Breastfeeding A to Z

What to Watch & Listen For When Your Baby Breastfeeds

You should be able to see your baby’s jaw move, their ear wiggle, even their temple moving, as the baby draws the nipple into their mouth while eating.

Baby’s tongue needs to be on the bottom of their mouth, so that it can extend beyond the jaw line to stroke, which is baby’s tendency at birth. (1)

Your baby’s lips are flanged out, not sucked in. (1) (2)

You will have a let-down. A let-down is the way milk moves in the breast to get to your baby.  It may feel like a burning or tingling sensation. (2)  It can be mild to intense, either is normal.  There are multiple let-downs in a feeding. (1) Usually, you only feel the first one, and with time you will probably stop feeling the first one.

You can hear swallowing. You will typically notice sucking and swallowing increase when you have a let-down, because the flow of milk increases.

When your baby’s sucks slow down and they seem sleepy, they are probably finished on that side and typically will come off the breast themselves. Again this can vary widely, but it usually takes 15-30 minutes in the early days. As they grow older they usually get faster. Remember you do not have to watch the clock on this. Your baby will tell you when they are finished. Keep in mind if your baby sucks consistently throughout a feeding, they will probably finish before the baby that sucks and stops and sucks and rests and sucks some more—they sometimes call these babies “gourmets”!

Breast milk is easily digested and your baby’s stomach can be empty in about 60-90 minutes after eating. (3) It just depends on how long your baby is willing to wait to be fed again. This is another reason it is normal for babies to need frequent feeding.

References:

  1. Mohrbacher, N, Stock, J, La Leche League International The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd Revised Edition, Schaumburg, IL, La Leche League International, Jan 2003, pp 41, 78.
  2. Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, pp 294, 503, 514.
  3. Wambach, K, Riordan, J, Breastfeeding & Human Lactation, 5th edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2016, p 274.  Note: publishing date does say 2016.