How to Produce the Right Amount of Breast Milk
Your baby has a job to do: she or he has to tell your breasts how much milk to make. To do this, your baby needs unlimited access to your breasts. Your role is to watch the baby, offer the breast in response to any feeding cue, and switch breasts when requested by your baby. He or she will tell you whether he or she needs both breasts, or just one - or even both breasts twice! Your breasts are designed to respond to a properly positioned baby with just the right amount of milk. Here are some guidelines to help you.
- Follow your baby's signals -- do not use the clock to determine the frequency or length of feeding. An exception to this would be the overly sleepy newborn. You may need to undress and stimulate the baby to encourage nursing. How often? Generally babies should nurse six times the first day, then eight times each day until you see the baby's physician.
- Allow your baby to stay on the first breast until he or she is no longer swallowing. The baby may wriggle in frustration when the breast is empty or may just appear to sleep at your breast but be unwilling to let go. In either event, this is your signal to offer the second breast.
- Remember that a full baby pulls away from the breast and will not take breast or bottle. A baby who wants to latch again at breast is still hungry. If your baby is willing to feed endlessly, seek help. New- born babies are not simply "sucky" by nature. A newborn will only suck if hungry.
- Breast-fed babies generally do not need or want pacifiers. In the early weeks it is very easy to under- feed your baby by offering a pacifier instead of the breast. If you want to use a pacifier, check to make sure your baby is gaining well and that the fussiness is not caused by hunger.
- Watch the baby's chin if you are unsure whether your baby is swallowing. Short, choppy movements (similar to gum-chewing) mean she or he is sucking but not swallowing. A swallow is a large, slow movement of the chin followed by a soft "kuh," or an audible gulp. Switch breasts if your baby is not swallowing most of the time. Several sucks followed by one gulp then a pause indicates an empty breast.
- If you have a lot of milk, your baby may gulp for 10 minutes and pull off, satisfied. Your second breast may still be uncomfortably full. It is okay to express enough milk from this breast to relieve any discomfort. Your baby will empty this breast at the next feeding.
- Some mothers have so much extra milk that they may need to feed the baby on the same breast for two feedings (expressing the second breast until comfortable) before the breast feels soft and the baby's swallowing slows down.
- If both breasts are uncomfortably full of milk, it may seem like a good idea to divide the baby's time between the two. This will relieve your discomfort (briefly) but will encourage the overproduction to continue, and may even cause some fussiness in your baby. It is better to allow the baby to stay on one breast as long as he or she is swallowing steadily.
- Your baby may or may not need the second breast. Some babies take only one breast at each feeding for weeks but then become hungrier and start taking both at some or all feedings. Some babies take one breast in the morning but need both breasts in the evening. Be alert to your baby's changing needs.
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