Life with a newborn is filled with so much love and at the same time so many questions. How are you supposed to know if this little baby is getting enough milk? Or if the fact that they want to eat every 2 hours and sleep only short bursts at a time is normal?
Newborn babies are just tiny people. They have needs and they communicate those needs to you. Sometimes it takes a little figuring out but as you and your baby are bonding and learning more about one another, you'll begin to understand what they are asking you for.
Don’t worry about schedules or routines in the early weeks. Newborn life is often unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve figured them out, they reach a new milestone and change things up. Try to surrender and go with the flow, especially during the first few weeks. This may make things feel easier for you. If you are someone who needs a routine to thrive, try keeping some of the same activities daily but don’t pressure yourself or your baby to fit into a specific routine/schedule or mold in the first few weeks after birth.
Recognizing when they are hungry:
Your baby is experiencing hunger for the very first time. They had 24/7 access to nutrition via the umbilical cord in utero so it’s normal for them to want to feed every 1-3 hours. Often, it’s on the lower end of that.
Newborns eat frequently and the best thing you can do for your milk supply and breastfeeding relationship is to feed them on demand. This is known as responsive feeding and essentially, is feeding your infant whenever they cue they are hungry.
Early hunger cues include your baby starting to open their mouth and smacking their lips. Your baby will begin rooting and turning their head. This is them looking for food! They will begin to increase their movement (arms and hands moving) and start to become more vocal and progress to eventual crying if they are very hungry and haven’t been fed yet.
Crying is a late sign of hunger. It’s actually a distress signal and it can make for a very frustrating and difficult time trying to latch them. Your baby will need to be calmed first before trying to latch them.
What does newborn sleep look like?
Broken sleep is a common concern among new parents. It’s hard moving from sleeping 7-8 hours a night to waking every 2 hours to a baby who needs you. It’s biologically normal for your baby to wake to feed at night and for them to want to be close to you. Babies have short sleep cycles meaning they are often waking, especially to eat until they are developmentally ready to sleep for longer periods of time. In addition to being biologically appropriate, your breastfed baby waking at night to feed is also protective of SIDS.
Sharing a room with your baby can help you respond to their early hunger cues sooner and help you both get back to sleep faster. Setting up a safe sleep space will also help facilitate this as well as allow you both to safely get some sleep. Even if you’re not planning to co-sleep, prepare to. It’s easy to fall asleep on the couch or in a chair with your baby and these are dangerous sleep environments.
This means no gaps around the bed that your baby could fall into. Your baby also cannot be swaddled and you shouldn’t be smoking or under the influence of drowsy medications. The Safe Sleep Seven found in Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International is an excellent way to set you and your baby up for safe sleep and learn more about biologically normal infant sleep.
How your baby’s diapers can tell you if they’re getting enough milk
Newborns produce a lot of wet and dirty diapers. The great news is, you can use these diapers to help determine if they are getting enough milk. During the first week, your baby should produce about 1 wet and 1 dirty diaper for each day of life.
On day 1, or within the first 24 hours there should be 1 wet diaper and 1 poopy diaper. Your baby’s first poop is called meconium and is very dark, sticky and tarry - this is normal. After this, on day 2, you are looking for 2 wet diapers and 2 poopy diapers. The poop will still be dark but may resemble a darker green than brown. As the days progress, the volume goes up and the colour changes.
By day 5 your baby’s poop should have transitioned to a mustard yellow colour and should be soft. Your baby should be producing 5+ wet diapers (of pale yellow urine) and 3-4 yellow dirty diapers. If there’s so many that you’ve lost track, chances are your baby’s diaper output is appropriate. It’s always important to track during that first week because it’s a question all lactation consultants will have for you. It also helps you feel more confident, knowing your baby is consuming enough milk.
Life with a newborn is often unpredictable but understanding their normal feeding and sleeping patterns can help you feel confident.
Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 15). Kellymom.com. Hunger cues-when do I feed baby?. Retrieved from: https://kellymom.com/bf/normal/hunger-cues/
Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care.Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.
Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. (2019, April 17). Breastfeeding.support. Baby waking up at night. Retrieved from: https://breastfeeding.support/baby-waking-up-at-night/
Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. (2021, April 20). Breastfeeding.support. Is my baby getting enough milk? Retrieved from: https://breastfeeding.support/is-my-baby-getting-enough-milk/#
Alex Wachelka (Lactation Consultant) is the founder of Motherhood Blooms Lactation™. She is passionate about helping others feel validated and heard during their infant feeding experience because she herself faced a challenging time breastfeeding her firstborn. Her experience reaching out for support led her to learn more about breastfeeding and lactation and discovering a passion she didn't know she had. She went back to school with a very young infant to train in lactation so she could help others feel confident and successful in their infant feeding journey.
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