Q: Our first baby is now 2 weeks old, and she was born a month early. She latches on well and feeds every 2 to 3 hours. We are having problems with her feeding times. She will nurse anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes total per feeding, then she’s off to sleep again. She has plenty of dirty and wet diapers a day (5 stools, 8 urines average). Is everything alright? Are we doing this breastfeeding correctly? Do we need to take her to the doctor? She gained 6 ounces in a four day period. Will she ever start eating more during the day versus the night? It seems like her clock is backwards from ours.
A: First, your baby and her mom are lucky to have a dad so involved! Second, yes, it does sound like things are pretty normal as far as the breastfeeding goes. That doesn’t necessarily make the nights any easier, but at least you aren’t alone!
What about your baby and her feeding habits/schedule are normal?
- Eating every 2 to 3 hours. Breast milk is so easily and completely digested, babies are ready to eat again that quickly. Your baby’s stomach is only the size of a walnut so it doesn’t take much to fill it. It will grow, though!
Aim for 8-12 feedings every 24 hours – they don’t have to be evenly spaced. You may find that she’ll eat more often during the afternoon and then have one longer stretch at night (hopefully!).
- The diaper count. What comes out the other end is a good indication of what has gone in! Look for 6 to 8 wet diapers and 2 to 5 or more stools per 24 hours. The wet diapers indicate she’s getting enough fluid; the stools indicate she’s getting enough calories.
- Her weight gain. Breastfed babies usually gain from 4 to 7 ounces a week, so if she’s gained 6 ounces in 4 days, she’s been eating!
- Eat-sleep-eat-sleep. If your baby was a month premature, imagine what she would be doing right now if she were still inside Mom’s womb. She’d be eating continuous small meals and sleeping in between, with a few “calesthenics” in between. And most likely, her main sleep time would be during the day when Mom is moving around and gently rocking her. Mom climbs in bed at night and the rocking stops, so baby figures it’s party time. (yawn)
This will change as she gets used to life on the outside. You can help by keeping nighttime feedings as low key as possible. Many new moms and dads find that keeping Baby in bed with them or in a bassinet right next to their bed works well. This way, Mom can easily nurse at night when Baby first stirs and everybody goes back to sleep more quickly. A nightlight is probably plenty of light, and unless she soils or really soaks her diaper, a diaper change isn’t necessary in the middle of the night. Keep voices low and boring.
During the daytime, don’t worry too much about tiptoeing around when she’s asleep. Let her get used to the typical daytime noises. Try feeding her more often during the daytime – any time she acts like she might be willing to latch on, try it. Watch her when she sleeps in the daytime and when she starts sucking or putting her hands to her face or her eyes are moving under her eyelids, she’s in a lighter sleep stage and would probably latch on pretty well. By pushing feedings during the day, you may end up with a longer stretch (4 to 5 hours) at night.
Remember this stage is relatively short lived. Her stomach will grow, and she’ll get used to daytime being more exciting and nighttime being for sleeping. If, however, you ever feel that something isn’t quite right, then by all means contact your doctor or other health professional. Trust those instincts!
Enjoy your new daughter!
By Melissa Clark Vickers
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Moms & Babies Huntingdon, Tenn.