Breastfeeding Tips: The First 6 Weeks

15 Tips To Get You Through The First 6 Weeks Of Breastfeeding
The first 6 weeks of breastfeeding are so important. LWA/Getty Images

The First 6 Weeks Of Breastfeeding

The first 6 weeks are a critical time for breastfeeding. Most of the common problems of breastfeeding, such as sore nipples, breast engorgement, and concern over a low breast milk supply, occur during this stage. If you're going to give up on nursing, it usually happens within the first 6 weeks or so.  Making it through these early weeks and establishing a healthy supply of breast milk is so important.

These first few weeks are the time when you may need the most help, especially if you are a first-time mom. Here are 15 tips to help get you through.

15 Tips For Breastfeeding During The First 6 Weeks

  1. Breast milk (and/or formula if you are combining breastfeeding with formula feeding) is the only type of food that your baby needs at this age. You should not give your baby any other kind of foods or drinks, such as baby cereal, pureed baby food, finger foods, water or juice, until your baby's doctor instructs you to do so when your child is approximately 4 to 6 months old.
     
  2. Breastfeed your baby on demand, whenever he shows signs of hunger. Your newborn will need to nurse at least 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period. That's about every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day and night.
     
  3. Your baby may sleep for one longer stretch of time – perhaps 4 to 6 hours - during a 24 hour period. Hopefully, that stretch will fall during the overnight hours. However, at this age, one longer period of sleep each day is all you should allow. The rest of the day and night, your baby should breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours.
     
  1. When you breastfeed your child, a little bit of nipple tenderness is normal. But, if your nipples are constantly sore, cracked, or bleeding, then something is not right. A poor latch is the main reason for nipple soreness during the first few weeks.
     
  2. Breast engorgement is common in the first few weeks as your milk supply adjusts. During this time, it may be more difficult for your baby to latch on to your hard, swollen breasts. Breast engorgement can also cause breast pain. Try to pump or express a little breast milk before you nurse your baby. Removing a little breast milk will help to relieve some of the pressure and discomfort, and it will also soften your breasts to make it easier for your baby to latch on.
     
  1. By 2 weeks of age, your baby should be at or above her birth weight, and she should now gain approximately 1 pound each month. You should be seeing your child's health care provider at regular intervals to be sure that your baby is gaining weight and growing at a healthy pace. If your child is gaining weight slowly or losing weight, you may not be breastfeeding enough, or there could be an issue with your milk supply.
     
  2. If you are concerned about your supply of breast milk, look for the signs that your baby is getting enough breast milk.
     
  3. Your baby should be having at least 6 to 8 wet (urine) diapers each day.
     
  4. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your baby's poop will appear yellow, loose, and seedy. Your baby could have a bowel movement with every diaper change, or possibly one bowel movement every few days. If you are breastfeeding and formula feeding, your baby may have darker tan or brown colored stool.
     
  5. Breastfeeding will become easier and more routine within 4 to 6 weeks. By this point, you will have had time to establish your breast milk supply, and breastfeeding should be going well.
     
  1. If possible, hold off on giving your baby formula or introducing a bottle until your baby is 4 to 6 weeks old when breastfeeding is more routine and going well.
     
  2. Growth spurts are common during the first few weeks. They can happen at any time, but they are more common at approximately 10 days after birth, between 2 and 3 weeks of age, and at about 6 weeks.
     
  3. During a growth spurt your baby may show constant signs of hunger and may seem irritable. Breastfeed your baby as much as possible during these periods of growth. After a few days, the amount of breast milk that you're making should go up in response to your baby's increased appetite and your baby should settle back down into his or her regular breastfeeding routine.
     
  4. As long as your baby does not have any problem latching on to your breast, and you do not have any issues with your breast milk supply, it is OK to use a pacifier.
     
  5. The first few weeks can be exhausting. To fight off postpartum fatigue and keep your energy levels up, try to eat a well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids, and get enough rest.

If you are one of the many women who struggle during the first few weeks, hang in there and get help. If you can make it through this early stage, breastfeeding usually becomes a much easier and enjoyable experience.

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2010.

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