, three or four hours, sometimes close together and sometimes far apart. At three months Baby will feed every two to five hours and her eating pattern will be influenced by things like growth spurts, anxiety, and teething. From six months onwards Baby will feed every two to six hours and her feeding pattern will gradually change as she starts eating solid foods.

Length of feeds
It’s important that Baby be allowed to feed in ‘courses’; don’t worry, it’ll get easier as you go! For the first few days Baby will nurse for 5–20 minutes per feed if she’s left to feed unrestricted. From Day 4 Baby will feed for 30–90 minutes including ‘courses’, nappy changes, and burping – not just suckling. At six weeks Baby should feed for about 30–60 minutes including courses, burping, and nappy changes. The number of courses usually drops at three months and at each ‘meal’ Baby should spend 30–45 minutes feeding, including burping and nappy changes. From six months Baby will probably only eat one ‘course’ lasting 10–30 minutes and she won’t need to be burped.

Time and effort required
Practice makes perfect! The more you breastfeed, the easier things will get – especially if you keep a positive attitude! For Baby’s first three days you’ll spend a total of two to six hours per day breastfeeding (including all those associated tasks) and it shouldn’t take much effort from you – unless you’re tense or had a difficult birth. After the third day you’ll probably spend 5–10 hours breastfeeding per day and it’ll take quite a bit of effort as you and Baby get the hang of things. At six weeks you’ll spend roughly five to nine hours per day breastfeeding and things will get easier, although they’re still a bit time consuming. By three months you’ll spend about four to seven hours a day breastfeeding – it’ll still entail quite a bit of work, but you’ll start to feel like a pro! At six months you’ll only spend three to six hours per day breastfeeding; by now you’ll be a lot less busy and breastfeeding will be one of the easiest things in the world!

Number of nappies
One of the best ways to tell whether or not Baby is thriving is to keep track of the number of wet and soiled nappies she goes through per day. For the first three days of a breast baby’s life she will have two to three nappies a day with dark, sticky meconium stools. From Day 4 Baby will have two to eight nappies a day with soft, mustard coloured paste. From six weeks to five months Baby will soil anything from one nappy a day to only one per week! If Baby’s stools are still soft and mustard coloured this isn’t constipation; breast milk simply has very little waste! If Baby starts solids at six months she might change from one a week to between one and three stools per day.

Weight gain
Unfortunately many people – doctors and clinic sisters included – put far too much emphasis on weight gain and insist that babies should be weighed weekly to track their progress. This causes unnecessary stress for moms and often leads to negative practices such as supplement feeding. Weight gain is not the best measure of whether or not Baby is thriving because it doesn’t take into account things like her individual build and growth patterns. It might be a good idea to weigh Baby if she’s listless or ill, but if all seems well and she appears to be thriving, don’t stress about weight gain. Generally, newborns lose some body weight immediately after birth, but they’ll regain it by two weeks. Baby usually gains about 100–250g per week until she’s about five months and by about six months she’ll probably have doubled her birth weight. Weight gain should slow slightly at about six months, with Baby only gaining about 100–200g per week.

August 15, 2017

Wondering what to expect and when?

Many find it easy to work out how the weeks, months and trimesters relate to each other. Click a week, a month or trimester below to see what your little one will be doing in your 'bump' at that stage.

1st Trimester 2nd Trimester 3rd Trimester
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6 Month 7 Month 8 Month 9
 *This is just a guideline and the exact weekly breakdown may differ from source to source.