In this blog, you will learn about:
- Normal feeding behaviour of a newborn
- Why newborns feed so frequently
- How the breastfeeding process works which is so vital to understand
- Different feeding patterns or ways that your newborn may feed and lastly
- Two facts that if you are like me, you will find very interesting.
Why do newborns need to feed so frequently?
It is physiologically and biologically normal for your baby to breastfeed frequently, 8-12 times in 24 hours.
- Newborns have a very small stomach capacity so require a very small volume of milk to fill it. I love this diagram as it is such a strong visual for parents.
- Feeding frequently will build a really good milk supply and will provide your baby with all the nutrients that they require, including the fat content that is essential to your baby’s brain development
- Breastmilk is digested very quickly (usually within 1.5-2 hours) so it is nature’s way of ensuring that you and your baby have close regular contact to allow for bonding to take place
- It helps your baby transition to their new world by giving them comfort and security by being close to you with your familiar smell, voice and sounds
- Sucking is deeply comforting for your baby so feeding will help during those times when they need a bit more reassurance or are tired and stressed
Understanding the breastfeeding process
Breastfeeding is regulated by a powerful ‘Natural Feedback System’ that exists between a mother and her baby and this is such an important concept to understand.
The Quantity: of your milk is controlled by a Demand/Supply system. Your baby will have regular growth spurts during their first 12 months and this is nature’s way of supporting the needs of your rapidly developing baby.
You will make just the right amount of milk to meet your baby’s needs
This is when your baby has a sudden increase of feeds and it is completely normal. It is the only way that your baby can naturally increase your milk supply to meet their new physical and developmental needs. Some baby’s will cluster feed, some will add an extra couple of feeds in during a 24-hour period and some will extend the length of their feeds.
- They occur around Day 2-3 and 7-10 and at approximately 3, 6, 9-10,12,15 weeks and again around 6 months
- On average they can last for 2-3 days and sometimes up to 7 days
- Many women will question their supply during these times and consider supplementing their baby with formula but I encourage you to “Trust this incredible process, listen to your baby and go with the flow”
TIP: Keep things simple for a few days and just focus on your baby
The Quality: of your milk and it’s composition changes constantly as it is a dynamic fluid. It will change from :
- The beginning of a feed to the end of a feed
- Morning to night
- Day to day
- Week to week
- Month to month
- A hot day vs a cooler day (by increasing its water content)
- If your baby is unwell or you have been exposed to bacteria or a virus (by increasing the immune properties within your milk).
Pretty remarkable system isn’t it!
Different feeding patterns
A healthy newborn has the remarkable ability to completely regulate their own milk intake when they are allowed to feed on demand. So it is really important to follow your baby’s cues as to when they are hungry
This is the absolute key to successful breastfeeding
- The exception to demand feeding is if your baby doesn’t wake for frequent feeds during those early weeks.
If this occurs, you will need to gently wake your baby and offer her the breast at least every 3hrs so that she receives the correct amount of feeds that she requires in 24 hours. Once your baby is gaining weight sufficiently then you could leave her for longer stretches, although avoid letting her go for longer during the daytime because she will make up for feeds during the night!
- Every baby will have a slightly different feeding pattern. Some babies will cluster feed and some will feed like clockwork every 2-3 hours
TIP: The key is to ensure that your baby is feeding effectively and getting a full feed every time they feed
This is when babies demand a few feeds close together, followed generally by a longer stretch of sleep. Eg: your baby might feed every hour for 3-5 feeds and then sleep for 3-4 hours between clusters.
- The less time between feeds, the greater the fat content in your milk. Fat content is so important when it comes to your baby’s brain development.
Eg: If your baby demands to go back to the breast that she just emptied 30-40 minutes ago, she will get milk with a higher fat content than if she returned to the breast in 3-4hrs time
- An emptier breast (as there is no such thing as an empty breast) makes milk much faster than a full breast. An empty breast takes only 30 minutes to completely refill.
Please feel free to get in touch if you would like to know anything more about breastfeeding or would like some support with your breastfeeding journey.