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Four Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding
Updated on
September 11, 2023

Four Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding

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Four Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding

It’s easy for new parents to fall down the rabbit hole of endless internet searches, especially when it comes to breastfeeding and chestfeeding. It can feel like you need to digest an encyclopedia’s worth of information just for things to go smoothly.

The truth is that feeding your baby with your body is a process that gradually develops over time. You’ll learn plenty of things along the way and you don’t need to know everything right out of the gate. In fact, taking on too much information can just get in your way.

The best way to set yourself up for success is to avoid information overload and instead focus on a few key principles. We dive into all of the basics in our pregnancy and postpartum program, but these takeaways will help get you started on your feeding journey.

You probably have enough milk

When I was a doula, one of the most common questions I got from clients was, “Do I have enough milk?” The answer was almost always yes.

It’s an understandable worry. We’re so used to seeing images of babies with big, full bottles of milk, but newborns actually don’t need much. Their stomachs are super tiny (think the size of a marble), and only require a few teaspoons of milk per feed. After 24 to 72 hours, that amount roughly doubles, but that’s still a pretty small amount.

Your body has a good deal of time to ramp up the milk production. Babies aren’t even hungry at birth. It can take a couple of hours for a newborn to feel hungry at all.

Diapers tell you all you need to know

You’re likely producing enough milk, but how do you know if your baby is actually getting enough of that milk? All the proof you need is in their diapers. If your baby is having regular pees and poops, you can rest assured that feeding is going well.

During a baby’s first week of life, there’s an easy rule of thumb: as many pees and poops as days. On the first day, your baby should have at least one wet diaper and one poopy one. On day two, they should have at least two pees and two poops, and so on. By day five or six, most babies start to exceed the daily number of diapers.

You can completely ignore the common wisdom to feed 20 minutes on one side and 20 minutes on the other. Your baby might be spending two minutes on one side and six minutes on the other—as long as they’re peeing and pooping regularly, you’re on the right track.

A good latch is a deep latch

We often think of a baby as sucking at the nipple. In reality, with a good latch, your baby actually takes your nipple deep into their mouth. The baby’s tongue rests below the areola, not on it, and their nose and chin touch your skin. They should be drinking at the breast or chest, as opposed to sucking at the nipple like a straw. When the baby has this kind of deep latch, the 15 to 20 holes in your nipple will spray milk right into the back of their throat.

Your baby might have a shallow latch if you notice a clicking sound or pinched feeling when feeding. Cracked or bleeding nipples are another sign. If you’re worried about a shallow latch, you can always reach out to a lactation consultant, postpartum doula or pediatrician for support.

You can soothe engorgement with your hands

It’s normal for your breasts or chest to swell as your milk supply comes in. You might also notice tenderness, heaviness or even that your skin is hard to the touch. This is called engorgement and it often happens during the first week after giving birth.

Hand expression—using your hands to gently squeeze out milk—is one of the best ways to relieve the discomfort of engorgement. (Here are detailed video guides on how to hand express.) You’ll want to start by your armpit and massage all the way down to the nipple. Let out just enough milk to feel more comfortable—that way you’re relieving the pressure without telling your body that it needs to start making more milk. Make sure to reach out to a lactation consultant if you have serious nipple pain, plugged ducts or signs of mastitis, including flu-like symptoms.

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