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Are my newborn's breastfeeding habits normal?

(20 Posts)
Demented Tue 25-Jun-02 16:28:16

Wonder if anyone can help? I imagine I will probably get a better response from all you Mumsnetters than my HV.

I am currently feeding DS2, aged 3 weeks. I had been quite happy with his feeding habits, vast improvement on DS1, he is gaining weight at a good rate and is generally quite content and happy between feeds. I am currently finding however that he is having what I can only describe is feeding marathons, he has had them on a off since he was born and can at times feed for three to six hours. When he does this he then sleeps for a good stretch. I had assumed that this was all to do with growth spurts and the need to increase the milk supply. I have become more concerned recently as I have had many comments, some from breastfeeding friends, that I should give him a dummy (not too keen on this idea), rock him to sleep instead (too much like effort if you ask me), just leave him to cry and settle himself (I personally think he is too young for this). I thought this was just normal newborn behaviour, normally he feeds well and will go for two to three hours during the day and three to four hours during the night but every few days he has these marathons. Has anyone experienced something similar?

My other query is with regard to how long he feeds on a normal day (not a marathon one). He seems to need between half an hour to an hour on one breast and sometimes wants the other one as well. Is this a normal length of time to spend on each side at this stage. As mentioned earlier the feeding did not go well with DS1 and his feeds had no beginning and no end so I have no previous experience to refer to.

Hope someone can help. Thanks.

Dreamer Tue 25-Jun-02 16:40:56

Demented - I'm sure someone will be able to give you advice. All I can say is that I went through something similar with dd. She used to feed for about 4 hours solid for the first 5 weeks. I was completely unprepared for this (friends had wonder babies that did 30 mins and slept for 4 hours) and it drove me and dh 'demented'!

Midwife and hv were of no use "as long as she's putting on weight...." I cottoned on to feeding her on the bed so I could doze when I needed.

Maybe it was something to do with my milk supply, or colic, I don't know.

Anyway, hopefully someone can help. In the meantime, I wish you all well and can say that things will get easier as the weeks go by (as I'm sure you know). I'll be with you in spirit...

tiktok Tue 25-Jun-02 16:50:35

It's normal, demented....nothing wrong with it, and it won't last forever like this. Make the most of it by learning about feeding lying down/lying back/doing something else as well. I can't understand why other people think yu somehow ought not to be doing this - he is thriving on it, and happy, so why worry? The other question about taking half an hour to an hour and then maybe wanting the other side...that's normal too, in fact I would say for a 3 week old, it's not that far away from average.

Marathon feeds are not normal if they leave you sore, if the baby is miserable, failing to gain weight...but none of these things apply to you.

Tell other people you are fine thanks very much!

Lucy123 Tue 25-Jun-02 17:38:13

My daughter does this and then gets painful indigestion, so now after 20-30 mins (or after the second mid-feed catnap) I give her a dummy and she's much better. What's wrong with a dummy anyway? She's obviously just as happy with that as on the breast, but I can do other things (like look at internet notice boards) which I can't while breastfeeding and she still gets a cuddle! I agree that leaving him to cry would not be a solution though.

Lollypop Tue 25-Jun-02 22:13:48

Demented my DD was the same 4hrs of feeding, usually in the evening. It lasted about 6 weeks. I think it soothed her. I tried a dummy as I was sure it wasn't the milk she wanted but she spat that out. My Mum was told (30 yrs ago) that babies needed 20- 30 mins (I think)each side, feeding improved when I used that as a guide. I suppose it depends on the baby really. I hope things improve soon, I remember how tieing and hard is was, you really cannot be expected carry on like that with another child for too long. Take care x

winnie1 Wed 26-Jun-02 08:35:10

Demented, I agree with others who say this is 'normal'. If you have no problem with it relax and don't worry about what others think/say. It is early days and it will change (possibly several times). Breastfeeding especially in the early days can be exhausting and I simply learnt to go with the flow and make the most of all those hours a day I was sat in one place! With a huge angled cushion I learnt to settle my ds on my lap and type one handed and therefore wrote regularly to friends and got addicted to Mumsnet

JanZ Wed 26-Jun-02 09:13:48

My ds would feed for up to an hour on EACH side - he was just a slow feeder. It also used to take me AGES to get him latched on correctly - he just didn't want to open his mouth! But it did give me the excuse to take things easy - although my bum did get sore from all that sitting! Fortunately he was also a very gentle feeder, so I never had problems with my nipples.

I can't say I didn't worry, as he was very slow to gain weight, but he was always happy and contented and appeared to be thriving, so eventually (and after a double check with the consultant paediatrician) we decided that he was just following his own growth curve.

I know you're in Scotland, but not sure whereabouts. I got brilliant support from the midwives who ran the breast feeding support group at the Queen Mum's. It's on Thursday afternoons and you can just drop in.

mollipops Wed 26-Jun-02 10:01:04

Demented, just out of curiousity, does he feed the whole time on these long feeds, or does he doze off/stop now and then? If he doesm I would suggest taking him off at that point, and see if he will settle.

Apart from that, half an hour or so per side seems quite normal for such a little babe. Once your supply catches up with his routine, things will settle down a lot. HTH

SoupDragon Wed 26-Jun-02 10:06:07

You could check that he's latched on properly. A poor latch can mean he has to feed for longer to get the high calorie hind milk. Other than that, I don't think it's a problem.

If you're happy with his feeding, he's putting on weight nicely, your HV is happy, DS2 is happy & content then smile nicely at everyone else and say "we're fine".

At 3 weeks, I also think he's too little to be left to cry etc. I think I tried to nudge my 2 b/f sons into a routine at about 6 weeks when b/f was "established". I used to aim for an average 3 hours between feeds (generally not less than 2 hours and not more than 4) during the day and whatever they wanted at night. Never used a dummy as I am a "dummy snob" and didn't want to confuse them. Rocking to sleep creates its own problems if they can't then settle without it.

I think his "normal" feeding sounds fine. My 2 were guzzlers (finished in 20 minutes) but I had 6 other b/f friends, and all babies fed diferently. Mine were "guzzlers", there were a couple of "snackers" and a "feed all the time".

If you want to speak to an Expert, you can phone the NCT Breastfeeding Helpline on 0870 444 8708 where you'll speak to a trained breastfeeding counsellor.

Demented Wed 26-Jun-02 19:04:18

Thanks to everyone for their responses. I think DS2 knows what he is up to, we had another feeding marathon last night and I woke up this morning like Dolly Parton with the side I needed to feed him from next pouring with milk.

I think I must have the same friends as Dreamer, no one else seems to understand what is happening. I feel my confidence about b/feeding is easily shaken as I had so many problems feeding DS1. If the situation continues beyond six weeks or so I will contact the NCT, I am just happy at the moment to have it confirmed that his behaviour is normal. The latch seems to be fine although I do have a cracked nipple (ouch) which developed from a bout of mastitis which came about due to me not having opened my front fastening feeding bra properly. When I asked my HV for advice I said to her that the areoli (sp?) and nipple was swollen and lumpy, she took a look at it and said it was perfectly normal (of course it was swollen) and I had difficulty latching on on that side and have become quite sore. Although the pain only lasts for the first few seconds of the feed and then fades away and the feed is pain free (unless he slips off) I can only assume that the latch must be OK but I am waiting patiently for the nipple to heal.

Mollipops, when he is having these marathons I do take him off when he stops feeding or more often he comes off himself and lies contentedly for about 10 mins or so, then wakes up again wanting more, I do try putting him down but he just won't have it, he wakes up immediately, if anyone else takes him in the evening he tries to eat them !

Janz, is Queen Mums in Glasgow? I am in the 'Kingdom of Fife', although no offence to any Fifers present but must just add that I am not a Fifer myself, we do have a local B/feeding Support Group which I attended with DS1, didn't find it a great deal of help mind you and discussions tended to revolve around sleeping and weaning rather than b/feeding. A different HV attended every week and I made sure they all knew my problems and now that the feeding is going well with DS2 I know that I must have looked awkward when feeding DS1 and unfortunately no one took the opportunity to help me. I would go just for the company but finding a babysitter for DS1 would be a problem.

Thanks again, DS2 has now just gone into orbit, so I can only assume we are in for another evening of it!

MalmoMum Wed 26-Jun-02 19:24:28

Demented, don't know if this will help you at your stage. I was advised to give ds a bit to calm him and keep stroking his cheek and blowing on him to keep him alert, I'm guessing at 20-30 mins. Then I took him off for a nappy change, contented a bit by then but woken up, after that back on the same side for some hind milk and then over onto the new side if not in complete milk bliss land by then.

Hope this makes some sense.

aloha Wed 26-Jun-02 20:15:02

Ah, yes, I remember it well... my ds would happily feed all night and day too. He just loved to suck, which is perfectly normal and natural. However, a dummy did just as well and IMO babies are far too smart to be 'confused' by a dummy. He could have a lovely suck and I could have five minutes to do something else apart from sit like a big lump on the sofa. BTW the way to get a baby to suck on a dummy is the minute they take an exploratory suck, gently tug the dummy - they tend to suck a bit harder to get it back. Repeat until they can hold on. I think this 'getting babies into bad patterns' stuff is a bit exaggerated. My ds does completely different things at 9months than he did before. Despite having a b/f every night since he was born, the last two nights I haven't been able to get back home in time and he's happily taken a bottle and gone to sleep for his dad like a dream. He used to sleep in our bed, but went into a cot without a murmur too. He's not always been easy, but it's never because of 'bad' habits.

Whatever you do or don't do, this situation won't go on for ever. I went to b/f clinic because he fed for so long, and kept dozing off. I didn't really follow the advice I was given and he soon perked up of his own accord. Now, a big b/f for my ds now is about 10mins and I am thinking of giving up altogether in a month or two so dh & I can have a night at a hotel together and leave ds with my mum (hooray!).

Congratulations on the b/feeding. You sound very stoical about your cracked nipple (ouch) and congratulations on your lovely baby too.

SoupDragon Wed 26-Jun-02 21:47:06

If there is an NCT breastfeeding counsellor local to you, the helpline can arrange for them to come and watch you feed (or you go to them) and check out the positioning/latch and answer any questions you have on a one-to-one basis. No unecessary weaning advice, just your questions answered.

You don't need to be a member of the NCT to benefit from this service

Demented Thu 27-Jun-02 10:56:30

It turns out DS2 wasn't ready for another marathon evening at all. He had filled a nappy, he took a good feed, lots of gulping down milk and then slept in his baby swing (I only put him in there so I could go to the toilet) for about two hours he certainly seems much more satisfied with my milk supply just now.

I do blow on his face and tickle his feet if he is getting too sleepy I find it is a good way to decide if he is really finished or not, nothing worse than putting him in the moses basket and settling myself in bed for him just to start again in five minutes.

As for the cracked nipple, it is healing quite well and although sore at times is much more bearable than the cracked nipples I experienced when feeding DS1, one of them looked as if it was half hanging off and I expected it not to be there any more after the feed! I certainly will contact the NCT if it does not improve but it seems to be on the mend.

Tiktok mentioned feeding lying down, I would love to feed him lying in bed at night but am finding this very difficult. Does anyone have any tips? When in the hospital a midwife assisted me to feed lying down, I said to her at the time that the latch didn't feel right, she looked at it and said "it's fine" and walked off. After the feed I was a bit tender. I continued to try and feed him lying down when I got home any ended up with a grazed nipple. I showed my Community Midwife and explained to her I had been feeding lying down at night and thought it may have happened that way. The Midwife said I was a little on large side on top (34G at the moment) to be feeding lying down and perhaps it would be possible once DS2 is bigger. Is there anything I can do or do I just have to wait for DS2 to catch up with my boobs?

Thanks again to everyone for their help.

JanZ Thu 27-Jun-02 14:25:30

Demented - yes, the Queen Mums is in Glasgow, so not much help to you.

My ds also used to go off to sleep and in addition to the blowing on his face and tickling on his feet, I used to resort to cold wet cotton wool on his feet or face - and even on occasion dripping drops of water into his ear! (Now THAT got his attention!). However, all that happened was that he learnt that as long as he demonstrated the correct sucking motion (all the way up to his ear), then the hassle would stop - but we worked out later that he wasn't actually sucking - just pretending!

Demented Thu 27-Jun-02 15:05:38

Janz, even when so tiny they are unbelievably smart, I also try tickling him behind the neck to get him going again and sometimes just the threat of taking him off, when he feels me starting to move him away to put my little finger in his mouth, can be enough to get him started again.

Just back from the HV and DS2 is now 9lb 6oz, he was 9lb 1/2oz when born but by the fifth day had lost about 1lb. HV seems pleased, DS1 had not even regained his birth weight by now so I am delighted.

Demented Thu 04-Jul-02 16:20:08

Just wanted to say another big thank you to everyone. In the last few days DS2 (now 4.5 weeks) has started to take some of his feeds quicker, 20/30 mins (obviously evening feeds still take longer). Took him to the HV this afternoon to have his weight checked and he has put on a whopping 11 ounces this week.

Thank you again for all your support, you all helped keep my confidence up, helping me ignore all the comments! Will try now to trust DS2, he obviously knows what he is up to!

elwar Thu 04-Jul-02 16:58:50

Demented - a tip for healing damaged nipples - vaseline & lots of it. I had been messing about trying to keep my poor scabby nipples dry, and my midwife finally told me that's the worst thing to do cos it dries out and when you feed again it cracks the scab (yuk and ow) and you're back to the beginning. Vaseline keeps them moist and lets them heal from underneath, and also stops them sticking to breast pads!

My DD used to have marathon feeds (30-40 mins sometimes!) inthe early weeks. Now at 8 months she barely takes 4-5 mins per side! I think they get better & more efficient at it as they get older (& don't need the comfort so much)

Anyway well done & keep it up.

SoupDragon Thu 04-Jul-02 19:20:06

Kamillosan was superb for cracked nipples too - natural healing from Chamomile (I think!), a moisturising effect and no need to wipe off before feeding.

Demented, glad to hear DS2 has pulled his socks up and put on weight!! It must have been very reassuring.

tiktok Fri 05-Jul-02 09:21:42

Great to hear all is well, and your confidence is growing : )

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