You will need to maintain a basic healthy diet to keep up your breast milk production, but you don't need anything fancy. Some breastfeeding babies are quite sensitive to certain things in their mother's diet, but most do well no matter what Mom eats. If your baby seems fussy after you've had a spicy meal, that may be the problem. But in general, nursing mothers can eat whatever they wish, as long as it's healthy.
Vegetarian mothers who breastfeed need to make extra sure they're getting enough vitamins and minerals in their diet. Your health care provider will be able to refer you to a nutritionist or dietician who can help you plan a menu if you feel uncertain. Three healthy meals and two snacks will help you feel better and maintain a good milk supply.
Sucking is very soothing to babies. But keep in mind that if you give your baby a pacifier in the early weeks, he may eat less at your breast, which will in turn affect your milk supply. Several recent studies have shown that early pacifier use can interfere with the success of breastfeeding. So it's a good idea to hold off on a pacifier until your milk supply is well established, which generally happens by the end of the first month. Try swaddling your baby so his hands are close to his mouth instead. That way he can soothe himself by sucking on his hands, as he did in the womb.
If you want your baby to try a bottle, start at 2 to 4 weeks at the earliest. But don't be surprised if at first your baby refuses to take a bottle of expressed breast milk. A breastfed baby simply knows better than to take breast milk from a bottle when mom is right there. He can smell his mother and knows the routine. You will probably have better luck if you have Dad or the babysitter offer a bottle of expressed breast milk without you there.
If you start to add formula to a breastfeeding baby's diet, your milk supply will diminish by the amount of formula you give your baby. It's certainly up to you, but think twice about introducing formula once your milk supply is established. Whatever you decide, be confident that any amount of breast milk is better than none as far as protecting your baby's health goes.
When to Feed Your Baby
Feed your hungry newborn on demand -- that is, whenever he wants to eat. He won't eat much at any one feeding in the first days since his stomach is so small, but he'll want to nurse often. Most newborns will need about 10 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period, or one feeding every one to three hours.
When establishing your milk supply, wake your baby up to feed if he sleeps more than three hours during the day or four hours during the night. Otherwise he'll wake up too hungry to feed well. When things get up and running, he'll wake you up as he needs to.
How do you know your newborn is hungry? Look for signs such as:
- Rooting reflex (opens his mouth and turns his head to where he thinks your breast might be)
- Nuzzling at your breast
- Making sucking motions or putting his hands in his mouth
- Crying (a late sign of hunger -- you don't need to wait for howling)
Breast milk is all a baby needs by way of nutrition until the sixth month. That's when the AAP recommends introducing a baby to solid foods to supplement his diet. He'll continue to get most of his nutrition from breast milk (or formula), however, until he's 1 year old.
How Much Is Enough?
Like lots of breastfeeding mothers, you might not be sure when your baby has had enough to eat. You will know he is getting something if you can hear him swallowing as he nurses. Another clue is how well your baby sleeps after a meal. If his tummy is full and his diaper is clean, he will probably fall right back asleep after feeding.
Other signs your newborn is getting enough to eat:
- He produces about six wet diapers every day after your milk comes in and between two and five loose, yellowish stools each day until he's 6 weeks old. Some babies are such efficient breast milk processors that they pass stools very infrequently.
- His urine is a pale yellow, not deep yellow or orange.
- Your breasts feel soft and "empty" after each feeding.