Many parents worry about the growth of their newborn baby and particularly about weight gain, so much so that it can make some women give up breastfeeding because they fear they aren’t producing enough milk.
In this age of social media new mothers are prey to posts that cause immense worry.
“My baby breastfeeds more often than my friend’s formula-fed baby. Should I change?” “My baby feeds for only 5-10 minutes. Is that enough?”
Slow weight gain in babies is usually down to not drinking in enough milk.
This is unlikely to be due to a woman’s poor milk supply and much more likely to be about the baby not latching on, often resulting in sore nipples. If this is the cause a mother should discuss her concerns with her midwife and health visitor to get help and advice.
I find the concept of a “fourth trimester” deeply attractive with the emphasis on the closeness of mother and baby while they establish responsive feeding.
Time spent skin to skin helps start and maintain breastfeeding and is good for the baby’s heart and lungs. In the early weeks, mums should seek family and wider support so they can rest, stay hydrated, and be helped in decision-making.
The truth is most babies lose weight in the first week but most return to their birthweight by the end of two weeks. However, a minority take more than three weeks to regain that weight.
When you see your midwife or health visitor be sure to talk through how often your baby feeds, breast engorgement then softening during feeding, baby’s sucking and swallowing during feeds, and wet and dirty nappies.
Do remember that breastfed infants feed frequently in the first weeks of life, with at least eight and often 12 or more feeds in 24 hours. So see frequent wet and dirty nappies as reassuring about how much milk your baby is taking.
Responsive feeding (offering breast feeds in response to infant cues, rather than to a fixed schedule) helps maintain and increase milk supply in response to demand.
Baby cues to look out for are smacking or licking lips, opening and closing the mouth, sucking, rooting, fidgeting, moving the head from side to side, and finally crying.
Do tell your carers about any pain you have during feeding and get them to show you proper latching on. If your nipple pain lasts longer than the first 10-15 seconds of feeding then your baby may be poorly latched on.
Poor latching can prevent a baby getting enough milk with each feed.