Tuesday 31 July 2012

How often will my baby feed?

As you may or may not know, I volunteer as a breastfeeding Peer Supporter at my local hospital and local breastfeeding support groups.  I find that when I visit the hospital on any particular week I often get asked the same question or end up helping each mum with the same task.  One week I might help 3 new mums with latch, the next week I might help 2 mums put a pump together and pump for their special care baby.  Last week I was asked by numerous mums about how often and how long babies should feed.  It's especialy true for first time parents and also parents that have never breastfed a baby before or stopped pretty quickly the last time around.  Actually, if the parents stopped breastfeeding pretty early on with a sibling then I usually ask them when they stopped breastfeeding and find a similar response (2 weeks or 6 weeks typically).

It does concern me that I am asking these questions after the baby is born because a lot of parents attend antenatal classes that talk about breastfeeding.  I know that when I taught breastfeeding classes we covered normal newborn behaviours which included frequency of feedings.  Is it possible that all these parents are missing the breastfeeding class?  Is it that many of these parents cannot afford to attend expensive antenatal classes and instead attend free classes that skirt around the feeding issues because they are too scared to upset anyone?  I did not attend a paid breastfeeding class before the birth of my second, I instead attended a free antenatal class locally so that I could learn how things are done in the UK.  I will say that the breastfeeding session was appalling.  It was advertised as a breastfeeding session so I don't really understand why no real breastfeeding advice was given.  If any of the soon to be parents had already made a decision not to breastfeed then surely they would have stayed at home.  The only piece of advice that was given to us during the session was "Go out and buy a carton of ready to use formula so that when you have problems and the shops are shut you'll be OK".  I guess the midwife hadn't read about the studies that show that when you have formula in the house you are more likely to stop breastfeeding and introduce formula earlier.

I heard yesterday that the NHS has been cutting spending on breastfeeding support and in the areas where spending has already been cut breastfeeding rates have suffered.  When are the people in charge going to realise that the more they spend on preventative measures, the more they will save down the line on hospital visits, obesity, cancer etc.  It's basic mathematics, even the US understands that the more they spend on improving the health of low income families, the more money that can be saved in healthcare costs in the future because babies are born healthier and stay healthier after a better beginning.

"Every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid women in 5 States resulted in savings in health care costs from $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth".

See references here

I digress!

What are some answers to the questions I am asked frequently?

How often should my baby feed?

Since my son started latching well at about 4-6 weeks after his birth in early 2008 I have never watched a clock.  I feed whenever I am asked.  Babies are amazing.  They are able to communicate with you as soon as they are born.  There are tonnes of little feeding cues that they use to tell you they are hungry.  If you catch these cues early on you'll find your home a little calmer.  When William wasn't latching well and I had sore nipples I would watch the clock and only feed every 3 hours because I wasn't enjoying the feeding.  Once I was able to feed without pain and I wasn't watching the clock because feeding was now an enjoyable, pain-free act William didn't have to cry so much to get attention (food).  Babies don't cry for fun, they cry because they need something, so being able to satisfy that need as soon as possible, or even before the crying starts will reduce the stress in the household.  If feeding doesn't stop the crying then you know it must be something else (sleepy, dirty, bored, overstimulated).  A typical baby will ask for a feed about 8-12 times in a 24 hour period of time.  They may not be regularly spaced out over the day, and they may be clustered together especially in the evening.  This is why it's so important to sleep when the baby sleeps (don't do laundry!).  This is just a guide, an average.  I'm sure there are many babies out there that feed more than 12 times a day and also some that feed 7 times a day.  Watch your baby.  If your baby is healthy, born at term, is pooing and peeing and gaining weight (regained birth weight by two weeks), then follow their lead.

How long should a feed last?

Gosh, a really hard one.  You're going to hear so many different answers to this question from friends and healthcare providers.  Every baby is different, and every meal is different.  Again, I am going to remind you to watch your baby.  If your baby is healthy, born at term, is pooing and peeing and gaining wieght (regained birth weight by 2 weeks), then follow their lead.  I always advise new mums to start out by offering both breast per feed so that after a few weeks it can then be the baby's decision to have both or one per feed and your body has been primed to produce a fabulous supply of milk either way.  Baby will let you know when they are done, they will come off of their own accord or fall asleep.  In the first few weeks, if there is a concern about weight gain then you can burp or nappy change and then offer the second breast.  My son never said no, my daughter would only feed when she wanted to.  As to timings.  Some babies just feed for ages, and others are done in a few minutes.  If baby hasn't fed for a few hours and falls asleep almost immediately at the breast then you may want to consider waking baby up, some breast compressions might also entice baby to feed for longer, but as I mentioned previously watch your baby and compare their feeds to your own.  You probably eat or drink something numerous times a day but each time you eat you don't eat the same amount.  You may have just a cup of tea and a biccie, you may have a large evening meal, or a chocolate passed around in the office.  The baby will feed in a similar fashion and may not always take the same amount each time.  It's the average over the entire day and then week that counts, and then the weight gain seen over the same period.  Look for an average weight gain in the early months of 3.5-7oz per week.  You will definitely learn new puzzle solving skills being a new parent, and to look at the whole picture instead of focusing on just one thing, so look at the baby as a whole.

Ellie at her first wedding at only 5 weeks old - she slept through the entire service in her sling and only woke up in time for the toast!

What answers would you give to these questions from your own personal experiences?

1 comment:

  1. New parent always conscious regarding feeding their newborn baby. Doctors recommend to start feeding immediately after birth or at least within four hours after birth.

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