Choosing to breastfeed means committing to the physiological process of lactation. Committing to lactate means stimulating your breasts by pumping or directly nursing at an interval of about every three hours around the clock for an equivalent of at least eight stimulations per 24 hours.
These eight stimulations (or more) most often coincide with when the baby needs to eat. Around here, we call this a Feeding Cycle.
If you are not breastfeeding by directly nursing, but rather by pumping to stimulate your breasts to protect your supply, you need these suggestions as well.
If your baby is taking expressed milk or formula in a bottle, there is a rhythm to their bottle feeding cycle. Perhaps the Breastfeeding Support Partner finds this Bottle Feeding cycle rhythm with the baby while the Lactating Parent finds a Pumping Cycle Rhythm.
In an effort to keep your bearings in this rapid cycling of 8 or more cycles per 24 hours, let yourself slow down and relax during and between cycles.
Keep it simple and doable at first. Keep it flexible, curious, and non critical.
There is no “right rhythm.”
Let’s call it a “Cycle Rhythm”
Before the Feeding
- Pee if you need to, do any peri-care, and check your medication schedule
- Get your stuff (or have a support person grab these!)
- Water bottle
- Get set up
- Your breastfeeding pillow and props pump
- Get the baby in good alignment and find a good grip on the baby.
- Stretch with a few chest openers
During the Feeding
- Note the start time
- Latch and adjust until the latch is comfortable (or as comfortable as possible for now)
- Relax in – drop your shoulders, stuff props wherever you need to support your hands, relax your head back
- See if you can get one hand free (ideally your boob hand)
- Ask yourself some questions:
- “How do I feel mentally and physically?”
- “What do I need most today?”
- “What do I want to do in the space between this feeding and the next?”
After the Feeding
- Burp the baby
- Nipple Care
- Reflect on the feeding and make some notes if needed
- Hand off baby to your partner if you’d like
- Snuggle with the baby if you’d like
Time Between for Self Care
You have a precious amount of time between feeding cycles. Take this time to ask yourself again, “what do I need most right now?” Then do that. Keep it simple. Your goal is to regenerate for the next feeding.
Minimum of 8 Feeding Cycles
- If a baby needs formula or expressed milk in addition to or in place of breastfeeding, the appropriate total feeding volume at each feeding in week two of life is 60-75 ml (2-2.5) every 2-3 hours.
- You should first express breastmilk, then add formula to equal the total volume needed.
- If back to birth weight, the baby and/or your breasts may take two 4-5 hour stretches per night.
- Keep in mind that if you take longer stretches at night, daytime feeds will need to tighten up so you can still get in a total of at least 8 feed/stim.
Minimum of 5 Pees and 3 Poops
- 5 pees or more. Pee should be heavy, light yellow and should not have a strong scent.
- 3 poops or more. Or more may mean “with every feeding.” Sharts are common and normal.
- Color: All hues of brownish greenish yellowish orange are fair game. Consistency ranges from paste-y to liquidy. You might see some mucus in there.
- Poop that is not normal: bloody, black, or white.
- In the second week of life, it is unlikely that the baby will skip a day of pooping. While this may be normal in the upcoming weeks, if a baby isn’t pooping in the second week we need to make sure the baby is gaining weight appropriately and getting enough to eat. That said, missing a poop in the first week can be totally normal too.
- Nipple pain should be resolving by day 9. If it isn’t, you should be working with an IBCLC.
- Baby should be gaining about 0.75-1 oz per day, trending back toward birth weight.
By Day 14
- Nipple pain should be continuing to resolve and approaching comfortable.
- From now to 16 weeks old, the baby should be gaining about 0.75-1 oz per day, or 5-7 oz per week.