After your baby is born, life can get a little hectic. As you focus on your newborn’s needs – particularly nutritious breastfeeding – remember to take care of yourself and make sure you’re still getting the rest, relaxation and nutrition you need. In addition to making your own experience more enjoyable, staying on top of your health when breastfeeding will benefit your baby.
Change is typical after childbirth, and your body will adapt to meet your needs and those of your newborn. When it comes to your milk supply, that can be of concern, but in most cases, changes in milk supply are all par for the parenting course.
After six to eight weeks, your milk production can start to change. You may not feel full, but your baby likely is. Your baby may shift to nursing for only five minutes at a time, down from the 10-30 minutes when you first started. But by this stage, you and your baby are both pros: your body knows how much milk to produce, and your baby knows how to more efficiently nurse.
Around the same time, your newborn’s bowel movements may decrease to one every day or only a few times a week. You may worry that this is the result of a shortage of milk, but it’s another completely normal development. Colostrum, or first milk, is a part of breast milk that delivers antibodies and nutrients that are compatible with your newborn’s inexperienced digestive system. It also has a mild laxative effect. Colostrum disappears from breast milk after the first six weeks, and with it goes the frequent bowel movements.
If, for any reason, you’re struggling with breastfeeding and are worried you’re not producing enough milk for your newborn, there are certain steps you can take to boost your supply. A lactation consultant can be a valuable resource for help and support at any point along the way.
First, encourage your baby to breastfeed frequently and for extended periods of time. Regular nursing tells your body that more milk is needed, and your body will respond by increasing your supply.
You may also want to offer both breasts at feeding. When your baby slows or stops sucking and swallowing from the first breast, offer the second. If your baby tends to be sleepy or slows often, he or she may benefit from “switch nursing,” which is alternating two or three times during the feeding.
At a time when you’re encouraging nursing to boost your milk supply, limit or stop pacifier use so that your baby is only sucking at your breast. You may also want to ensure that your newborn is positioned correctly with lips on the darker skin area well behind the nipple.
Trust in Your Body and Your Baby
A healthy milk supply relies on two key tenets. The first is supply and demand: follow your baby’s lead and breastfeed as often and as long as he or she wants. Your body will produce more or less milk based on your nursing habits, so trust your body. The second tenet: trust your baby. If your newborn is thriving on your milk supply, then you can rest assured that you are producing enough.
If your baby is not gaining well or is losing weight, keep in close contact with your doctor. Improving breastfeeding techniques can help, but in some cases slow weight gain may indicate a health problem.