What’s Normal & Not Normal With Breastfeeding
Updated: Aug 26
Over 80% of moms start out breastfeeding. However, many are unable to continue for a myriad of reasons. Some of those reasons are due to lifestyle constraints (mom has to work long hours, for example). But sometimes, moms want to continue to breastfeed but aren't educated on what can be normal (and when to get help).
If you're pregnant or newly postpartum, consider signing up for our Breastfeeding Made Simple online class. This short but jam-packed class is perfect for new moms who want an overview of how to be successful at breastfeeding.
So, here’s a short list of things that you can expect that are NORMAL & NOT NORMAL with breastfeeding.
👍 Baby seeming hungry all the time and wanting to breastfeed OFTEN. The idea that babies only eat every 3-4 hours is outdated and not true, especially in the first few months of life. Of course there are babies that are content with eating only every 3-4 hours. But even for those babies, there will be times when they want to eat more. It’s not uncommon for a baby to nurse every 1-2 hours for the first few months.
The key to breastfeeding success is being aware of baby's cues and feeding on demand. I'll be straightforward and say that this can be demanding for moms. But it's true, nevertheless. Feeding on demand helps baby grow & establishes a strong milk supply going forward.
👍 Pain - SOME pain for mama can be a normal part of getting used to breastfeeding, especially if it's her first time. Engorgement (when the breasts become super full of milk) can be painful, and the nipples can be sensitive those first few weeks as breastfeeding is established. (more on what's not normal below)
👍 Milk not "coming in" for a few days after birth. Some mamas panic thinking that they cannot make enough milk - but this is totally normal. In fact, your milk HAS come in already - in the form of colostrum. Colostrum is like a superfood for baby and conveniently comes in amounts that are perfect for baby's small stomach. Over the first week, your milk will slowly transform from colostrum to what we all traditionally know as breastmilk.
Keep nursing - this will signal to her body to make more milk. If you're an economics mind, it's the idea of supply & demand. The more demand = the more supply. Also remember that we often cannot see how much a baby is actually drinking from a breast, which can be hard. Look for signs of satisfaction from the baby and wet/poopy diapers rather than your perception of how much milk was drank.
👍 Baby losing weight in the first week or two of life - this is SUPER normal! Don't get discouraged by this. Breastfed babies don't tend to follow the exact same growth pattern as formula fed babies. When in doubt, ask a lactation consultant instead of supplementing with formula because "baby isn't getting enough."
👍 Dad wondering what his role should be - feeling left out. This is normal - dads want to bottle feed the baby to connect, but there are many other ways to connect with a baby! Try playing on the floor, going for walks, changing diapers, getting all the supplies set up for mama to breastfeed, clean the house, make dinner... the list goes on!
However, introducing a bottle within the first month can be really helpful for mom to get a break. Just be sure that breastfeeding is going well before introducing a bottle.
❌ NOT NORMAL (& call lactation consultant to help)
👎 Painful nipples, bleeding, cracks, blisters. All of these are not normal & can be signs of a poor latch or lip/tongue ties.
👎 Stools that are black, red, bright green or mucousy 🤢 All of these can be signs of underlying conditions or issues with digestion.
👎 Feeding literally all day and all night and never seeming satisfied (super fussy). This may mean that baby isn’t pulling enough milk and may have a latch issue. (Again, it is RARE that mom cannot make enough milk, but it does happen).
👎 Baby fussing at the breast - latching & unlatching over and over. This can be a sign that your letdown is too intense or a bad latch.
👎 Mama feeling lost, hopeless, or always sad. Contact a care provider and remember that mama's wellbeing is very important - more important than the way she chooses to feed her baby. Switching to formula or combination feeding are great methods of feeding baby, as long as mom feels comfortable about making the switch.