Newborns should be breastfed when they seem to be hungry. In fact, the child shows the need to eat with very specific signals: starts to become agitated or appears more active than usual with frequent openings of the mouth, makes sucking movements and sounds.
CAUTION: crying is a late sign of hunger.
The child should be free to latch to the breast whenever he/she wants, even several times a day; this feeding system is called “on demand”: the child naturally stimulates the adequate production of maternal milk to meet its nutritional needs. The breastfed baby is able to take the quantities of milk to meet its needs: therefore, when it is not hungry, it does not suck milk.
The quality of milk also depends on its removal from the breast, which must be frequent and complete.
During the early days, feedings are shorter, since the milk is produced in smaller quantities. With the passing of days, the milk production increases and the feedings stabilize. Most newborns need to 8-12 feedings a day, which is equivalent to one meal every 2-3 hours, since breast milk is easily digested within 60-90 minutes from the end of the feed.
After the first weeks of breastfeeding, it is normal for breasts to be softer, because milk production is adjusting to the baby’s requests. A few months later, the breast will return to its previous pre-pregnancy size, not excluding the presence of milk that will continue to be secreted until the baby is breastfed.
CAUTION: Milk leakage is not related to the quantity of milk produced
How to assess whether the meal is sufficient?
In order to understand if the baby has eaten enough, it is not necessary to weigh it before and after eating; the classic “double weighing” can only cause anxiety in the mother, as well as not being entirely trustworthy. The only things to consider are how the baby sucks and swallows, leaving it latched on the breast until it appears satisfied. In fact, once full, the baby will fall asleep after feeding, and appear calm and peaceful. If the child takes a sufficient quantity of milk, it can also be seen from the number of wet diapers, which may vary, starting from the fourth day of life, from 5 to 7 diapers per day.
It can also be helpful to monitor bowel movements, a newborn evacuates liquid and yellowish stools several times a day or even a larger quantity just once in 24-48 hours. However, if the baby is growing well, it means that it is getting enough milk. It is important to know that children have “growth spurts”, suddenly they seems insatiable, very needy, whiny, and want to nurse much more often. Typically, this happens for about ten days at around two months; more frequent feedings for a few days, will allow things to return to normal.
CAUTION: DO NOT give other liquids to the baby, because breast milk is already rich and full of liquid (87%), sugars and proteins.