As Your Child Grows
You may experience changes in how often and long your child breastfeeds. Your breast milk will change based on your growing child’s needs.
During the early days after birth, some babies and mothers need time to learn to breastfeed. The following information can support you with breastfeeding.
Your Breast Milk
In the first few days you will produce breast milk (colostrum) that is thick like honey and yellow in colour. This breast milk is very high in calories and you may produce a very small amount (but it is all your baby needs).
As you continue to breastfeed over the next few days, your breast milk will become more white in colour, increase in amount and meet all your baby’s nutritional needs.
Note: Having your baby breastfeed well and often in the first six weeks will help you to build a healthy breast milk supply. Contact us if you have concerns about your breast milk supply.
Sign of Hunger
Babies will let you know when they are hungry; the following are signs that your baby is hungry and needs to breastfeed. Your baby:
- makes sucking or soft sounds
- puts her hands in her mouth
- is making more body movements
- makes sucking or licking movements with her mouth
Breastfeed your baby when baby is calm and before baby is too hungry and crying.
Video: Baby’s Feeding Cues and Behaviours (02:16). Reproduced by permission of Healthy Families BC
Growth Spurts (More Frequent Feeds)
Growth spurts are the times your baby grows more quickly and will need more breast milk. These spurts occur frequently in the first few weeks. Breastfeeding patterns change as your baby grows. In the first 6 weeks, your baby will need to breastfeed often.
- Breastfeed your baby when they show signs of hunger.
- There are no set times to breastfeed your baby. Most babies will breastfeed at least eight times in 24 hours (day and night).
- Your breast milk supply will increase to meet your baby’s needs.
Note: If your baby is not waking up for feeds and/or not breastfeeding well, visit your doctor or one of our Breastfeeding Clinics for support.
Health Canada recommends giving all healthy breastfed babies a daily Vitamin D supplement (10 µg or 400IU), starting from birth to two years of age.
The following information may be helpful during these breastfeeding months.
Length of Feeding
An older child takes breast milk faster than a newborn. Continue to listen for swallows and look for signs that your baby is breastfeeding well.
Growth Spurts (More Frequent Feeds)
Growth spurts are the times your child grows more quickly and will need more breast milk. These spurts occur frequently in the first few months. During these times breastfeed more often when your baby seems hungry. Your breast milk supply will increase.
Your baby’s weight gain changes over time. Your baby should gain at least 20-35 grams (2/3-1 1/4 oz) a day in the first three to four months of age. After four months your baby will gain weight at a slower rate. If you have concerns about your baby’s weight gain, please talk to your health care provider.
Your breasts may feel softer as you continue breastfeeding. You will still make enough breast milk.
As you continue to adjust to your life with your new baby, you might find yourself also increasing your daily activities and/or routines. If you plan to be away from your baby, you may wish to express your breast milk. Your baby’s caregiver can give your expressed breast milk by feeding your baby with a bottle.
You have given your baby the best possible start by breastfeeding for the first six months. You may want to continue to breastfeed your child for two years or longer. There is no right time to stop. You may get pressure from family and friends to stop breastfeeding, but family and friends can also make breastfeeding a success. It may also help to speak with a Public Health Nurse and other breastfeeding mothers.
Breastfeed Your Older Baby or Child
- Breast milk changes as your child grows to meet your child’s changing nutritional needs.
- Breastfeeding is more than food; it’s also about your relationship with your child.
- When your child is sick, breastfeeding can provide comfort and is a very important source of fluid and food.
- Breast milk is easy to digest. It may be all your child wants.
- Breast milk protects your child against infection. It strengthens your child’s immunity.
It is okay to breastfeed even when your child is getting teeth.
- Your child’s gums may be sore. Offer your child a cold, clean cloth or teething ring to chew on before breastfeeding.
- If your child bites, stay calm. Say “No” and take the child off the breast.
- Your child may bite near the end of her breastfeeding. Watch for sucking changes at the end of the breastfeeding as your child will have fewer swallows. To end the breastfeeding, pull your child close and she will open her mouth and pull off easily.
An older baby becomes more interested in the world around them and can get distracted easily. A quiet place with less distractions may keep their attention on breastfeeding.
Extra iron is needed at 6 months; it is time to add solid foods. For more information, see Best Start’s Feeding Your Baby: From six months to one year.
Sometimes a child who has been breastfeeding well suddenly refuses to breastfeed. This is not the same as natural weaning.
To help your child to return to the breast:
- Talk gently to her and give her more eye-to-eye.
- Breastfeed your child in a quiet, familiar place.
- Breastfeed your child when she is relaxed and not completely awake.
- Relax. Be patient. Children usually start to breastfeed again in a few days.
If your breasts are getting too full, you can express some breast milk for comfort. You can offer some expressed breast milk from a cup.
Changes in Your Life
Returning to work or school
Balancing family and work or school will require some planning.
- Discuss your plans with your employer. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that employers are required to accommodate women who are breastfeeding
- Breastfeed your child before you leave and when you come home
- You may want to express breast milk
- Choose a caregiver who shares your beliefs about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding when you are pregnant
You can breastfeed when you are pregnant.
- Your nipples may feel more tender.
- You may make less breast milk.
- Your breast milk may have a different taste.
- Most children happily continue to breastfeed.
- Eat a variety of foods.
- Drink when you are thirsty.
Breastfeeding more than one child (tandem breastfeeding)
You can breastfeed an older child and a new baby, either together or at different times.