IN THIS ARTICLE
Feeding and Diapering Habits
Knowing your baby's feeding and diapering habits are important, especially during the first few months of breast-feeding. There are usually patterns to how often he or she feeds and how often you will change his or her diaper. You may also notice changes in how long each feeding lasts and begin to recognize signs that your baby is getting enough milk. As your baby gets older, you may add supplements and other foods and eventually you will reach the time for weaning.
How often and how long to feed
The general recommendation is to feed your baby on demand. This means that you breast-feed whenever you notice signs that your baby is hungry, such as when he or she is eagerly sucking on fingers or rooting. This strategy also helps you produce more milk and ensures that the baby is well nourished.
During the first few days or weeks, on-demand feedings usually occur every 1 to 3 hours (about 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period). You may have to wake a sleepy baby to feed in the first few days after birth. These early feedings often are short. Sometimes a newborn breast-feeds for only a few minutes on each breast or only on one breast. These feedings are important to increase your milk supply over the first few days. Try to let your baby breast-feed at least 15 minutes on a breast. This allows your baby to get the foremilk, which has water and needed nutrients, and hindmilk, which has more fat and calories to satisfy your baby's appetite. Over time, feeding sessions will become longer.
At around 3 months of age, feedings may become less frequent. Your baby is able to drink more milk at one time and your milk supply naturally increases as your baby's needs increases.
Needs typically increase during growth spurts. When your baby has a growth spurt, he or she may seem to be hungry more often. By feeding your baby on demand, you increase your milk supply. After about 2 to 4 days, you will have increased your milk supply at each feeding to satisfy your baby for a longer period. After the growth spurt, the number of feedings will then gradually decrease.
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk
It is common to wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. Most babies lose weight in the first several days after birth but regain it within a week or two. Weight gain is more rapid after mature milk is produced, about 10 to 15 days after you deliver your baby. After breast-feeding is established, your baby will also get more hindmilk, which provides additional fat and calories. Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk and is growing well. If you still have concerns, see When to Call a Doctor.
If you aren't sure if your baby is getting enough milk, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you to find the problem, if one exists. Don't supplement your breast-fed baby's diet with formula unless your doctor recommends it. Extra feedings with formula can interfere with your breast milk production and may lead to early weaning.
How many diaper changes to expect
By monitoring your baby's diaper habits, you can get a sense of whether he or she is getting enough breast milk. You may be surprised at the number of diapers your newborn goes through every day. Expect to change your newborn's diaper often. Breast-fed babies usually have a small stool after every feeding for about the first 4 to 8 weeks. Stools may be yellow, seedy-looking, and soft or runny. Gradually the pattern changes, and your baby will start to have larger stools. The number of diapers a newborn wets is sometimes hard to know, because disposable diapers are so effective at wicking moisture.
When to start supplements or other food
Feeding your baby will change through the first year. When your baby reaches 6 months of age, you can start adding other foods besides breast milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breast-feeding babies for at least the first year and giving only breast milk for the first 6 months.6
Doctors usually recommend against supplementing a breast-fed baby's diet with formula, food, and/or water during the first 6 months, even during a growth spurt. Supplementing can decrease your milk production. Early bottle feedings can also make it harder for your baby to latch on to your breast.
Although breast-fed babies get the best possible nutrition, they will probably need certain vitamin or nutritional supplements (especially iron) to maintain or improve their health. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of supplements are right for your child. Vitamin D for babies is usually a liquid supplement that you add to a bottle of breast milk with a dropper or drip into your baby's mouth.
Signs of weaning
It's best for you and your baby if you breast-feed for a full year. If you keep breast-feeding beyond 1 year, your baby will continue to benefit. After the first year, look for signs that your baby is ready to wean. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about weaning.
Whenever you decide to wean, keep in mind that suddenly stopping breast-feeding may be harder for both you and your baby than a gradual decrease in feeding frequency.
To learn more about weaning, see the topic Weaning.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Find out what women really need.
Pill Identifier on RxList
- quick, easy,
Find a Local Pharmacy
- including 24 hour, pharmacies