Welcome back to our new series, I’ve Had My Baby - Now What? This is a guide with basic information to help you navigate the first days, weeks, and months of breastfeeding your new baby.
Today we’d like to talk about weeks 3 through 6 of your baby’s life, and what breastfeeding looks like. What can you expect for normal behavior from your new baby, and when do you know there’s a problem that you should seek professional help for?
What does normal breastfeeding look like in weeks 3-6? How often should my baby be eating, and how long should feedings take?
It’s extremely common for babies at this age to still want to feed frequently, every 2-3 hours. Some *may* become more efficient and take in more at feedings and start to space them out a bit more, but don’t fear if your baby hasn’t done this yet! Feedings may start to speed up as mom’s milk volume is higher and baby has had good practice breastfeeding, but again, don’t worry if your baby still feeds at the breast for as long as he/she did in the early weeks. It can take some time for mom and baby to really get their groove and you may still be working out some kinks during weeks 3 through 6.
How much weight should my baby be gaining at this age? How will I know if he/she is getting enough when I’m not seeing my pediatrician as frequently for weight checks?
Up to 4 months of age, we expect babies to gain .5-1 oz/day, or 4-7 ounces a week. There are many ways other than weight to be sure that your baby is getting enough milk. If your baby is having plenty of wet and soiled diapers each day, and generally seems content after feedings for two hours or more (outside of growth spurts and cluster feeding periods), you can feel good that he/she is probably getting enough. If you want a little more concrete evidence, a great way to track your baby’s weight is by attending a free weekly breastfeeding support group. There will often be a scale there to weigh your baby, you can do test weights to see how much baby is taking during that feeding, get help from a lactation consultant or educator, and, the BEST part, meet and connect with other moms.
Can I give my baby a bottle now? If so, who should give it and how often should they do so?
Once breastfeeding has been established, weeks 3-5 are the perfect time to introduce a bottle to your baby if you’d like them to take one. It’s normally best that someone other than mom gives the baby the bottle, as babies often associate mom with breastfeeding and may refuse a bottle from her. Plus, often times, partners and grandparents have been waiting for their moment to participate in the feeding of the baby. We recommend that mom start pumping after week 3, once a day or so, to start to save up milk for that first bottle. 2-3oz is an appropriate amount to start with. Be sure that the bottle is fed to the baby in a breastfeeding friendly manner. If mom is going back to work, we recommend that baby receives a bottle on a somewhat regular basis, a few times a week, so that he/she remains familiar with it. Plus, mom should pump every time baby receives a bottle to maintain her milk supply.
My baby is inconsolable for a few hours in the evenings. Why is this happening and what can I do?
Many babies have a “witching hour”, or as I like to call it, “an unhappy hour”. The term is a bit misleading as the behavior normally lasts for more than an hour! It occurs most frequently in the late afternoon/evening hours. Babies are often fussier than normal during this time, and want to eat often. And while they want to feed often, they may pull off more frequently as well. There are a number of theories as to what causes this fussiness at this time. They may be feeding often to “tank up” on calories before taking a long sleep (sounds wonderful!). They may be overstimulated from their day and having a hard time winding themselves down. This is often a busy time for the entire household, as partners are home from work and older siblings may be home from school. Best thing that you can do during this time is to offer the breast often. Learning to nurse in a baby carrier can be a lifesaver as it will allow you to be hands-free while the baby is snuggled, fed, and comforted.
How will I know if my baby is colicky? Is this the same as the ‘witching hour?’
Many parents confuse normal fussy behavior for colic. Colic is defined as 3 hours or more of crying, 3 or more times a week, for 3 or more weeks in a row. It normally resolves itself around month 4. If your baby’s crying looks like this, he/she may have colic. There are no definitive cause for colic, but it could be related to gut issues due to food sensitivities. The “witching hour” is the period of time of day when your baby may seem unusually fussy, normally lasting for a couple of hours. This behavior peaks around 6 weeks and then often starts to fade.
If I am still having a challenging time building up my milk supply at this time, have I missed the window for increasing my milk supply?
Not at all! Depending on the reason for mom’s low supply, there are plenty of things that can help boost supply at this stage. The most important thing is to learn why mom is struggling with her milk supply. As always, lots of good breast stimulation is best - either from a baby or a hospital grade pump. There are also herbs and medications that are available that can help boost supply as well.
There may be times when things aren’t going the way they should. If you find this, please contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to help you. Some signs that you might need some additional help:
Sore, cracked, bruised, or bleeding nipples.
Baby is gaining less than 4oz per week.
You suspect your baby may be tongue-tied.
Painful, recurrent engorgement.
Baby is having problems stooling.
Overly gassy, fussy, or colicky baby.
Breast infection - mastitis, abscess, or thrush.
For more information about what normal breastfeeding looks like in the first few weeks, check out our article,What Every Mom Should Know About Breastfeeding During the Early Weeks, which highlights our brand new brochure! Also, check out Ashley as she discusses more tips and tricks for breastfeeding during weeks 3-6 on the Boob Group episode, New Mom Breastfeeding Manual: Weeks 3-6.
Join us next time when we discuss months 2-6!