As breastfeeding continues, there will be some changes that occur with the mom and baby that may seem confusing. If a mother understands what changes are normal, she can continue to enjoy breastfeeding with confidence.
There may be times when a mother’s milk supply seems to drop and her baby may not be satisfied. Don’t panic!
- The milk supply can go up or down to meet the demand made upon it. Frequent nursing or pumping can help make more milk.
- If the baby suddenly wants to eat more often than usual, then follow your baby’s lead and nurse.
- After the first few weeks, the breasts may seem empty and not feel full and heavy between feedings. They are never really empty because milk is made continuously during and between feedings. The baby will always be able to get some when he suckles which helps to build the milk supply.
- To make more milk, a mother will need to breastfeed or pump 8 to 10 times per day. A higher milk supply will usually result in 24 to 48 hours and the baby will go back to being satisfied for a longer period of time after a feeding.
There will also be appetite increases or growth spurts as a baby grows. These growth spurts mean the baby need more milk than he has been getting to meet his growing needs.
Babies will usually want to nurse more often around 7 to 14 days, 3 to 4 weeks, 6 to 8 weeks, 3 months, and 4 to 6 months. They may be fussier during this time because this how they get their mother to put them to the breasts more frequently. The baby’s frequent nursing is a message to the mother’s breast to make more milk. Remember:
- Giving bottles of formula will keep the breast from knowing that the baby needs more milk.
- If the baby continues to need to feed twice as often as usual for more than 3 days, call for breastfeeding help at the local health unit.
Changes in the Breasts
A woman’s breasts will go through changes as she continues to breastfeed:
- After delivery, the breasts are soft and contain colostrum.
- As the colostrum changes to mature milk, the breasts become full and heavy with milk and extra fluid.
- After 3 – 4 weeks, the breasts will soften and feel less full.
- Over time the breast may never feel full unless a mother misses a regular feeding.
Baby's Bowel Movement Pattern Changes
- At about 6 –8 weeks of age, a baby may begin to have fewer bowel movements - about 1 per day.
- Some babies may go several days without having a bowel movement. This is not a problem if the baby is gaining weight well, nursing as usual, his stools are soft and his behavior is normal.
Getting the Baby to Take a Bottle
Most babies will accept both the breast and the bottle without showing a preference. Though, it’s not possible to tell which babies will not have a preference until they refuse the bottle or the breast.
Breastfed babies should become experts at nursing before they are introduced a bottle. Stay-at-home moms may never need to give a bottle since occasional milk feedings by a care-giver can be given by medicine cup, spoon or dropper if the baby dislikes the bottle.
Working mothers and those with schedules that frequently separate them from their babies may find it easier to introduce the baby to a bottle around 3 to 4 weeks of age. These babies usually need to continue to receive at least one bottle a day to help them remain interested in accepting a bottle.
To encourage a reluctant baby to take the bottle:
- Allow someone other than the mother to give the bottle.
- Encourage the mother to leave the house (Babies can smell the odor of the milk several feet away).
- Try offering the bottle before the baby is likely to be too hungry. Offer small sips of expressed milk by spoon, cup or dropper to keep baby from being overly hungry while attempts are made to take the bottle.
- Wrap the baby in a piece of the mother’s worn clothing while offering the bottle.
- Tickle the baby’s lips or lay the bottle nipple near the baby’s mouth and allow him to pull it in himself.
- Try running warm water over the bottle nipple to bring it up to room temperature.
- Try different types of bottle nipples to find a shape, material (rubber or silicone), or a hole size the baby will accept.
- Try different feeding positions. Allow the baby to sit propped against the caregiver’s raised legs or turn baby with back against caregiver’s chest facing out.
- Try to feed the baby while moving rhythmically; rocking or swaying from side to side because this may be calming to the baby.
- Sit baby upright in car seat to offer the bottle.
- Insert the bottle nipple into the baby’s mouth when he’s sleeping.
Feedings Decrease in Number and Length
- As babies learn to nurse well, a feeding pattern will begin to form.
- With older babies (4 months and older), mothers can expect feedings to be farther apart and shorter in length.
- Older exclusively breastfed babies usually continue to nurse at least 6 times a day, but the nursing may be for periods as short as 5 minutes at a time.
Babies Becomes Easily Distracted While Feeding
At about 3 to 4 months of age, when babies have developed the ability to move their heads well, some babies will stop nursing to look around.
- If the distraction is because of noise or activity from an older sibling, try entertaining them with a special video - tape, a snack, or a game while the baby is nursing.
- It may be helpful to nurse in a darkened quiet room, without the television, radio, pets or telephone conversations that may be distracting.
- Until this period passes, many babies nurse best when they are drowsy – during the early morning, at nap - time, or before bedtime.
Getting Teeth Does Not Mean a Baby Must Wean
A baby cannot bite while actively breastfeeding because he would bite his own tongue. However, when a baby first gets teeth, he may bite when he is finished feeding. He is learning what it feels like to have teeth and does not mean to hurt his mother.
For many first-time biting babies, the mother’s startled reaction is enough to keep the baby from biting again. For the baby who bites again:
- Calmly remove the baby for the breast and put him in a safe place, such as a crib for a few minutes. The baby will quickly learn that biting does not bring good results and will stop.
- Remove the baby from the breast and look at him in the face. Firmly say no! Avoid laughing or smiling so that the baby understands that biting is not a fun thing.
- Watch for the end of a feeding. When the baby is losing interest in the feeding, break his suction and take him off the breast before he gets a chance to bite.
Sometimes a baby may refuse to nurse for several feedings. This may be caused by nasal congestion from a cold, teething, an ear infection, or thrush. It is not unusual for nursing strikes to happen around 9 months of age and last a day or two. Nursing mothers should:
- Pump during the nursing strike to avoid getting over-full.
- Stay available to the baby, but not force nursing.
- Do lots of cuddling and skin-to-skin contact with the baby.
- Avoid overfeeding the baby with solid foods by offering the breast before meal times.