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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Scott

When should I feed my baby? How do I know my baby is getting enough?

It's no longer recommened to follow a feeding schedule. There is more evidence in favour of a baby-led approach so feeding on demand known as 'feeding responsively' is thought to be best. Babies will feed for different reasons, hunger being one of course, but also if they are tired and can't fall asleep, if they are uncomfortable or unwell or in pain - breastmilk has pain relief properties too!

When should I feed my baby?

You will need to learn what your baby's feeding cues are. Newborns can make a range of gentle noises and movements so this can take time, but often a mother's instincts are right. Crying is the last cue so a baby that is distressed will be fussy on the breast and may not feed well so is likely to feed sooner afterwards. Ideally you want to spot much earlier feeding cues such as licking lips, lip smacking, opening their mouth and sticking their tongue out right through to turning their head from side to side and rooting for a nipple and putting their hand to their mouth to suck.

Here's a good image on this web page to save for future reference.

It's useful to know that the duration of each feed can vary. They could be tired and just need a little to help them fall asleep - breastmilk contains sleep hormones vital for newborns who don't have a circadian rhythm. Or perhaps they have just woken from a sleep and are ravenous! Always offer both breasts during a feed and start the next feed on the last breast they feed from. Allow your baby to feed for as long as they wish or is comfortable for you.

How will I know my baby is getting enough?

At the start of a feed they will take quick, gentle 'flutter sucks' to stimulate your milk to be released. Then once the milk is flowing you should notice them swallow and take stronger sucks in between. This cycle will repeat during their feed. Sometimes a baby can sleep-nurse and will continue with 'flutter sucks' which allows them to take in thick, sticky milk which is great for weight gain.

If your baby comes off the breast sleep and satisfied, known as 'milk drunk' then you can be confident they have had a good feed. If they continue to be fussy, coming on and off the breast, using their hands to beat your breast and crying then they may be trying to stimulate another let down, or need winding and then return to feeding, be overtired and need sleep or be uncomfortable for another reason. Try soothing them and trying again.

Plotting a nice curve on the growth chart during weigh ins is an obvious way to know if your baby is getting enough. In between weigh ins you can also take note of their nappy contents. After 5 days your baby's poo should be yellowish in colour about 3-5 times a day. If your baby's poo is not regularly yellow you can take photos to show your health visitor and see advice. Green poo can be due to baby not getting enough or a strong let down meaning baby is filling up on thin milk and not feeding until the sticky, thick milk comes through. If the later than you may see them mostly have yellow poo with occasional green ones. If they mostly have green nappies and you don't feel they are draining your breasts or you experience pain during feeding you should see advice on latch and have breastfeeding support.

Watch my Free Breastfeeding Masterclass for more information and advice on how to breastfeed.

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