In the first 6-8 weeks after birth, it is extremely common for it to feel like all you’re doing is nursing your baby. You may wonder if you are nursing too frequently, but really there is no such thing. Nursing anywhere from 8-12 times per day is normal, and at these beginning stages, you’ll probably need to nurse that often anyway to relieve engorgement and prevent clogged ducts or mastitis.
We’ll explore why frequent nursing is normal and natural for your baby, some medical issues that can contribute to frequent nursing, and ways to make sure you and your infant both get the most out of the breastfeeding experience.
- Why Does My Baby Want to Nurse So Often?
- Breastfeed Less by Maximizing Each Session
- Maintaining Your Milk Supply During Frequent Nursing
- When to See a Doctor About Frequent Nursing
- How to Make Frequent Nursing More Comfortable for You
- Don’t Struggle With Frequent Nursing Alone
- Make Frequent Nursing an Enjoyable Experience
Why Does My Baby Want to Nurse So Often?
Many babies find comfort in nursing since it brings them close to you, and it’s important to keep in mind that their tiny tummies can only hold a very small amount of milk. This means in order to stay full they need to nurse more often as they grow.
Most babies will start to slow down their feedings around 8-12 weeks old but it’s not a perfect science. The magic ‘schedule’ that many moms might daydream about — with regular naps, predictable feedings, and a set bedtime — is not likely until you’re out of the fourth trimester.
Until then, here are some tips and tools to help you cope with frequent nursing.
Breastfeed Less by Maximizing Each Session
When you feel like you’re nursing around the clock, it is helpful to ensure each feeding is maximized.
Keep Your Baby Awake While They Nurse
Newborns often get sleepy while nursing and they are comforted by being so close to mom. Even though having a sleeping baby in your arms may feel like a break, if they’re still latched, you’re still trapped and your baby isn’t having a productive feeding session!
Try different methods to keep the baby awake. Many moms find success with tickling little baby toes, or even gently blowing on the baby. When your baby is so snuggly and close to mom it also keeps them warm.
Some moms find that being so warm and cozy also contributes to a sleepy feeder. You may find that stripping your baby down just to a onesie or even to the diaper is necessary to keep them awake to feed.
Fully Empty Each Breast
It is also important to make sure you’re fully finished feeding on each breast. Let your baby start on one side, and then when that side feels empty, you can burp them and switch sides. How do you know when you are empty? Typically you can tell because the breast itself will no longer be firm, and if you try to hand express, nothing will come out.
Maintaining Your Milk Supply During Frequent Nursing
A common concern for moms in the early stages surrounds milk supply. It is hard to know how much your baby is getting at each feeding, and it’s equally confusing to know if you’re producing enough. Milk supply is simply that: supply and demand! The more you nurse (or pump) the more your body will produce.
There are many remedies and recommendations out there for increasing supply. From tea to cookies, it’s hard to know what is a gimmick and what really works. The only tried and true method that will work for everyone is more nursing since milk removal equals more milk supply.
Many moms find that nursing often yields better supply improvements than pumping, since you are getting some biofeedback with your baby latched instead of with a pump. But you may find that adding using a breast pump for a session in the early morning or late at night keeps your supply up just fine. Plus you won’t need to stock up on specialty drinks or make strange recipes.
When to See a Doctor About Frequent Nursing
If your baby is nursing frequently, when should you be concerned and talk to your pediatrician? Two key indicators of successful breastfeeding include weight gain and number of diapers per day. Talk to your pediatrician to determine the milestones you should be looking for based on your baby’s age. Hitting these can help ease your mind and let you know that your baby is getting enough.
If you’re concerned in between doctor visits, many hospitals offer nursing support groups. At many of these group meet ups, nurses or lactation consultants will have you strip your baby down to a diaper, and weigh them on a hospital grade scale. Then you’ll nurse your baby, and weigh them again. This will help show the weight gain of a specific feeding, not just overall weight gain.
Medical Issues That May Cause Frequent Nursing
Pediatricians and lactation consultants can help identify anything out of the ordinary such as colic, tongue tie or infant reflux.
Some babies who are soothed by frequent nursing may also have colic. Colic is typically defined as crying or being inconsolable for more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, 3 weeks in a row. All babies have difficult days and nights, but consistent levels of crying can be an indicator of colic.
Some babies grow out of this naturally and others may need additional help. Body workers, physical therapists and even some chiropractors can help. Often your pediatrician can refer you if needed.
If your baby is having other difficulty feeding, look for signs of tongue tie. Key indicators of tongue tie can include sleeping with their mouth open, breathing loudly while sleeping, trouble sticking out the tongue and more.
Some hospitals and pediatricians check for this shortly after birth, but not all are qualified to do a functional exam. If it is determined your baby has tongue or lip tie, you may seek to have this revised at a pediatric dentist in your area who specializes in this. It is a very quick procedure and many babies (and moms!) see an improvement immediately or in a few short days.
Finally, a common issue impacting a baby’s overall demeanor and feeding can be infant reflux. Acid reflux can impact sleep, feeding, and day to day behavior.
Some indicators of reflux are consistent vomiting or excessive spit up, irritability and fussiness during feeding and arching of the back. Solutions for infant reflux may include changing your diet, adding medication or other remedies, and in some cases, supplementing with formula.
How to Make Frequent Nursing More Comfortable for You
What can you do to make frequent nursing as comfortable as possible? We have a few simple tips that can help make this time of your life less painful or stressful.
Keep Plenty of Snacks Around
You may have heard that breastfeeding burns up to 500 extra calories a day. Moms need extra energy to keep up! Be prepared by getting a snack drawer or basket ready next to where you plan to do most of your nursing.
High protein snacks, like a protein bar or nuts, can help keep you fueled. Some women actually see a dip in their milk supply if they don’t eat enough.
Make Sure to Drink Enough Water
Next to eating, of course, is staying hydrated. While coffee may be the most appealing when you’re sleep deprived, water is the best answer. Look into keeping a big water bottle near your nursing station — maybe even that awesome hospital bottle you will likely bring home. Drinking enough water will make you feel better and can also help your milk supply.
Enjoy Some Entertainment While You Breastfeed
When your little one is so small, you can often get away with some entertainment while you’re nursing for the multi-tasker mom. Keeping headphones nearby will make for an easy sync, and wireless headphones will keep baby safe in case of a wiggle worm.
You can use this time to check out your favorite podcast or audiobook, or even watch TV or a movie on a phone, iPad, or other device. You can even pick a special show you only watch while nursing. That way it can almost feel like a little treat as when it’s time to nurse — you get to tune in to your favorite show.
Care for Your Sore Breasts and Nipples
Physically, your breasts and nipples may be getting tired of nursing too. Check into what soothing methods you want to try and stock up. Many moms like nipple cream such as Earth Mama or Motherlove. Be sure to check if the cream you use needs to be wiped off before nursing or if it is safe for nursing.
Another soothing tool for your ‘toolbox’ can be cooling hydrogel pads. These can be put in the fridge and will feel amazing in between nursing sessions. If you’re experiencing cracked or bleeding nipples, you can call or visit your doctor and they can prescribe a special ointment that is only available by prescription. Many women swear this is what saved their breastfeeding journey!
Another option is to use a nipple shield. It is recommended to discuss this with your lactation consultant as the frequent use of a nipple shield can have some unintended effects such as lowering supply. There is also some hassle with constantly carrying it around and keeping it clean when you’re used to having all you need attached to your body.
Practice Nursing in Public
If you feel like you’re nursing around the clock, you may start to feel confined to your home, or more specifically your nursing ‘spot’ in the home! It might feel scary to venture out in public even for a short window, if you’re nervous about having to nurse your baby while you’re out. While it might sound silly, you can practice and prepare for this situation before it ever comes up!
Many moms love the two-shirt method. You can invest in a couple of nursing tank tops and then pair with any t-shirt, blouse or sweatshirt, and you’ll always be prepared. Practicing at home in front of the mirror may feel strange but you will feel so much more comfortable next time you’re at a restaurant or out shopping and need to pause to nurse.
Nursing covers are another solution, available in all types of designs and materials. Again, they may take some getting used to for you and for your baby so practicing at home can help. As with many situations in motherhood, you’ll get more and more comfortable nursing in public the more you do it and especially with subsequent children.
Don’t Struggle With Frequent Nursing Alone
While no one but you can breastfeed your baby, find other ways for your family to help out. This is short term, even though it can feel like it will never end! So if that means your spouse, parents, or other children need to take on a new responsibility, remind them that it will be short term too.
You may have felt the burden of laundry, dirty dishes or general house cleaning but this is not the time to let that take up space in your mind. Have others pitch in and you will feel more at ease and be able to focus on your most important task — caring for your little one.
Be Specific About Your Needs
It can be difficult when a friend asks, “What can I do to help,” or perhaps they simply offer to come over and keep you company. Be specific in what would be truly helpful for you, at that moment. Chances are your friend will feel so much more useful and you’ll get a friendly face plus something you actually need!
One day it might be bringing over dinner, and another day maybe you need more diapers but don’t want to trek out to the store. Even bringing the mail inside can be a helpful gesture when you may be sequestered to the couch or bed with a snuggly bundle.
Let Your Partner Get Involved
For many nursing moms, it is normal to want a break from the one thing you can’t really get a break from — nursing itself! Your spouse or partner may want to help too, but until you’re ready to introduce bottles, there might not seem like there is much they can do. But they can still be a part of feeding!
Your spouse can jump in and become the burp master. Or they can prepare and make sure you have plenty of snacks and water nearby. Even just being close by so that when your phone is inevitably out of reach, you won’t feel helpless, can be a massive comfort.
Make Frequent Nursing an Enjoyable Experience
One common claim about motherhood is that everything is a season. Frequent nursing can make for a difficult time, especially when it’s paired with recovery from birth and the major life change of adding a member to your family.
However it’s a great mental tool to keep yourself grounded to know that before you blink, this time will be over and you’ll be onto crawling, starting baby food and more! Breastfeeding is such a special bond between mom and baby, and all of your hard work will feel worth it as you help your baby grow.