Baby Friendly Manitoba:  Information for Parents

Breastfeeding:  How Much and How Long

How often and how long should I feed my baby?
  • Healthy babies, when fed according to their feeding cues, will take what they need. Let your baby be your guide.
  • Keep in mind that your baby’s stomach at birth is very small, which means that she will want to be fed often.
  • In the early days, breastfeed from both breasts to help make your milk supply. Later your baby may still feed from both breasts, or may be satisfied after one.
  • Feed on the first breast until the baby falls away from your breast. This usually tells you that your baby has had enough milk. Don’t rush though—your baby may be just resting and not yet finished.
  • Your breast should feel soft. It’s important to empty the breast well.
  • After burping, offer the other breast.
  • If still hungry, your baby will latch on, suck, and swallow.
  • Begin the next feeding on the breast you didn’t use at the last feeding, or the one you finished last.
  • Some babies feed very often at first—as much as every one to two hours, from the start of one feed to the start of the next—and then go for longer periods between feedings. This cluster feeding is normal.
  • It is normal to feed eight or more times in 24 hours. This will usually decrease once breastfeeding is well established. When babies go through a growth spurt, they may want to nurse more often for a couple of days to increase the milk supply.
  • There is no set amount of time for how long your baby should feed at your breast. In the early days it may seem as though it takes a very long time to feed your baby.
  • Ask for help if you are having difficulty or feedings take longer than an hour. Call your public health nurse, midwife or community or hospital breastfeeding clinic.
  • After your milk supply is well established, the feedings will be shorter.
How can I tell that my baby is getting enough milk in the first weeks?
  • Your baby is feeding eight or more times a day after the first 24 hours.
  • You see your baby sucking and swallowing. You will hear a “ca” sound during the feeding.
  • In the first three days of life, your baby has 1 to 2 wet diapers per day. By days four to six, as your milk supply increases, your baby should have 5 or more wet diapers a day. His urine should be pale yellow.
  • Your baby has 2 to 3 or more bowel movements a day. After the first four to six weeks it is common for bowel movements to be less often. They may come once every few days. As long as the bowel movement is loose and the baby has wet diapers, this is normal.
  • Your baby is satisfied and content after most feedings.
  • Your baby has returned to his birth weight by about two weeks.
  • Your breasts are full before the feedings and softer after. After several weeks, it is normal to have soft breasts all the time and still have lots of milk.

Call your health care practitioner or Health Links/Info Santé (Ph: 204-788-8667 OR Toll Free at 1-888-315-9257) right away if your baby:

  • does not have 1–2 wet diapers in the first 3 days
  • does not have 5 very wet diapers each day after 4–6 days of age
  • does not have at least 2–3 bowel movements a day after 4 days of age
  • is not interested in feeding and often goes without feeding for 4–5 hours in the first few week

Points to Remember: From 2 weeks to about 3 months, babies should gain about 180 - 249 grams (6-8 ounces) per week. From about 3 to 6 months, babies should gain about 90 – 180 grams (3 – 6 ounces) per week.

Is it OK to use a soother?

Soothers should not be given in the first six to eight weeks when a baby is learning to breastfeed. You should not use a soother if your baby has any problems with feeding or you have low milk production. If your baby uses a soother, he may feed less often at the breast, which will decrease milk production. Full term babies should not be given soothers. If you choose to use a soother, wait until breastfeeding is well established.

Breastfeeding babies rarely need soothers as their need to suck for comfort, stress release, and pleasure can easily be met by breastfeeding. A soother is one way to comfort a baby but other choices include breastfeeding, holding your baby, or letting her suck on your finger. Many people think soother use prevents thumb sucking. This is not true. Babies normally suck on their fingers and thumbs. If you choose to use a soother, also remember to hold your baby a lot.

What about spitting up?

Spitting up small amounts after a meal is very common in the first few months of life and is not the same as vomiting. Spitting up usually stops as your baby grows. Spitting up is not a concern as long as your baby is healthy, happy, and gaining weight well.

What about hiccups?

Many babies have frequent hiccups, which can be quite loud. Baby’s hiccups often bother the parents more than they seem to bother the baby. Hiccups go away by themselves.

How do I burp my baby?

Burping between feedings may help bring up air bubbles and prevent some spitting up. To burp your baby, gently rub or pat her on the back. Thumping your baby on the back can make her spit up all the milk that was just taken. Sometimes just sitting your baby upright works. When your baby has finished nursing from one breast, try burping her. You will soon find out which position works best. If your baby doesn’t burp after a minute or two and seems content, she probably does not need to burp.

Positions to try:

Sitting

  • sit your baby sideways on your lap
  • cup your thumb and first finger under her chin to support her head and use the rest of your hand to support her chest
  • support her back with your other hand
  • gently rock your baby back and forth and lightly rub or pat her back until you hear a burp

On the shoulder

  • hold your baby upright with her head peeking
     over your shoulder
  • support her head and back with your hand
  • gently rub or pat her back until you hear a burp

On the lap

  • lay your baby on her tummy on your lap
  • gently rub or pat her back until you hear a burp

Manitoba endorses Health Canada’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and sustained breastfeeding to two years and beyond to provide optimal nutritional, immunological and emotional benefits for the growth and development of infants, and to have an important health, social and economic impact on mothers.

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