One of the most common questions about breastfeeding is, “How do I know if my baby is getting enough to eat?”
First, let’s look at what your baby’s needs are. In the womb, babies never feel hungry. The get all the nutrition they need from you. A newborn’s stomach can hold about 5-10ml and does not stretch. Anything more than this will come right back up. During pregnancy, your body started producing colostrum, and this is all your newborn really needs right now. Since they can only take so little, babies need to eat often, which can make it seem like they are not getting enough. Every few days, your baby’s stomach expands to hold a little more and it will seem like they are always hungry! These frequent feedings are how your baby transitions from being constantly nourished in the womb to life in the outside world. They are also helping build your milk supply. Hang in there if you can, it does get easier!
So how can you be sure that your baby’s nutritional needs really are being met? A hungry baby will give you feeding cues such as fussing, rooting, or putting his hand to his mouth. Feeding your baby when you notice these cues and before he becomes distressed and crying, will make it easier to get a good latch and much less stressful for you and your baby. After the first week, your baby should be feeding 8 or more times per day with 10 minutes or more of active suckling. It is also helpful to keep track of how many diapers you are changing a day. In the first week of life, the number of wet and dirty diapers will slowly increase. You can expect about one more wet diaper for each day of life for the first week. Very absorbent diapers can make it hard to tell how many times your baby has actually urinated though. Your baby’s stools are much easier to keep track of. After the first week, your baby should be having 3-4 or more stools about the size of a quarter. These are all good indicators that your baby is getting what he needs, but the most important thing is that your baby is gaining weight. It is normal for a baby to lose a small amount of weight in the first few days of life, reaching their lowest weight on day 3 or 4. The average weight gain for an exclusively breastfed baby is around 7-8 oz each week. Follow your pediatrician’s recommendations for when to bring in your newborn to check for weight gain and other developmental milestones.
If your baby is not gaining weight as he should, you can contact a lactation specialist to help find solutions for breastfeeding problems, or you can consider supplementing with formula. The most important thing is that your baby is fed, and that you do what feels right for you and your family.
This blog is just a quick summary. For more detailed information, I recommend the book, “Breastfeeding Made Simple” by Nancy Mohrbacher. You can also get more guidance from a lactation consultant, or contact Hava Doula to set up postpartum care.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. It seemed so simple and natural. I never even considered that there was anything complicated about it. When it came time to feed my sweet baby girl for the first time, I brought her to my breast expecting that we would both just know what to do. Boy was I wrong! She couldn’t latch, and I had no idea how to help her. The nurse came in and grabbed my boob, squished it and kind of shoved my daughters mouth onto it. I was mortified! At least she was nursing, but it felt awkward and strange, and not at all like I thought it would. When I got home, I struggled to get a good latch, and the only example I had was what the nurse had “shown” me.
Unfortunately, this is the experience many women have. They are told that “breast is best”, they get a very basic intro to a proper latch and then are left on their own to struggle. They deal with sore nipples, a fussy baby, and worry that their baby isn’t getting enough milk. Often, women will feel guilty when breastfeeding doesn’t work out, and they decide to give their baby a bottle. They may even have friends and loved ones that contribute to this guilt, by insisting that breastfeeding is better for the baby.
It shouldn’t be like that. First, whether a woman chooses to breastfeed or bottle feed, she should be supported in doing what she feels is best for her child. No one else can make that decision for her. Second, if she does chose to breastfeed, she should have the proper support and education. Labor and delivery nurses are amazing people, but they don’t always have much training in breastfeeding support. The help of a lactation consultant or even a postpartum doula, can make the difference for so many women. There are a variety of ways to get a proper latch, and what works for one mother and child may not work for another.
Sometimes getting a good latch is just a matter of changing positions. Most women start out using the cradle hold, because this is the one we see most often in pictures or on TV. The baby’s head is supported in the bend of the mother’s arm on the same side as the breast they are nursing from. The mother uses her other hand to guide her breast into the baby’s mouth. This is a comfortable and effective hold, but usually works better after breastfeeding has already been established. Some positions that may be better for beginners are:
The cross-cradle hold: This is a variation where the baby’s head is supported across the mother’s body with the opposite hand from the breast they are nursing from. The mother uses the hand on the same side to guide her breast to the baby’s mouth. This hold gives the mother more control of her baby’s head, and makes it easier to guide the baby into a proper latch.
Laid back: The mother is in a semi reclined position with the baby tummy down on her chest. This position allows the baby’s weight to be supported by the mother’s body. The mother can use one hand to support the baby and the other to guide her breast into the baby’s mouth. The baby can be straight up and down, across, or diagonal across the mother’s body.
Football hold: In this position, the mother has the baby against the side of her body and supported by the arm on that side, with the baby’s head in her hand. The baby’s head is then lined up with the breast on the same side while the mother guides the breast to the baby’s mouth with the opposite hand.
I have heard it time and again; “I want to hire you, but I have to talk my husband into it”. Here’s a few answers to some of the misconceptions that make men hesitant to hire a doula.
“I want to be the one to support my wife.”
Just because the doula is there for support, doesn’t mean you won’t have a role in the birth of your child. The doula has knowledge of comfort techniques to help reduce the pain of childbirth. She is an expert at using these techniques, but she can teach you to use them as well. She can show you how to find the correct hand position, and how to follow your wife’s cues for how much pressure and when to start and stop. Some women benefit from a couple of different pressure points being used at once, and you need a team to do that. Sometimes though, a woman just feels like her doula is better at a hip squeeze. Don’t despair dads! She still needs you there. You can encourage her and coach her breathing, you can make sure she is drinking enough water, or you can just hold her hand and stroke her hair. Your presence and support is extremely important no matter how it is given.
“It’s a lot of money for something I can do myself.”
True, a doula is a big investment, but the service she offers is priceless. Your wife will need a lot of support during labor and delivery. Even if this isn’t her first child, every birth is different and experience doesn’t make it that much easier. A doula is an expert in supporting women in birth. They are trained and knowledgeable while also being objective and not emotionally involved. Seeing your wife enduring the pain and effort of birth can be very stressful, and without training it can be overwhelming at times. Another thing to remember is, you can’t be in two places at once. Birth can last for several hours, and during that time, you are inevitably going to need to use the restroom, get something to eat or drink, or make phone calls to family members. It is a lot to take on alone, and you will find that having an extra set of hands, expert advice, and constant backup is worth every penny.
“I don’t really think we are going to need that much help.”
Birth is hard, very hard. It has been compared to running a marathon or climbing Mt. Everest. Not only does it involve pain and tremendous physical effort, but it can be emotionally taxing as well. You might think that is all just for the woman giving birth, but it goes for her support people as well. It is kind of a given that the mom is going to need support, but the partner’s need support too. You don’t always understand what is happening, sometimes what you thought would help doesn’t, and sometimes it all affects you more than you thought it would. If this isn’t your first child, you may think that you know exactly what to expect, but that’s not always true. Every birth is different, because there are so many factors and variables. A doula has been trained to deal with a variety of scenarios, and how to support you and the mother through them. Wouldn’t it be better to have more help than you need, than not have it when you do need it?
When you hire a doula, you can be sure that you are getting the best support possible for both you and your partner. Doulas aren’t just for moms guys, dad’s love them too! If you are still on the fence, schedule a complimentary consult today. You might just be surprised on how much you want a doula too!
We’ve all seen the newborn diaper and formula commercials that show a beautiful mother who looks well rested, and has her long wavy hair pulled back in a pony tail, rocking her sleeping or smiling baby in a perfectly decorated and tidy nursery, while smiling and singing a lullaby.
Yeah, real life mostly isn’t like that.
Lets face it, adjusting to life with a new baby isn’t easy, and it often isn’t pretty. Your body is sore and feels different than it did 9 months ago. You are most likely exhausted, and haven’t had a proper shower in a couple days. Meals have become whatever is easy, or if you are lucky, casseroles brought by thoughtful friends. That sweet little newborn cries a lot, and sometimes you are at a loss on how to comfort him. Keeping the house clean and the laundry done have been put on the back burner, while you try to figure out a feeding schedule and how to fit in a nap. Then of course there are the visitors, who want to see and hold your precious new person. They sometimes come bearing gifts, not to mention noise, interruptions, and unwanted advice. They would be happy to hold the baby for you while you clean up or make dinner, but what you really want is to rest and bond with your baby while someone else worries about the day to day details.
This is where a postpartum doula comes in. This trained, compassionate professional can help make your postpartum time look a little more like the commercials. She comes to you on your schedule, and her only agenda is to help you in whatever ways you need most. She can be that extra set of hands to prepare meals, throw in a load of laundry, tidy up the kitchen or living room, wash the bottles or breast pump, and help your home feel a little more normal. She can answer questions about your recovery, and if what you are feeling and experiencing are normal. She can help you feel more comfortable with breastfeeding or bottle feeding and will never question your choices. You can feel confident leaving your brand new baby in her care while you take a shower or get a good nap in, because you know she is skilled and will respect your wishes for your child’s care. She can also be that listening ear if you need to talk about your birth experience, or the struggles you are having with adjusting to life with a new baby, all the while she will validate your feelings and never judging. And don’t forget, not only is she there for you, but for your spouse or partner as well, because dads need support too!
If this sounds like the kind of support you are wishing for, contact Hava Doula today and book your postpartum doula!
~Amber VanderJagt – Owner, labor and postpartum doula
Ethan is my rainbow baby.
Some won’t understand what that means, and far too many will.
A rainbow baby is a baby born after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.
We lost our son, Logan, when he was 10 months old due to effects of a brain injury he suffered at birth. That’s the short story, and maybe I will tell the longer version in another blog someday. Today, I am going to focus on Ethan. His birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, and, as with all our kiddos, it brings back memories of the days and weeks leading up to his birth.
It had been not quite a year since Logan died, that we found out we were pregnant again. I had been wanting to have another baby for a while, but my husband wasn’t so crazy about the idea. The hurt was too deep. The fear still too fresh. He knew it was what I really wanted though, and so he reluctantly agreed. The feeling of having life growing inside me again, was like a beam of sunlight breaking through the heavy, oppressive clouds I had been living under.
Expecting a rainbow baby often comes with a whole storm of emotions.
Hope of a new little one who brings love, joy, and laughter.
Fear of something going wrong again.
Guilt for feeling happiness in grief or grief in the happiness.
It can also come with a lot of opinions or judgement from others.
“Why would you risk it with what happened before?”
“Aren’t you rushing into this? It hasn’t been that long.”
“How wonderful that you’re having another baby to replace the one you lost!”
That last one always bothered me the most. I was astounded, by how many people actually thought I was looking to replace my little Logan love. Like that would ever be possible.
My pregnancy with Ethan was rather complicated. I was on bed rest for 4 months and had to be hospitalized twice to stop labor. Even without these complications, it would have been stressful. I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened with Logan. I had to keep myself grounded in the present moment to keep anxiety at bay.
This baby was alive and I could feel him moving…wait. When did he move last? ————-
Whew! There’s a kick!
This baby would be born via cesarean so I didn’t have to worry about a cord prolapse again.
But what if…
Nope not gonna go there.
I counted off the days until it was safe for him to be born, but the worry didn’t stop there.
After he was born, I would check on him multiple times during the night to be sure he was still breathing. If he napped too long, I would panic and run to check on him. I couldn’t lay him on his quilt on the living room floor, because that was where Logan had stopped breathing. I don’t think I could really relax into a “normal” level of parental worry until his first birthday.
But no amount of fear or stress could dim the light he has been in our lives. He brought joy and laughter back into our home. That doesn’t mean he is perfect, or that he doesn’t drive me crazy at times. He fights with his brother and refuses to do school some days, just like any other kid.
Our storm was dark and vicious, and sometimes there is still thunder in the distance.
A rainbow doesn’t always mean the storm has ended, it is just a reminder that hope and beauty still exist.
Ethan is our rainbow.