Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Breastfeeding a Newborn: How Often Does My Baby Nurse?

I have a confession to make: I have no idea how often or for how long my baby nurses.

That's right! Gasp! I don't keep track!

When someone asks me, "How often does he eat?" or "How many times do you get up at night to feed him?", I don't have an answer beyond, "I don't know. It's not bad."

Look, this is my fourth kid and my third nursling. I've never been a "charter." I've never kept very careful track of diaper changes or when feedings started and ended. But now, fourth kid, time has no meaning. Sometimes an hour between feedings can seem luxuriously long. Other times, an hour can seem like, "Hey, didn't you just eat?"

I know a given nursing session doesn't take long. For example, today, I fed him for five minutes at one point. I happen to know because I happened to have glanced at my watch when he started, so I figured, hey, let's see how long this actually lasts. It was five minutes. It seemed awfully short, so I tried to offer him more. He didn't want it. When did he next feed? I don't know. Was it long enough to get something done in between? Yes, I think so.

The thing is, I tend to be doing other things while he nurses. For example, he nursed yesterday at my oldest's dentist appointment. He nursed in the Moby wrap while I watched N get his teeth cleaned, shepherded S to the bathroom, and changed G's diaper. (Yes, I nursed and changed a diaper simultaneously...standing in the middle of a single-use public restroom in a medical building. That now qualifies as the weirdest nursing situation I've been in.) So how long did that feeding last? I have no clue. I was busy watching my oldest get his teeth cleaned, taking another one to the bathroom, and changing a diaper!

Usually, my multitasking isn't quite that exciting, though. Typically I've got my phone in one hand while I support the baby with the other, and I play Candy Crush and check Facebook 14 times while I nurse. Sometimes I read a book. A real one. Other times, I read a book on my Kindle app. Lots of times, I'm tending to one or more of my other kids while poor Y hangs on for dear life.

The great thing about breastfeeding is you don't have to meter it. You don't have to measure anything. You don't have to time it or schedule it or worry about whether he'll want just a little more. When the baby is hungry, you feed him. It's that simple. As long as baby is growing, producing plenty of wet and dirty diapers, is alert and interactive, and otherwise seems healthy, then you don't have to know exactly how long every feeding lasts and how often you're nursing. There will be times when he nurses for five minutes several times in an hour and other times where he sleeps three hours and then nurses for 20 (or more!). There's no rule for any given baby, and there's no general rule, either, except, "When the baby is hungry, you feed him." Check for active sucking and swallowing and watch him expand practically before your eyes. (If your baby has any health problems, has slow weight gain, or was premature, your doctor may ask you to track feedings and diapers to ensure that your baby is taking in enough calories. This is important in a situation like that. Also, if feedings seem to last an hour or more, your baby may have problems with his latch that makes it difficult to efficiently extract milk. In that case, it is probably a great idea to make an appointment with a lactation consultant to see if there's anything else going on.)

So how often is my six-week-old eating? I have no idea. How long does it take him to finish? No clue. Doesn't seem long, though. Is he happy? Reasonably. Is he growing? Heck, yeah (he's already in 3-month clothing and filling those out nicely)! Does he eat well? Yep!

Enjoy your baby. Don't be obsessed with the clock or the calendar. Watch your baby. Get to know him. Learn what his cries mean and figure out what he likes to do. Follow his lead. Follow his cues. Time has no meaning for him, and it shouldn't matter so much to you, either. Get a book, or your phone, or your e-reader, or the TV remote, sit back, relax, and nurse that baby!

Check out my YouTube channel for lots of breastfeeding videos!

1 comment:

  1. It's a very helpful article, in fact when it comes to health; there is nothing more important than managing to eat healthy food and doing exercise regularly.