Breastfeeding – The First Week

  1. How often can I expect my baby to nurse?
    Breastfeed on demand following your baby’s cues: on average, 8 to 12 times per day. Your milk supply is dependent on how frequently your breasts are stimulated and how well they are drained. Allowing your baby to feed frequently helps your breast tissue to develop and helps tell your body to make the amount of milk needed for your baby. 
  2. How do I know my baby is getting enough?
    Watch for wet and/or dirty diapers. Listen for swallowing. In the first week, a baby will typically have one wet diaper for every day old he or she is (for example, 5 wet diapers when he or she is 5 days old). Initially, your baby may have one stool every other day. However, after a few days, expect multiple dirty diapers. Your baby’s stool will start out black and tar-like but will turn yellow and seedy as your milk comes in. Eventually, your baby may have  a yellow seedy diaper with each feeding.

    While your baby is at the breast, listen for swallowing and look for wide jaw motions as the baby sucks. These are signs showing that your baby is transferring milk.  Following-up with your physician or nurse practitioner for recommended appointments will also confirm your baby’s weight gain.

  3. How can I encourage my baby to eat more?
    Keep your baby close to your breast!  By keeping your baby close, you are learning your baby’s feeding cues (like rooting and putting hands in the mouth). Hold your baby skin-to-skin because this stimulates her other senses (like smell and feel) and encourages her to feed. Your baby will even search for your breast on her own if kept skin-to-skin. Using breast compression techniques ( gently pressing on the breast near the chest wall while baby is actively sucking) may also improve feeding effectiveness. Relax the pressure of compressions when baby pauses. 
  4. How do I wake a sleepy baby?
    Undress the baby, unwrap any swaddling blankets and/or change his diaper Before nursing, you may need to hold him away from your body while he is unwrapped to encourage him to wake up.  While he is eating, you can rub the palms of his hands or the soles of his feet. You can also bring his shoulder blades in closer to you as well as massage and compress your breast to send milk into his mouth. After the first side of nursing, you can do a diaper change or burp baby sitting out in front of you. To burp out in front, sit baby on your lap, support his head and neck by placing the palm of your hand on his chest and pointer finger and thumb on the jaw bone on either side, then lean baby forward. Burp by patting the upper back, rubbing up the back and/or rocking slowly back and forth. Your baby may be especially sleepy if he is very jaundiced (mild jaundice is found in almost every child) but as the jaundice goes away, he will become a more efficient eater and will not be as sleepy.
  5. What do I do if I get engorged?
    Feed your baby more frequently. Use breast massage and breast compressions during feeding to help drain the breast. For more ideas, see our handout on engorgement as well as our video on breast massage and hand expression here.
  6. What if my baby has trouble latching on when I’m engorged?
    Gentle breast massage towards armpit combined with hand expression prior to feed will help soften the breast. You can also try reverse pressure softening, which can be as simple as placing your fingers where your baby typically latches on to your areola and applying steady pressure towards your chest wall for 1-2 minutes. This makes the nipple and areola easier for the baby to grasp and so easier to feed.
  7. How do I hand express?
    There are many different methods to hand expression. Often more milk is expressed if the breasts are gently massaged prior to hand expressing. Click here for the Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio video online for our hand expression demonstration.
  8. Is it normal for my nipples to hurt?
    No, it shouldn’t hurt if your baby has a good latch. A good latch means your nipple is far back in the baby’s mouth by the soft palate. Allow your baby’s head to tilt back so that her chin comes to the breast first. This helps signal your baby to open her mouth wide. As she opens up and over your nipple, she is latched deeper onto your breast. With your nipple further back in the baby’s mouth it will not be pinched as your baby feeds and it will not hurt. Remember to support your baby’s back and bottom while they are latching. If you are unable to get a pain free latch then make an appointment to be seen. We are happy to work with you to make sure you have a good latch. Babies get used to how the  latch feels so improving an uncomfortable latch as soon as possible will help baby get used to a latch that works for both of you.
  9. How do I latch my baby?
    For more ideas, see our latch overview page with our Latching Basics Video here.