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Breastfeeding basics

posted Mar 26, 2015, 4:45 AM by Melissa Bugeja

Breastfeeding can seem daunting to some women.  One of the main reasons is that we are afraid of what we can not see.  How do you know that your infant is nursing well? Is he crying due to hunger or sickness?

Hereunder I am introducing you to ways of recognising these general concerns:

Feeding Cues

There are various ways to know when your infant is hungry.  Crying is a desperate hunger cue.  Instead look out for the earlier hunger cues.

·         Rooting
·         Wriggling
·         Sucking on fingers or anything that comes near the mouth
·         Fussing/Restless

Signs of good milk transfer

Because you can not see what baby is drinking, many of us tend to worry that our baby is not drinking enough.  This is especially true in the first few days of life when baby needs to drink very often.  If your baby is showing the hereunder signs, that is a great indication of good milk transfer:

·         Baby is alert when not sleeping, shows feeding cues, appears satiated

·         Baby is producing the expected urine and bowel movements

·         Signs of let down observed

·         Baby’s skin when gently pinched returns to normal when released – doesn’t tent

Expected Urine Output

One way to know that your baby is drinking enough is by noting the urine output as mentioned above.  It is recognised that for each day of life your baby should have a minimum of one wet nappy.  In other words this means, that the minimum number of wet nappies should be as follows:

1 day old = 1 nappy

2 days old = 2 nappies

3 days old = 3 nappies

4 days old = 4 nappies

5 days old = 5 nappies

6 days old and beyond = 6 nappies

On the other hand, bowel movements are less predictable.  However, the colour of the bowel movement should change accordingly:

First few days after birth – sticky & blackish called meconium

It than changes slowly to a green and then more yellowish colour, until the baby starts producing “mature” bowel movements.

Growth Spurts

Babies go through certain phases where they go through growth spurts.  Growth spurts are phases where your baby seems never to be satisfied and is all the time hungry due to physical and/or developmental advancement.  This is normal and you should not worry that you do not have enough milk.  Growth spurts normally last between 2-3 days.  Average ages that babies go through a growth spurt are:


·         During the first few days at home

·         Around 7 -10 days old

·         Around 2-3 weeks old

·         Around 4-6 weeks old

·         Around 3 months old

·         Around 4 months old

·         Around 6 months old

·         Around 9 months old

Signs of sickness

A baby can't tell you it is feeling sick.  If you are experiencing any of the following, it is best to check your baby with a pediatrician or family doctor.

·         Have a temperature (more than 37 degrees Celsius)

·         Is in distress – crying a lot for no apparent reason, won’t comfort at the breast.

·         Is in pain – signs of distress as well as arching back or drawing feet to abdomen, crying that is different than the norm (different pitch), withdrawing (being still, avoiding eye contact)


Signs of dehydration

Dehydration is very serious in babies as it can mean the life or death of said infant.  Signs of dehydration would be:

·         Reduced urine output

·         Listlessness or lethargy

·         Clammy skin

·         Paleness

·         Decreased tears

·         Sunken looking eyes

·         Dry lips and mouth interior

·         Fever

·         Increased pulse rate

References: Jan Riordan Breastfeeding and the Human Lactation

                    Martha Sears R.N & William Sears M.D The Breastfeeding book

                    Dr Jack Newman Is my baby getting enough milk