Breastfeed with Confidence: You’ve Got What it Takes!

By Doraine Bailey

Although babies don’t need anything but breastmilk until about 6 months of age, many breastfeeding babies are given formula within the first few days of life.

There are some medical reasons why a healthy breastfed baby might need extra breastmilk or formula after the first few days of life, but much early supplementation is “mother’s choice.”

For about the first four weeks, babies generally sleep an hour and then wake up to eat.

Their stomachs comfortably hold only about a half-ounce at birth, then stretch to hold 2-3 ounces by one month. The baby’s need for frequent feeding and care is normal and can be overwhelming at first, especially at nighttime.


To build your confidence that your breastfed baby is getting enough to eat, follow these simple steps.

– Learn about breastfeeding before your baby is born. Go to a class, surround yourself with supportive people, visit evidence-based breastfeeding websites.

– When the baby is born, work with the hospital nurses and lactation staff to assure that your technique is good.

Keep your baby with you throughout your stay, including at night, so you and baby can get confident with breastfeeding.

– When you get home, let other people take care of you so that you can rest and breastfeed the baby.

Call your lactation consultant with questions or go to the lactation clinic to assure that all is going well.

An effectively breastfeeding baby is often back to birthweight as soon as eight days after birth. All babies should be back to birthweight by two weeks.

If baby has several poopy diapers a day, eats 8-12 times over 24 hours, and is content between feedings, you’re probably on the right track.

– After breastfeeding is going well, around three to four weeks, baby can begin to learn how to take a bottle.

Use expressed breastmilk instead of formula so that your milk supply stays high.


If you’re concerned your baby isn’t getting enough, try these tips:

-Breastfeed more: Feed more frequently, spend more minutes feeding, keep a log to track how often and how long you’re feeding. It might be less than you think.

Empty the Breast: Use breast massage to push milk down to the baby. If the baby doesn’t take the second side in a feeding, pump that side to keep your supply high.

Get a second opinion: Check in with a lactation consultant or your breastfeeding supporters to assure that baby is feeding well, gaining weight and acting normally.

Have someone watch you and the baby breastfeed. She may notice something you’re missing that can help breastfeeding become more effective.

Offer both sides: Let baby finish the first breast, with active swallowing for at least 20 minutes, then offer the second side to “top off.”

You can even offer the first side again if needed – the milk that’s still left should be extra creamy.

Let others help with baby care besides feeding: Since you’re in charge of feeding, let other folks diaper, bathe, burp, soothe and play with baby. They can also do household tasks so you feel less overwhelmed.

Ask questions: Parenting is tough and no one has all the answers. No breastfeeding question is too small or silly. Grab a phone before you grab a bottle.


Doraine Bailey, MA, IBCLC, is with Breastfeeding Support Services at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Contact her at 859-288-2348 or