Set yourself up for breastfeeding/chestfeeding success

by Kaiser Permanente |
Parent wearing a white nursing top and breastfeeding baby on couch.

Many people choose to breastfeed/chestfeed their babies. You’re likely to receive a lot of information on breastfeeding while you are still in the hospital. Remember, breastfeeding is new for both you and your baby. It may take a little time for you both to feel comfortable.

Here are some things to consider as you begin your breastfeeding journey together.

What to know about breastfeeding/chestfeeding

After your baby comes home, you’ll need to breastfeed as often as your infant is hungry. You can tell if your baby wants to eat if they:

  • Move and stretch often.
  • Raise a hand to their mouth.
  • Lick or smack their lips.
  • Turn their mouth to you.

Crying can also be a sign that your baby is hungry if it’s combined with one of the actions above. Try to identify hunger cues before your baby starts crying.

It’s normal for babies to eat anywhere from 8 to 12 times in a 24-hour period. Some babies eat in clusters for the first several weeks. Later on, they’ll find a better rhythm and feedings will be more spaced out.

When your baby’s full, they will turn away from you, close their mouth, and become interested in doing other things. Often, they might simply fall asleep. It’s important not to force your baby to eat more—your baby will let you know when it’s time for another feeding.

How to tell if your baby is getting enough milk

You might wonder if you’re feeding your baby enough. Looking for signs of milk transfer will let you know your baby is actively drinking. You can tell if your baby is getting milk while they are breastfeeding if:

  • Their eyes are open.
  • You hear swallows.
  • You can see long drawing sucks.

You can tell by your baby’s weight if they are getting enough milk. Babies who get enough to eat gain weight. It’s normal for babies to lose a bit of weight in the first few days, but they should gain 5 to 7 ounces every week thereafter. This usually happens until they’re about 3 months old.

The number of wet diapers your baby produces each day is another clue about whether they’re getting enough nutrition. For example, a baby who is 3 days old should produce about 3 wet diapers and 3 dirty diapers.

What is cluster feeding?

Your baby may go through periods when they want many short feeds in the course of a few hours, usually in the afternoon or early evening. This is called cluster feeding. It most often happens during the early days of breastfeeding and is totally normal.

Cluster feeding can be exhausting, but there are ways to make it easier. Try the following:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and evening.
  • Eat healthy foods and don’t skip any meals.
  • Get as much rest as you can earlier in the day.
  • Relax and let your baby tell you what they need, when they need it.
  • Don’t hesitate to lean on your partner and other family members for support.

Tips for increasing your milk supply

The more time you spend breastfeeding, the more milk your body will produce.

If you’re concerned about low milk supply, you can try to boost your milk levels by:

  • Feeding your baby as soon as you notice they’re hungry.
  • Getting skin-to-skin contact with your baby as often as you can.
  • Sleeping in the same room as your baby.

Other steps to avoid low milk supply include:

  • Not feeding on a set schedule.
  • Limiting bottles and pacifiers until your milk supply is established.

Contacting your clinician

Breastfeeding/chestfeeding can be tricky, and it can take time to get the hang of it. Be sure to contact your clinician if you’re having trouble. Also call them if you’re concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat.

This article has been created by a national group of Kaiser Permanente ob-gyns, certified nurse-midwives, pediatricians, lactation consultants and other specialists who came together to provide you with the best pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn information.

Some of the content is used and adapted with permission of The Permanente Medical Group.