A baby should feed every 3 to 4 hours. A baby feeds as little or as often as it needs to feed. There’s no manual for a baby to skim in the womb that tells him or her how often to want to suckle, a baby comes out with a biological imperative to get what it needs to thrive, and your baby will tell you what he or she needs and when.
Frequent feeding means low milk supply. Frequent feeding, or cluster feeding as it’s often described when it’s in the evening and seemingly endless, is totally normal. If you are worried, you should contact your healthcare provider, of course, but generally frequent feeding particularly in the early to late evening is expected behaviour of a young baby. There was a point in my daughter’s babyhood when awake = feeding, all the time. Yes, I worried, but seeing it out taught me that it was normal behaviour for her, it was what she needed to grow.
Fussiness means low milk supply. Often new babies (and not so new ones) get fussy in the evening. They want to feed a lot, or they come off the breast and cry and don’t seem to know what they want. This can be super-frustrating for parents, but it can be totally bog standard behaviour for babies. Both of my babies were fussy, and after Infacol, dummy, swaddling etc, when the fussiness didn’t abate, and time passed, I realised it was probably just part of their little growing journey. If you are worried, however, a call to your health visitor will let you access different avenues of advice.
If your breasts feel empty, it means you’re out of milk. I still love that feeling when I haven’t fed for a few hours and my breasts feel full and heavy. I just love it. But I used to feel like when my breasts felt empty, both of them empty, my baby must be going hungry. Not so. Young babies don’t just feed for hunger, they also cleverly feed to stimulate milk production to let your body know how much they will need to grow.
It’s worth bearing in mind that in some circumstances…
Tongue-tie could be the reason that feeding is uncomfortable. Not all health visitors may check for tongue-tie (or lip-tie) but this can sometimes be a reason why feeding could be uncomfortable, or if baby doesn’t seem to be sucking effectively. If you are worried, talk to your health visitor or GP.
But sometimes feeding is uncomfortable to start with, that can be okay too. Check if you are worried, but it might all just be okay.
These tidbits of info helped me to traverse the many ravines of early breastfeeding, and realise that a lot of the drama I put into my breastfeeding journey was due to how little I knew about the whole process. I’d really never seen (or never remember seeing) anyone breastfeed before I saw myself do it, so it was a bit of a task for me to know what was normal, to filter through the hand-me-down ‘helpful hints’ and trust my body, and my baby.
If you liked this blog, please check out others in the series: