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Newborn and Infant Care

Re: breast milk supply

01/24/1999

Question:

What is the recomended lenght of breastfeading before you get a good supply going?

Answer:

I apologize, but I'm not quite sure what information is being requested regarding the "recommended length of breastfeeding" and its relationship to getting "a good supply going." Therefore, I'll discuss normal feeding routines and what a mother should look for to know whether her breastfed baby is getting enough milk. (When a baby shows signs that she/he is getting enough milk then milk supply almost always is fine.) Babies are different and their feeding behaviors are different. Just as different adults eat different amounts and a different number of meals, so some babies eat more often or larger amounts at feedings than other babies.

Your baby usually is getting enough (and your supply probably is good) if you see the following.

By the second day after birth, a baby should wake and "ask" to feed at least 8 times, and as many as 12 times, in 24 hours. (A baby asks when she/he appears to be rooting, makes sucking motions, brings its hands to its face/mouth, or cries. These also are called feeding cues.) Some babies eat every 2-3 hours like clockwork; others will have stretches when they want to eat every hour or so for several hours and then they will have one or two longer stretches when they don't eat at all for 4-5 hours. However, when you count all the feedings, it adds up to 8-12 no matter what the baby's style.

The baby is able to latch on deeply and suckles for at least 5 minutes, but usually more like 10-20 minutes and up to about 30 minutes, with few pauses. At that point the baby looks drowsy and self-detaches--without Mom's help--from the breast. Many mothers change the baby's diaper at this point and then offer the other breast. Sometimes the baby may take it and sometimes she may not. If still interested in feeding, the baby repeats the suckling cycle but often for less time on the second breast.

The baby acts satisfied for at least 30-60 minutes after most feedings. (He/she still may want to be held, however.)

The baby has an increasing number of wet diapers, so that by the end of baby's first week, you are changing at least 6 soaking wet diapers a day.

The baby passes about at least 3 stools/b.m.s a day for at least the first month. Each stool should be at least the size of a U.S. quarter. Stains in a diaper don't count as a stool. Many babies have more than 3 stools or some stools are larger.

Once a mother's milk has "come in," which usually occurs between 2-4 days after a birth, the baby begins to gain at least 1/2 ounce a day, and usually more like 1 oz. a day for the first several weeks.

I hope this is the information you needed, but don't hesitate to write again if you need further detail or I didn't understand and answer your question as needed.

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC

For more information:

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Response by:

Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, MSN, RN, IBCLC
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati