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Our newborn baby (7 weeks old, ca. 4 kg) wants to drink at the breast nearly the whole day: He drinks very slowly (one "meal" can take 30..60 minutes), makes a lot of breaks during drinking and mostly wants to drink again sometimes 30 minutes after the end of the last meal. (So his mum is nearly constantly feeding and nearly has no time for eating herself or sleeping.)

By controlling the child's weight before and after drinking we found, that he drinks e. g.

  • 40 g in 25 minutes.

(The best result was 30 g in 10 minutes.)

So we wonder if he does not get enough milk in and therefore after a short break is hungry again (or even still hungry) and wants to drink again.

remark: Up to now the development of the child's weight was perfectly ok for the pediatrician, so we assume that the child gets what it needs to grow, but at the same time, life is very difficult for the parents, especially the mother.

Any suggestions what can be done to make life easier for the parents? (which means from my point of view teach the child to drink more milk in less time and so have shorter "meals" and longer breaks in between them.)

edit: yes, we tried to pump milk and feed with a bottle sometimes (when there was too much milk and breastfeeding was too painful for my wife). The baby drank very slowly with long breaks from the bottle (as it did during breastfeeding) but last time we tried that, he refused the bottle completely.

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2  
I think the universal response is applicable here: Don't worry. It gets better. –  Dave Clarke May 15 '12 at 8:14
    
Is he awake the whole time that he is eating? –  Swati May 17 '12 at 0:05

7 Answers 7

For the first few weeks all three of ours wanted to feed almost continuously - it's a fact of life I think.

Our solution to give my wife a bit of a break was to also feed them a bottle of formula as he last feed of the evening - at around 10pm or thereabouts. This takes a bit longer to digest so let them sleep for a couple of hours longer.

We had to ensure the milk was very warm though - hotter than we thought (when you do the check on the back of your hand it felt very hot - but was at around 35-40 degrees so I guess the milk was pretty close to the temperature they expected from the breast)

From a bottle you also get the option of faster flow teats - so this could also work if you want to express milk.

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Feeding continuously helps to build the milk supply. It's part of the amazing design of nursing! –  justkt May 21 '12 at 21:59

We bottle-fed, which allowed us to buy a whole bunch of combinations of parts until we found the right set-up for getting ours to eat at a good rate. (You should have seen the box of rejected bottles, bags, nipples, fittings, caps, etc., etc. Ugh!) As Rory points out, even if you only do it once a day it might help.

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7 weeks does seem like a long time to be feeding constantly.

Has the baby ever drunk from a bottle? I wonder if the consumption rate will be faster when drinking from a bottle. Pumping/expressing at convenient times for you, storing the milk, and then feeding from a bottle at convenient times for him might offer some relief.

It's possible that he just enjoys the process, and maybe it's a pleasure you can only afford to provide once or twice a day. Pumping and bottle feeding may help.

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yes, in times when breastfeeding was painful for my wife (as there was too much milk) we sometimes pumped and feeded with a bottle, but the last time we tried that, the baby refused the bottle completely (crying). –  BBM May 16 '12 at 19:37

You say he's taking a lot of 'breaks' during nursing - is he falling asleep, becoming distracted, or?

When my son fell asleep at the breast, I used to stroke his cheek to keep him awake or brush the nipple against his lips to encourage a latch and suckling. If he's distracted, try seeing if your wife can nurse him with a light blanket/cloth diaper or something draped loosely over them so there's not as much visual stimulation which could distract him from nursing.

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at the beginning he was really often falling asleep during nursing, but in fact the "breaks" I'm talking about mean: he's sucking about 5 times, then he seems to do nothing for at least about the same time. Then he's sucking again several times, .. –  BBM May 16 '12 at 23:28
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Could it be that he suckles fast to get a letdown, then just swallows as the milk flows? That's what happened with my son, at least. If that's the case or he's being a tad lazy, you could see if your wife could gently 'tug' (but not de-latch) at her nipple to encourage him to keep suckling continuously. –  Darwy May 17 '12 at 0:04
    
That's a great thought. I forgot about that, but my wife's done that a lot. Sort of teasing with the "threat" to take it away, and it makes the kids "go after it". –  matty May 17 '12 at 8:28
    
It's natural for breastfed babies to pause while eating. While you want to encourage them not to fall asleep, pauses should not be viewed as wrong. –  justkt May 21 '12 at 21:58

Possible Cause 1: Foremilk/hindmilk imbalance When you start a breastfeeding session the first milk that comes out is very watery and thirst quenching. As you continue to nurse the milk becomes increasingly more fatty and appetite quenching. If your wife suffers from an oversupply of milk or switches sides during a nursing session too frequently, the baby will get too much watery foremilk and thus not feel satiated and want to nurse longer to stimulate supply. It is best to alternate breasts no more frequently than approximately every 2-3 hours (if she has a severe case of oversupply this may increase to as much as switching sides every 6 hours), to make sure the baby completely empties the breast and gets a solid helping of higher-fat hindmilk. If the baby is still hungry after completely emptying one breast it is, of course, ok to offer the other after.

Possible Cause 2: Nipple confusion Sometimes babies who are offered bottles in addition to the breast develop a "preference" for bottles because they don't have to work by sucking to get the milk, and will sit there not sucking and swallowing while nursing. Solutions would include eliminating bottles, or selecting a bottle with an extra slow-flow nipple or two-stage nipple that most mimics the effort required to breastfeed.

Possible Cause 3: Growth Spurt From the age you've listed, your daughter is probably just coming out of her 6 week growth spurt. Growth spurts come and go, and babies will typically want to nurse what seems to be constantly for about a week. So it's likely what you've been seeing in the last week or two is above average and will soon subside. Letting her nurse as long as your wife can stand it is the best thing you can do as your supply adjusts a couple days in and they can take in extra calories.

Possible Cause 4: Comfort Nursing Nursing is comforting for babies. Sometimes they nurse when they aren't even hungry, just because it's comforting. It's a lot easier to identify this type of nursing in older babies because the difference is more pronounced, but basically they stop sucking hard and swallowing and just suck lightly without swallowing sounds. If the amount of comfort nursing is more than mommy can handle, a pacifier, used in moderation, is a good solution, however be cautious not to offer the pacifier when the baby really is just hungry and needs feeding. Compressing the breast to express a little extra milk in their mouth to encourage them to swallow more may also help. If the baby isn't really hungry, they aren't going to be efficient about eating...offering to eat later when they're more hungry may get better results.

Possible Cause 5: Baby is falling asleep Babies like to nurse to sleep. If the baby is sleeping, it is ok to unlatch the baby and put them down for a nap. Healthy six week old babies will wake up to nurse when they get hungry enough, and take frequent naps. If the baby genuinely needs to eat and can't stay awake well for any of her feedings and needs help staying awake to feed, you may want to try additional techniques such as lowing the temperature controls, removing some clothing or blankets from the baby, gentle rubbing or tickling, dimmed lighting and non-stimulating environment while nursing, wiping with a dampened cloth, etc. (additional techniques: http://www.breastfeedingbasics.com/articles/waking-a-sleepy-baby )

Possible Cause 6: Baby is perfectly normal 6 week old babies typically nurse every 2-3 hours, 8-10 times a day or more, with nursing sessions that may last 30-60 minutes. Breastmilk is digested quicker than formula, so breastfed babies need to eat more frequently, on demand rather than on a schedule. Some babies like to cluster-feed and have several of their daily feedings close together throughout the day, more frequently than every 2 hours. Prepare a snack station for mommy next to her favorite nursing spot with snacks and beverages that are easy to eat with one hand, put on a movie or music to keep mommy from getting too bored, and get comfy. And keep in mind, this too will pass! As they get older they become more efficient at nursing and will only take 10-15 minutes instead of 30-60 for a feeding, and will feed less times a day. There's really nothing you can do to teach them to nurse more efficiently, they pick it up on their own.

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My solution was to just wait it out. The first 4 weeks or so were pretty difficult, as my baby was a comfort nurser who, though she took a pacifier, took her sweet time eating and liked to eat frequently. By 8 weeks however she had gained enough efficiency that a feeding was only taking 20 minutes and she was going between 6 and 8 hours since her last feeding for once stretch at night. Her efficiency has continued to improve since then.

Many problems with breastfeeding improve with time. It's not a fun answer, but it is a true one.

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Our daughter went through phases where she was constantly at the breast. This constant nibbling has a purpose: it boosts the mother's production, bringing in more milk to fuel a baby's growth spurt. Common wisdom says that those occur at about 6 days, 3 weeks and 3 months, but apparently my daughter was unaware of that schedule.

I found it useful to make myself as comfortable and entertained as possible. A comfortable chair, a fresh glass of water and some healthy snacks, a tablet PC or iPod connected to Netflix and loaded with easy entertainment, and a partner on diaper and dishes duty can make the whole experience enjoyable.

Also, the laid back breastfeeding method proved very comfortable for me (http://www.biologicalnurturing.com/pages/recipe.html). It allowed me to cuddle baby for hours while reading a good book, or simply resting, and letting her latch on and off at will.

In a few months, when you're baby nurses in five minutes and then demands constant excitement and attention from you, you 'll be missing those quiet early nursing sessions.

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thanks for sharing your experience! There was no need to boost mother's milk production, as the milk was already flowing even without the baby nibbling and even weeks before the birth there was milk coming out... Our baby does not know how to drink effectively, I'll write more on that in some weeks –  BBM Jun 15 '12 at 18:30

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