3 common breastfeeding questions answered by a lactation counselor

Written by Elizabeth Starr

Elizabeth Starr is a RN specializing in labor and delivery and is a Certified Lactation Educator Counselor.

How often should I expect to nurse my baby?

Many moms have heard that baby needs to eat at some sort of prescribed interval. Sometimes it works out that way, but a lot of times it doesn’t! It is important to understand and speak about normal newborn behaviors and the cues to look out for.

The average amount you can expect to feed your baby is 8–12 times in a 24 hour period. Minimum is 8 times and could be more than 12! It is common for babies to “cluster feed” especially early on. This is very important to help your milk increase in volume. It’s important to watch your baby and not the clock.

Sometimes it will work out that your baby will nurse every 2 or 3 hours and other times she or she will want to nurse 30 minutes after you just fed her. This is just fine. Breastmilk is digested very quickly (it takes about 45 minutes), so it’s common for infants to want to nurse frequently. Their sleep cycles are also very irregular. Sometimes they will sleep for a long stretch and other times they will wake every hour. Paying attention to your baby’s cues instead of trying to have a feeding schedule is the key.

When will my milk “come in”?

So many times women feel like they don’t have any milk in the very beginning and are worried that their milk won’t “come in” or is taking too long. There is a big shift in hormones after delivery and it does take a few days for a woman’s milk to increase in volume (I love that terminology so much more!). Also, the type of delivery you had can affect how quickly it will increase.

Typically after a vaginal delivery, milk will increase in volume by days 3 or 4. After a c-section it can take a few more days, so days 4 or 6. You will have milk from the beginning called colostrum. This is valuable milk and very high in nutritional value for your brand new baby.

Your body makes colostrum in small amounts, so this is part of why babies want to nurse frequently. But it’s also because your baby’s tummy is very small to start (about the size of a marble the first 2 days) and cannot hold much more. Several days after delivery you may notice that your breasts are fuller, you may be engorged or leaking milk, and baby may be more satisfied between feedings. Your milk has increased in volume! Keep on nursing as often as baby wants.

My breasts haven’t changed size/I’m not leaking/my sister,cousin,mother,aunt,etc, couldn’t nurse their baby/I’ve had breast augmentation and/or reduction/ my nipples don’t stick out/ my boobs are small. Can I still breastfeed?

Insert all the horror (or trying to be helpful but turn into horror) stories from your family, your hairdresser, your neighbor, the random lady at the store-you get the point! Unfortunately everyone else always wants to tell you how things went with them and many times it ends up scaring new moms into thinking it will happen to them. If you have concerns about your breast anatomy or if you have had surgery in the past, contact a local lactation consultant and meet with her before you deliver to determine if challenges can be anticipated

Every woman’s breasts are different as are their situations (improper latch, separation from baby without adequate pumping by mom, perceived low supply, etc). Your body begins the first stages of making milk around the 14th week of your pregnancy.

By the start of your 3rd trimester, you will begin to have colostrum. Some women notice a change in size of their breasts and some never do. Some women will leak prior to delivery and some don’t. And just because someone else was unable to breastfeed their child does not mean that you will not have success. With the right support and proper information, there is a good chance that you will be very successful in breastfeeding.

This post is written by a guest author and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Naya Health, Inc.