What is normal nursing behaviour? What nursing schedule should my new born be on?
Have you had these questions? Are you stressed thinking your baby is nursing too much, not nursing enough? Is he getting enough milk? My milk must be gone because he feeds so often?
Lets start off by saying that, in this day and age of measurements, charts, bottles and pre conceived ideas of what " normal " new born behaviour is, it's totally understandable for you to have these questions and feelings. In days of old women birthed and then simply fed their babies. In rare cases when a woman was unable to feed or cases of maternal death, a wet nurse was sought. And she simply fed. If the baby gained weight, and grew, mama was happy or the wet nurse kept her job.
The easy answer to these questions, is that there is no " normal" mould. There is a general guide of what newborn behaviour likely will be. But even that gets a little hazy, because new borns just like kids, just like adults, are all different. Personally, I've given birth to 10 babies, and yes, they've all been different.
What should you expect from your newborn? Once your baby is delivered, you should optimally start his first breast feed within half an hour of his birth. If left to 'find' the breast, a new born will have a crawling shuffling movement and will eventually find the breast on his own. This is something that is starting to be encouraged, if you have your breast readily accessible, encourage him to latch as soon as possible. His first feed can last anything from 10 mins to over an hour. A newborns stomach is the size of a marble, the amount of colostrum in your breast is around 5 - 10 ml. Absolutely perfect amount for baby. Absolutely no need to feed your baby any kind of supplement. Be it formula, water or sugar water. Your body is designed to nourish your child, let it do its job!
*REMEMBER*:- This is your baby, no one has the right to supplement your baby. Make it quite clear to all hospital staff, that supplements will not be tolerated, scare tactics are unwelcome!
Since your baby's stomach is the size of a marble, he will need to feed often. Sometimes he will suck vigorously for a couple of minutes and doze off. Other times he may suck and suck what seems like all day, as soon as you take him off the breast, he wakes and wants to feed again! This is normal, throw out all of your preconceived notions of your baby waking to feed every three hours. Babies have no notion of schedules. They get hungry, they want to be fed. They don't understand that everyone thinks they should go longer between feeds. When you're hungry, you eat. Your baby wants to as well. The only difference being is that your stomach is much bigger and your food takes longer to digest.
Another reason you should put your new born to the breast as often as possible in the early days. The more the baby suckles, the more "pathways" are sent by your brain to your breast to stimulate milk production. The more you feed, the better capacity your breasts have to make a great milk supply. I always say that my babies are born, then spen the next six weeks attached to one or the other nipple. It certainly feels like that at times!
These are usually the times new mothers think they mustn't be making enough milk. So keep in mind, your baby will gain weight on his own schedule. Typically a lot at first, then slow down some after six months. As long as he is having 6-8 wet/ poopy diapers a day, he's getting enough. As long as he gains in length and head circumference, he's getting enough. If his hair and nails are growing, he is getting enough. You can never measure the amount of what your baby drinks by expressing with a pump or by hand. Your baby efficiently and effectively removes the milk from your breasts, better than anything else. What you pump is no indication. Don't mistake fussiness, baby wanting to be held, close to mom, not sleeping without mom, as signs of not getting enough at the breast. Your baby has been hard wired by instinct to want to be 'attached' to you, figuratively and literally. You are his key to survival, his instinct tells him that to be away from mom is a death sentence. Keep this in mind, your baby isn't going to be spoilt or over fed or underfed. You're not setting up a life pattern of clingy ness. He is behaving the way all baby animals do. A mother lion does not push her cubs away because it hasn't been three hours since their last feed. We who are more evolved shouldn't either. If your baby wants your breast, give it to him, simple as that! Keep in mind also that he has known nothing but a snug, warm, dimly lit environment. Then he's born into such a bright, loud, confusing world. He needs to adjust, he needs comfort. He will have no better comfort, nor a better place to explore the world than at your breast.
The broadest model of newborn behavior I have to offer is that he will feed, feed, feed, then feed some more. He will want to be in your arms, at your breast the majority of the time. It's unnatural to be away from your baby, it's not how we were designed. If you keep in mind that that is what your baby need, you will find the stress will fade away. He will sometimes cry for what seems to you, no reason. There is always a reason, when your milk comes in for instance, his belly is full and uncomfortable. When you put him in his bed he will cry because he needs to be with his mom. He may have gas or he may just need a cuddle.
As long as you view your newborn as a being who is totally dependent on you for his every need, you will view his behaviour as " normal".