You must be thinking, “Why do I need to manage a breastfeed?” The answer: To make sure your baby is full.
My spiel to new mothers goes like this:
“A full baby will sleep well and a baby who has slept well will feed well!“
You see, if you manage a breastfeed, your baby will fill up in a short period of time and then sleep well.
So managing a feed ties in to the number one reason mother’s call me. Which is ‘sleep and settling issues’! And the solution…….Manage the Breastfeed!
So how do you manage a breastfeed?
You manage a breastfeed by filling up your baby in a reasonable amount of time. Within about an hour for a baby under 6 weeks.
If you do this, then you can REST assured (pun intended 🙂 ) that your baby is getting the most sleep he/she can!
Managing a breastfeed WILL help your baby sleep. But the great thing is there are more benefits to managing a breastfeed:
- It creates structure while you’re learning breastfeeding – Structure creates confidence. You will feel confident in all your breastfeeds and know that bub is getting enough!
- It makes demand feeding easy – I don’t know about you but demand feeding is the ONLY advice new mothers get while in hospital! Through years of practice I find this is not enough information! Managing a breastfeed will take the GUESS work out of demand feeding.
- It prevents your baby from falling asleep at the breast – Managing a breastfeed will keep your baby alert while breastfeeding. Falling asleep at the breast means feed time will drag on and on!
So let’s learn how to manage a breastfeed from day 1. Onto the STEPS (I love a good plan)!
Just before the first step a quick rule:
Try and finish the whole plan in about an hour. This is how long your baby (under 6 weeks) can stay awake for before they become really tired and need to go back to bed.
If you have been having REALLY long feeds, well over an hour (don’t worry if you have, most mums do!) Then gradually shorten your feeds to an hour (over a day or so).
Step #1 Straight To The Breast!
As soon as your baby wakes go to the breast, no mucking around or doing ANYTHING else. Just plonk yourself down on the couch and feed!
This step is basically the definition of demand feeding. Your baby cries and you answer!
Don’t delay the start of a feed as this can make your baby tired before they even start!
So what do I mean by delaying a feed……….good question! Delaying a feed is doing ANYTHING else before a breastfeed. This means, nappy, bathing, playing or holding off for any amount of time because you ‘think’ your baby is not DUE a feed.
All these seemingly small issues for a baby under 6 weeks will potentially waste precious energy that they need for feeding.
So when you hear your baby cry, answer them and start the feed! Your baby will reward you by having a great feed!
Up next is watching your baby at the breast. This will let you know how well your baby is drinking your milk!
Before you head to Step #2, head over to my latching blog, 7 Steps to Latching Success, is you need a hand with getting your baby on.
#2 Watch Your Baby
Watching your baby breastfeed means you can assess their suck (don’t worry I’II talk you through it!) This will give you information on how well your baby is taking your milk.
Time to pay attention to them. What is your baby doing?
- Is your baby’s sucking pattern deep and rhythmical?
- Is your baby’s jaw opening wide? (You’ll know it is when you see movement at their temple)
Those two points are the signs of a good, strong suck which has the ability to extract the milk out of the breast.
But if the sucking changes to little flutter sucks or nibbling, or if your baby actually falls asleep, it’s time for a break.
You see, sucking at the breast is so tiring that your baby can only do it for up to about 20 minutes at a time. (That’s why babies fall asleep at the breast so much – they’re completely exhausted!)
Once the action slows down, the sucking becomes ineffective and doesn’t have enough “drawing power” to extract milk from the breast.
When that happens, your baby may come off by themselves. Or you can do these two tricks:
- Cuddle them into you and see if the nibbles turn back into bigger sucks.
- Squeeze your breast to try and turn nibbles into bigger sucks. Watch my video on this, its called, breast compression.
Eventually your baby will come off or you will take them off. Most of the time this will be under 20minutes. Anything longer than this is mostly ineffective sucking for a baby under 6 weeks.
The feed is not done. This is just first course, on to the next step and Daddy time!
#3 Nappy and Burp Time
While your baby is having a break from sucking, you should take a break too! Get up, stretch, grab a drink or something to eat. Now is the perfect time.
Meanwhile, daddy can handle the burping and changing the nappy. (Or you both can just cuddle with your baby and marvel at your creation!)
Now, remember that I said that your baby can only suck at the breast for about 20 minutes before their jaw muscles tire out? So the fact that your baby stops sucking doesn’t mean they’re full.
It usually just means they need a break.
Most babies (especially under six weeks old) need several courses in one session before they are truly full 🙂
They just need to rest in between them for a few minutes. And that rest is what nappy time provides them with! (In addition to a clean diaper)
And now that the nappy has been changed, start looking again for feeding cues:
- Sucking of the hand
- Poking the tongue out
Any one of those three at this stage is a sign it’s probably time for another course! (It may only be a few minutes or less before they are ready to breastfeed again!)
#4 Back To The Breast
Switch sides, and follow the steps above.
This side may last up to 15 minutes (but again, don’t watch the clock – watch your baby).
As a side note, many parents worry whether their baby is “getting enough” or not. My blog post Is My Baby Getting Enough? will help you answer that question!
#5: Getting Sleepy
After this your baby may fall asleep at the breast. This is ok. And in fact, it’s rather nice for both of you!
When the baby is getting sleepy, most parents naturally feel they should either cuddle for a while, or put the baby in their cot.
But wait! There’s one more thing to do first!
#6: One More Chance (The Key!)
By doing just one more thing, you can drastically increase the chances of your baby having a very good sleep.
Are you ready for it?
Here it is.
As you wrap your baby and pat them off to sleep (while still on your chest)
Give them one more chance.
Look again for any feeding cues. Is there any chance your baby is still hungry?
If they start crying or are looking for more – try the breast again.
Remember, it’s hard to tell if your baby is full or just needs a short break from all the sucking. And just this act of paying attention now and offering more (if they show any signs of interest) can make a world of a difference.
Because this time… they will go to sleep full. And they’ll sleep better. And everything will start getting easier!
#7: Sweet Bliss
If your baby has a go, it will be very short. Possibly 5 minutes or less.
Then they will most likely fall asleep on the breast on their own. (If your baby does not want another go, that is fine. Then it’s time for bed.)
Nearly all babies will cry a little when you settle as you have moved them from their favourite spot (the breast!).
That’s OK. Just keep patting and your baby will go to sleep. You will notice the cries and protests will calm quickly, and you can then put your baby to bed.
What To Do If Your Baby Does Not Go To Sleep?
This is a great question! And it does happen generally once in a 24 hour period.
If your baby won’t settle and seems to be having a long feeding and crying session (around 2 – 4 hours) they may be entering what I call “a cluster feed”
The reason your baby cluster feeds is they just hit a point where it’s all too much! Just like us really! So having a long feeding and crying session is NORMAL!
A cluster feed means the hour breastfeed time goes out the window. You will be feeding for a few hours. To read more on cluster feeds plus get some strategies head over to my blog A Calm Settled Baby In 72 hours.
Remember, almost every baby goes through a cluster feed at least once every 24 hours. So when this happens, do not despair! Just keep following the seven steps and your baby will settle down.
These cluster feeds usually happen in the middle of the night for the first week or two, then settle into the late afternoon afterwards.
A FEW TIPS
- TIP 1: Keep an eye on your baby’s poo and wee – here’s what you’re looking out for
- TIP 2: DON’T try to make your baby sleep longer at night by keeping them up during the day. It doesn’t work!
- TIP 3: DO try and stick to the hour so you can become aware of your baby’s cluster feed times.
- TIP 4: For more tips, check out Help!!! My Baby Is An Overtired Angry Monster!
- TIP 5: This is a GUIDE. As you get to know your baby, you might find you have a different structure that suits you better! And if you do, please leave a comment below and tell us about it! That way we can all learn from you!
Once you have mastered this plan, write down how you feel (check out my blogpost Mother’s Mindset to find out why. It will literally blow your MIND!). Also note how your baby is feeling, what the poo and wee is up to, and weigh your baby. For more on weight see my blog on Weight Gain And Weight Loss.
Something Isn’t Working? I’m Here For You!
This plan is a starting point. It’s the first step to getting your baby feeding and sleeping the best they can. For some babies – these seven steps are all you need. BUT if you are still having problems, then it’s best to delve a little further.
Give me a call or text me at 0414 403 208 and we can have a chat. Figure out what is happening – and what to do about it. More often than not it only takes a few little changes and tweaks to bring calmness, happiness and sanity back.
It’s just sometimes hard to figure out all on your own. Especially if this is your first child.
And there’s no reason to do it on your own. Text or call me now, and we’ll work it out together!