Published on December 22, 2021

Breastfeeding Q&A

mother breastfeeding baby

Wondering what to expect in the first few hours and days of breastfeeding? Here are our answers to some commonly asked questions that we hear from moms:

“My baby won’t latch right now, is that ok?”

In the first 24 hours of life, babies sometimes do not latch every feeding. They may be too sleepy and are still learning the suck/swallow/breathe pattern. Babies have to hold their mouth differently when nursing than using a bottle or pacifier. That's where nipple confusion comes from and why it's best to wait at least two weeks (three or four weeks is even better) before offering a pacifier to a breastfed baby. Pacifiers actually work against you in the first few days by burning valuable calories which can increase weight loss.

Sleepy babies are normal, especially in the first 24 hours. When baby is very sleepy or you can't get him or her to latch, it's important to know how to hand express. The lactation consultant or nurse can teach you this—it’s basically squeezing the first milk, called colostrum, out by hand and giving to baby.

At first our bodies make a very concentrated, thick, nutrient rich milk that is often referred to as liquid gold. It is full of special nutrients that infants need in the first days of life. It's also important to remember your baby's stomach is the size of a chocolate candy kiss at birth, so the smaller amount of colostrum directly correlates with that size of baby's stomach.

If in the first 24 hours if your baby will not latch, hand express 20 drops of colostrum from each breast (placing each drop on your finger and rubbing in baby’s mouth). Allow baby to suck on your finger after. Place baby skin to skin. This is one of the most important things you can do to help facilitate successful nursing. When babies are skin to skin, they are able to relax as your body raises their temperature, regulates their blood sugar and heart rate. Also, they can smell your milk/colostrum and will search for it.

Usually, those first hunger cues are seen quickly when skin to skin. Leave your baby here until he or she latches. Sometimes after hand expressing and time on your chest, babies begin searching for food and are more eager to eat.

“How often should my baby feed?”

Breastfed babies need to eat a minimum of eight times in 24 hours. If your baby is sleepy and three to four hours have passed, wake baby up to eat, remove baby’s clothes and change diaper. If you can’t rouse him or her, hand express.

Try not to go longer than three hours without latching or hand expressed drops. This is important for your baby’s weight gain and blood sugar regulation. Babies will lose weight after birth, but how much is dependent on how much they are taking in.

“Do I have enough milk?”

Our team works together to make sure your baby is getting what he or she needs. Your nurse, lactation consultant and pediatrician will monitor your baby’s weight and number of diapers. This is best way to know if baby is feeding well.

Our milk supply is dependent on how we communicate with our body. The way we can tell our body to make milk is supply and demand.

The more often baby nurses or we hand express, the sooner mature milk comes in. (This is true as time goes on and when baby is months old with growth spurts.) Sometimes babies will cluster feed. This is when they nurse very frequently and sometimes for shorter periods of time. This increase of stimulation to your breast is important in telling your body to make mature milk. Sometimes babies will nurse every hour. Just remember this is ok and is supposed to happen! Babies are getting small amounts at a time so they will increase feedings until mature milk comes in to fill their growing belly size.

“What do I do with my hands?”

One thing that moms often don’t realize is that newborns do not have the jaw, neck or upper body strength that older babies do. They cannot hold their head up to the breast or always keep mom's breast in their mouth. That is mom’s job at this age. You can keep one hand to support your breast holding it in baby’s mouth and one hand supporting the base of baby’s head pressing in baby’s jaw. Moving your hands during the session may cause the latch to be lost or change.

“Is it supposed to feel like this?”

If you experience nipple pain or notice blisters or bleeding, be sure to tell the lactation consultant as soon as you can. They can watch baby’s latch and suggest ways to decrease pain or further damage. Breastfeeding should not hurt. If you feel pinching or biting, re-latch your baby and ask for help! We want to help you be successful and empower you to feed your baby however you feel is best.

“How do I know if it’s time to feed?”

Watch your baby and give that liquid gold as often as you can. Length of feedings will vary, but 10-20 minutes each breast is common.

Offer both breasts each feeding. Feeding/hunger cues can be tricky to recognize at first. For newborns, hunger cues start with sticking their tongue out, then smacking lips, then rooting (turning head side to side with mouth open), then sucking on their hands and lastly crying. If your baby is crying to tell you they are hungry, you probably missed the first cues. Try to feed your baby as soon as you see one of the early cues.

“How can I make him stop crying?”

As babies experience life outside the womb, many things can cause fussing and crying. The best comforter is built into mom. Science and millions of moms throughout history have agreed that the best comfort for baby is Mom’s cuddles (Daddy’s too!). Whenever your baby is crying and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, put baby skin to skin or nurse him. Chances are this will quiet him no matter what’s wrong.

All the hospital tests, cold nurse's hands and stethoscopes may be scary for baby, but mama can usually make it ok again. Enjoy your baby and breastfeeding experience!

Our lactation consultants at NMMC Women’s Hospital want to help you feel more confident to feed your new baby. We want to support you throughout your journey. We will follow you during your stay and check in frequently to help and answer questions. After you go home from the hospital, we will continue to support you throughout your breastfeeding experience. We also offer a Breastfeeding Support Group twice each month and would love for you and your baby to join us.

Here are our answers to some commonly asked questions.