How to Better Understand Baby Sleep

When I was pregnant with my first child, someone told me that having to pee often at night was God’s way of preparing me for the frequent night feedings to come! My fear of sleep deprivation and quest for a good night’s sleep began before my baby had even arrived.

My newborn did feed often. Especially at night. I am convinced he fed every 2 hours at night until he was well over a year old. While I enjoyed nursing my baby to sleep (and it seemed to be the best way to get him to sleep), I had the nagging feeling I was doing something wrong and that he would never learn to sleep on his own.

I know I am not alone. Sleep is a huge issue for new families. Parents of babies only two or three days old ask me if they have started a bad habit because the only way their baby will sleep is tucked into bed beside them.

Desperate for sleep, parents look for a baby sleep solution. I know I did. None, however, felt right to my parenting heart.

I love what IBCLC Meg Nagle (aka The Milk Meg) had to say about one of the common sleep training methods. She graciously allowed us to reprint her article below. We would love to hear your comments and learn what worked for you.




Why “Feed, Play, Sleep” routines make no sense for a breastfed baby…


*Just to clarify, I don’t think it makes sense for ANY baby, bottle or breastfed to be on this routine…however it makes even LESS sense for breastfed babies. Also, if you are doing this routine and it’s working for you then great! This article isn’t for you (although I’d love for you to keep reading anyway)! This is for the millions of women who are told they “should” be doing this routine but know it’s just not working for them and they are wondering why. Because the reality is that for most women who breastfeed on demand, it doesn’t work! Here’s why…

If you live in a western culture you will have definitely heard of the “Feed, play, sleep” routine. This is a well known and frequently suggested method of getting your baby into a little pattern of eating, playing and then yes, you guessed it…sleeping. Every day. Now as a exhausted pregnant woman (or new mother) how awesome does this sound?! Sounds great until the baby actually arrives and they are on and off the boob constantly.

We find ourselves reading these books and websites about this wonderful routine wondering, “What is WRONG with my baby?! He won’t sleep longer than 40 minutes and half that time my boob has to be in his mouth! He wants to breastfeed before waking, after waking, during his play time and then to fall asleep again! Why is my baby not fitting into this schedule?! What is wrong with me? Why is this happening?!”

I’ll tell you why this is happening…because your baby is normal. Your baby is born incredibly prematurely compared to other mammals. Your baby is an actual person. A person who cannot do anything for themselves. Your baby needs cuddles, breastfeeds, cuddles and breastfeeds. Breastfeeding is not meant to be scheduled. It’s makes no sense from a biological, cultural or evolutionary perspective.


Here is why this little routine does not make sense for breastfed babies…

  • Breastfed babies have virtually all of their needs met by breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is not just about “feeding” but is about comfort, hunger, thirst, pain relief, boredom buster, tantrum stopper and basically answer to everything elixir. You may not know what is wrong with your baby but chances are…boob will fix it. So throw out that book that’s telling you to stretch out the next breastfeed until it’s “time”. Just whip it out. “When in doubt…whip it out”!

  • Your baby is actually a person…not a cookiecutter clone.

This is something that gets my panties in a bunch…your little baby is a person. This little person is going through many changes. They’ve just gone from a nice warm womb to a cold, crazy world. Your little person is not going to follow a schedule…if they do then pat yourself on the back and do a happy dance that you have a little weirdo (and I mean in a good way) baby! But it’s definitely not the norm.

  • Your breastmilk is MADE to put your little one to sleep.

As I’ve mentioned in my book and in my blog countless times, your milk has components in it to help put your child to sleep! It’s amazing! Just pop them on and watch them fall asleep. Most babies do this. This is not a habit that needs to be broken. It is what they are meant to do. It is important. It is the biological norm.

  • A breastfed baby on a routine means less frequent draining of the breasts which means less milk production.

Breastmilk production is simple…supply and demand. The more well drained your breasts are…the more they will make. Trying to distract a baby to not breastfeed since it’s not “feeding time” can affect your supply and put you at risk for needing to supplement or pump. Even though these routines stress how you can be “flexible” with some of these times, books and websites state that at a certain age you can stick to these routines by the minute…try telling that to most breastfed babies or toddlers and they will respond with a cry asking to be breastfed!

  • Breastfed babies need a breastfeed to help them work through feelings and to help calm themselves.

Breastfeeding is not just about “the milk”. Breastfeeding will happen at various times throughout the day and night that have NOTHING to do with hunger or the need for food.

  • Bottle fed babies find comfort through a pacifier…breasts ARE a breastfed baby’s pacifier.

This is one of the biggest differences in doing these routines with a breastfed baby compared to a bottle fed baby. A baby bottle feeds because they are hungry. When they are no longer hungry you can give them a pacifier and either rock them to sleep or put them down to sleep where they nod off by themselves. Cue the breastfed baby…this baby breastfeeds TO ACTUAL SLEEP because this is how they pacify themselves! They’ll breastfeed to wake up, breastfeed during their play time and then breastfeed back to sleep. They are calmed at the breast.

Here is the typical recommended schedule for people on how to do the “feed, play, sleep” routine…

When your baby wakes up:

  • Offer a feed.
  • Change your baby’s nappy.
  • Take time for talk and play.
  • Put your baby back down for a sleep.

And here is how it usually goes for a breastfed baby who is fed on demand and is with their mother 24/7…

When your baby wakes up:

  • Feed.
  • Change nappy.
  • Talk, Play, Feed
  • Carry around.
  • Feed.
  • Feed/sleep/feed.
  • Play/feed/play.
  • Feed.
  • Sleep.

Or to be more exact for the breastfeeding woman (because breastfeeding is not just about “FEEDING”…)

Now don’t think for one second that I don’t think routines are good ideas…Babies and children LOVE routines. They thrive on knowing what is going to happen when. However, I strongly believe that breastfeeding can happen before, during and after these rituals you do every day. Before sleep times you can read a book, sing them a song, give them a bath…all of this can happen while breastfeeding here there or everywhere in between these rituals you do. Remember your baby is a little human. A little person…and this little person needs frequent breastfeeds and frequent cuddles day and night. You are mothering through breastfeeding…not creating a soldier for the next graduating class of military cadets. Relax and just enjoy your baby.




Learn more about newborns and sleep: 11 Ways to Cope with Sleep Deprivation and Baby’s “Days and Nights Mixed-Up”


Meg Nagle. The Milk Meg. Photo

About Meg:

In between breastfeeding her youngest boy, chasing after her oldest two boys, blogging and occasionally sleeping  …Meg Nagle works with women to help them reach their breastfeeding goals! Meg has also written a book, “Boobin’ All Day…Boobin’ All Night. A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding Mothers” which can be found HERE.


Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding


New mothers can get plenty of advice about foods to avoid while breastfeeding. Well meaning visitors advise against cabbage, beans, broccoli, spicy foods and even (gasp!) chocolate. But is there any truth to this advice?


While in your grandmother’s day, it was thought that foods could give a breastfed baby gas, we now know this is not supported by research. Many of the foods once believed to cause gas are staple foods in other countries, consumed by breastfeeding women without problems. There are no foods breastfeeding mothers MUST avoid! Most women are able to enjoy a healthy and varied diet.


foods-to-avoidSpicy foods may flavor a woman’s breast milk. This is seen to be an advantage as baby will be introduced to a variety of flavors at a very young age. This may help to guard against becoming a picky eater in the future.


Caffeine deserves some caution. Large amounts of caffeine may result in a more wakeful fussy baby. Limiting your intake to one or two cups of coffee, tea or cola products per day is suggested.


Chocolate contains a substance similar to caffeine. You would have to consume very large quantities for it to have an effect. You can read more about chocolate and breastfeeding in this La Leche League article.


When baby is fussy, it is easy for others to ask the breastfeeding mother “What did you eat?” For the most part, the fussiness will be unrelated to her diet. There are rare cases, however,  where a baby will react to a particular food. Dairy can be one of those foods. If you suspect your baby is reacting to a certain food, read this article by KellyMom: Dairy and other Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies.


Go ahead and enjoy a varied healthy diet. There are no foods to avoid while breastfeeding.




References and More Information:

  1. Dairy and Other Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies”, KellyMom, 26 July 2011.
  2. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study. Santos, I., Matijasevich, A., Domingues, M., Pediatrics May 2012, 129 (5) 860-868.
  3. Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants. Mennella, J. A., Jagnow, C. P., & Beauchamp, G. K. (2001). Pediatrics, 107(6), E88.
  4. “Things to Avoid When Breastfeeding.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 21 Nov. 2015.
  5. Thursday Tip: Chocolate and, La Leche League Canada, 12 Feb. 2015.



Other posts you may enjoy: How to Increase Your Milk Supply and 5 Misleading Myths that can Sabotage Your Breastfeeding



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About the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.




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Simply Breastfeeding Online Class






Breastfeeding – Getting Started






Colostrum: Baby’s First Superfood






Latching Your Baby






Positions for Breastfeeding






When Does Breast Milk Come In?






How Long to Breastfeed at Each Feed






How Often will my Newborn Feed?






How to Wake a Sleepy Baby to Feed






How to Tell if Baby is Getting Enough Milk






Should Partners Give a Bottle to Bond with Baby?






How to Increase Your Milk Supply






Breast Compression: Helping your baby get more breast milk






Do Breasts Need Time to Fill Between Feeds?






When Baby Won’t Latch to the Breast






Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding






Sore Nipples: 7 Causes and the Solutions You Need to Know






Painful Feeds? You Need to Know about Baby Self Attachment






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How to Avoid Nipple Confusion






5 Misleading Myths that can Sabotage Your Breastfeeding






Is it Okay to Give a Breastfed Baby a Pacifier?






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Baby “Breastfeeds All the Time”… Growth Spurt?






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Is it Safe to Buy a Used Electric Breast Pump?






Donating Breast Milk






Creating a Stash of Breastmilk






How to Safely Store Your Breast Milk






Do You Need to Drink Milk to Make Breast Milk?






Do I Need to Breastfeed from Both Breasts at Every Feed?






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Exposing the Myths about Foremilk and Hindmilk






Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby






How to Bottle Breast Milk: Answers to the Top 9 Questions






What is an IBCLC and Why Should You Care?






Timing breastfeeding: Is it best for baby?






Breastfeeding Support: 14 Surprising Things We’ve Learned






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Getting the Best Possible Start with Breastfeeding



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Baby’s “Days and Nights Mixed-Up”

Help! My newborn baby sleeps all day and won’t sleep at night. I am exhausted. What can I do?


If your new baby seems to have his days and nights mixed up, you are in good company. Newborns are notorious for being sleepy in the day but awake and feeding often at night. If we had a magic solution for this ‘problem’ we could be rich!


Why do newborns wake more often at night?
  • New babies don’t understand the difference between night and day. They will need time to learn.
  • Background noise in the day may lull baby to sleep. A newborn is used to the sounds of your womb, your heart beating, your bowels gurgling as well as muffled sounds from the outside world. The quiet of night time may feel foreign.
  • Newborn tummies are tiny; they need to breastfeed often to feed their growing brain.
  • Frequent night waking prevents babies from entering deep sleep. According to respected infant sleep researcher, Dr. James McKenna, this lowers their risk of SIDS.


While it may seem like an eternity, the stage of mixed up days and nights will eventually pass (usually by the time your baby is a month old).


How to to ease your baby into a more adult friendly sleeping pattern:


  • Wake baby frequently for feeds during the day.

Newborns breastfeed at least 8 or 10 times in a 24-hour period. Sleeping for long stretches during the day inevitably means more frequent feeding at night. Try waking baby to feed at least every 2 or 3 hours during the day.


  • Keep lights on and shades open.

The light patterns that affect adult sleep may also affect babies. Open your curtains during the day; leave the lights on. At night, try to do feeds and diaper changes by the glow of a night-light.


  • Interact during the day but be “boring” at night.

Talk, sing, and play with your baby throughout the day. At night, try to be calm, quiet and “boring”. Speak softly, in soothing tones, while you change, feed and burp.


  • Start a bedtime routine.

A bedtime routine can help your baby to know it is time for sleep. You could include a bath, a bedtime story, a massage or lullaby music.


  • Do not limit daytime noise.

Try not to limit daytime noise. Don’t worry about the doorbell. Leave the television on. Play music. At night, keep noise levels low. “White noise” may be soothing, reminding your baby of the womb. You could try a fan (not blowing on your baby) or quiet radio static.



Some parents try to keep their baby awake during the day in the hope they will sleep at night. This may have the opposite effect as baby may become over stimulated. An over stimulated baby will be fussier throughout the day, as well as the night.


This period of mixed up days and nights won’t last forever. We promise! Every baby is different. Be patient as yours adjusts to life in the outside world.


Does your newborn baby sleeps all day and won’t sleep at night. Feel like the days and nights are mixed up These tips will help.


Learn more about newborns in these posts: Should I Wake my Newborn to Feed and 11 Ways to Cope with Sleep Deprivation.

*Header photo courtesy of Flickr: abardwell.


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Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.



7 Reasons You will Love Camping with Your Baby

If you have a baby under 6 months, you may think you have to forgo your camping trip this year. Wrong! This may very well be the BEST time to camp. Here’s why.


If you have a baby under 6 months old, this may be the very best time to camp.



1. It will never be easier to camp with your child. Little ones under 6 months, are not yet mobile. They sit (or lay) where you put them. Next summer they will be crawling or running at full speed toward the campfire.


2. Babies are happiest when they have lots of your time. When you camp, you are forced to leave the housework and the ‘to-do’ list behind. This leaves more time for giving baby your undivided attention. Happy baby = happy parents.


3. Babies are portable. There are many comfortable carriers or wraps you can use for hikes. The toddler years will be much more challenging when they insist on walking by themselves.


4. Your baby will keep you warm around the campfire on chilly nights. If you are a breastfeeding mom, you won’t need to share the snuggles, or the warmth of the baby.


5. Babies (and adults) tend to sleep well when they have spent the day outside. When your baby does wake for a feed, tuck them in close and nurse lying down before returning them to their bed.


6. You may catch a beautiful sunrise. You may not normally get up early enough to see the sunrise, but with an early waking infant, you may just get the chance.


7. You won’t need to pack extra food. If you are exclusively nursing your little one, you won’t need to pack extra snacks or special food. The only food baby will need is always with you, and at just the right temperature.


Some baby camping tricks that have worked for us:

  • baby outdoorsPack an old sheet. Use it to cover the ground in a shady area of the campsite. Prop baby and toys on the sheet.
  • If you have a large tent and a stroller that completely reclines, try Cindy’s trick. Get your baby dressed for bed and go for an evening stroll. When baby falls asleep, simply roll the stroller into the tent.
  • Be sure to pack a light colored wide-brimmed hat to protect baby from the sun.
  • A large plastic storage bin makes an excellent bathtub. Add a couple of inches of water warmed on the campstove.
  • If your campground has a shower, it is even quicker to take baby into the shower with you.


For more clever ideas about camping with a baby, visit our “Camping with Baby” Pinterest Board.


Other posts you may enjoy: Yes You Can! Outdoor Adventures with Baby and Sun Safety for Babies.


thumbnail cindy and janaAbout the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.





5 Misleading Myths that can Sabotage Your Breastfeeding


New moms receive LOTS of conflicting breastfeeding advice. Determining what is fact and what is fiction can be a daunting task, especially when you are sleep deprived!

To help you out, we expose the truth behind 5 common breastfeeding myths.


1.  Breastfeeding is easy. Breastfeeding is hard.

Strangely enough, both of these statements are a myth. No one sentence can sum it up. Every mother’s experience is different.

Some babies will latch well on their very first try; others may take hours or days to latch for the first time.

Some women struggle with milk supply while other mothers could feed their own baby plus a few more!

The best way to get off to a good start with breastfeeding is to begin preparing before baby arrives. Get a head start by reading our FREE ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding. 

If you do find yourself struggling with breastfeeding, get help early from someone experienced in helping with breastfeeding, such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


2.  If you have enough milk, your baby will sleep through the night.

Young babies are not designed to sleep through the night! Their tummies are small and they can digest a full feed of milk in 90 minutes or less. It is normal for babies to wake frequently at night.

Research has also shown that frequent nighttime waking can also be protective against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) The Milk Meg has an excellent post on this topic here.

Although it is exhausting, please know that this is a window of time in your life and you will eventually get more sleep.


3.  Breasts need time to “fill up” between feeds.

breastfeeding myth

A breast is never “empty”; milk is produced as baby nurses, not just in between feedings.

Waiting for the breasts to “fill up” can actually decrease your milk supply over time. The more often milk is removed, the faster the breast makes milk.



4.  If a baby takes a bottle after breastfeeding, mom does not have enough milk.

Not true. Most babies will take a ½ – 1 oz. from a bottle, even if they have just eaten. Milk comes quickly and easily with a bottle; this has nothing to do with mom’s milk supply.


5.  You are not a good mother if you do not breastfeed.

We have worked with many wonderful mothers who worked diligently to establish breastfeeding but were unable to meet their goals. Others examined all of the information and decided that formula was the best choice for their family.

Your value as a mother is not measured in ounces. You can read more on this topic here.


**We expose more breastfeeding myths in this article for Yummy Mummy Club and this guest post on Pregnant Chicken.**


Breastfeeding myths

Keep learning by reading these posts: How to Tell if Baby is Getting Enough Milk and Do Breasts Need Time to Fill Between Feeds?


thumbnail-cindy-and-janaCindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.



How to Wake a Sleepy Baby to Feed

“Wake your baby every 2 to 3 hours to feed”.

“Never wake a sleeping baby!”

New parents get tons of conflicting advice. Who is right? Do you need to wake your baby to feed?

The answer is yes AND no!

How to wake a sleepy baby to feed

Waking your baby to feed will not always be necessary. In fact, it won’t be long before you are spending your energy trying to get your baby back to sleep!

In the early days, however, there are special circumstances that make waking for feeds a good idea.

Immediately following birth, babies usually have a quiet alert stage. They are awake and show interest in feeding. After this first period of alertness, however, they enter a drowsy state that lasts for about 24 hours.

After this first 24 hours, most newborns will wake on their own and want to feed often. Unfortunately, these early days can often be busy with visitors and hospital routines; it is easy to miss baby’s feeding cues. Some babies will wake and cry for feeds while other babies are more laid back and may need reminders to feed.

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend waking baby every 2 or 3 hours in the day to feed and every 3-4 hours at night until he is about 2 weeks old and back to birth weight. This will help to ensure a plentiful milk supply, as baby gets older.

Other reasons babies may be too sleepy to feed are:

  • Prematurity:   Premature babies may tire quickly and may fall asleep before they have had a full feed.

  • Jaundice:   Jaundice can cause babies to be too sleepy to feed well.

  • Difficult delivery:   Use of vacuum or forceps and/or drugs during delivery can result in a sleepy baby.5767768168_55ce76afbf_n

  • Medical problems:   Babies who have a medical problem such as an infection or a heart problem may not feed well.

  • Overstimulation:   Babies can react to excessive handling by visitors, constant loud noises or bright lights by tuning out and going to sleep.

  • Not taking in enough calories:   Babies that are consistently not taking in enough milk may lack the energy needed to feed well.

Tips for waking a sleepy baby:

  • It is difficult to wake a baby in deep sleep. Watch for “soft signs” that your baby is waking such as small body movements, sucking on a fist, or eye movements.

  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin with baby in a diaper only. The closeness to mom helps to cue baby to feed.

  • Use diaper changes to wake baby. If your baby is alert and ready to feed, save the diaper change until after the first breast. It may help him to be alert enough to take the second breast.
  • Express a drop of milk on your nipple and bring it near baby’s lips.

  • Use breast compressions while baby is feeding, to keep him alert and drinking.

  • Burp baby between breasts to reawaken him.

  • Change your breastfeeding position. If you find your baby is sleepy when tucked against your body, try feeding in the football position.

  • Some sleepy babies benefit from switch nursing. (Leave baby on the first breast as long a he is actively sucking. When baby is no longer actively sucking, even with breast compressions, wake your baby and switch to the second breast. Repeat as often as needed. Some moms feed 2 or 3 times on each breast.)

  • Talk to your baby as he nurses. Babies love the sound of their mother’s voice.

  • Walk your fingers up baby’s spine.

  • Rub the soles of baby’s feet.

  • Massage baby’s scalp.

  • Hold your baby up in front of you, talk and make eye contact.

  • imageTry the “doll’s eye technique”: gently lift baby from lying to sitting, hinging at the hips.

  • Gently clap baby’s hands together or bicycle baby’s legs.

  • With your thumb on baby’s palm and a finger on the back of baby’s hand, rhythmically apply pressure.

  • Rub baby’s back with small circular motions, starting from the small of the back and working upwards.

  • Use your finger to trace a circle around baby’s mouth.

  • Some people have used a cool washcloth. This seems a bit harsh so try this only if nothing else is working.

Please note: This list is long; try one or two per feed and see which ones work best for your baby.

Feeding a sleepy baby can be frustrating and time consuming. Keep your baby close so that you are able to respond as soon as baby shows interest.

Once your baby is 2 weeks old and weighs more than when she was born, you will no longer need to worry about waking for feeds. You can relax and feed on demand.

Learn more about breastfeeding a newborn in our online Simply Breastfeeding course (12 videos that teach you everything you need to know about breastfeeding).

Related posts: Days and Nights Mixed Up and How Often will my Newborn Feed?

thumbnail-cindy-and-janaCindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.

5767768168_55ce76afbf_n(Photo courtesy of Flickr:  Digenis Akritas)


Timing breastfeeding: Is it best for baby?


We have been frequently asked why there is no breastfeeding timer in our newborn app, NuuNest. We didn’t just forget! This post will help to explain.






Timing breastfeeding is NOT in the best interests of moms and babies! Here’s why.


Every baby is unique and each feed with your baby will be different. No two feeds will be exactly the same length. Sometimes your baby may only need a snack or just a little cuddle; other times, your baby may be ready for a three-course meal! It takes time to learn, but it is important to follow your baby’s signals.


The length of time a newborn is at the breast does not give information about the volume of milk the baby received. It may take one baby forty minutes to get the same amount of milk that another baby received in just ten minutes. If a timer is used, a mother may unknowingly end a feed before her baby is satisfied.


The first few days of life


In the first days of life, some newborns are alert, eager to feed and will nurse quite quickly. Other newborns are sleepier as they transition to the outside world; they may need a reminder that it is time to eat. They may also need to be stimulated to continue feeding.


If your baby tends to be quite sleepy at the breast, breast compression may help him to continue nursing.


Once baby stops feeding on the first breast, try burping and offering the second breast. He may or may not take the second side.


Watch for these signs your baby has had enough milk:


  • Baby unlatches himself.
  • He no longer sucks actively, despite breast compression.
  • His arms and hands relax. (A hungry baby often has his hands tightly fisted.)


If you are uncertain whether or not your baby has finished feeding, snuggle him against your chest. If he stirs and wants to feed again, return him to the breast.



Beyond the first few days of life


Should breastfeeding be timed

Older babies tend to finish nursing in a shorter time. The length of a feed will depend on baby’s age, personality and hunger level, as well as mom’s milk supply. It continues to be important to let your baby decide the length of the feed.


If you find that your baby’s feeds are consistently lasting for over an hour, contact someone trained in assessing breastfeeding, such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


Watching your baby, rather than the clock, is a more reliable way to determine if your baby has had enough milk. Babies have different feeding styles and different personalities. For these reasons, our NuuNest app will never have a breastfeeding timer!


Other posts you may enjoy: How Often will my Newborn Feed? and Do I Need to Wake Baby to Feed?


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Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.


Jaundice and the Newborn Baby

What is Newborn Jaundice?

Jaundice is a common newborn condition that causes baby’s skin and the white part of the eyes to appear yellow. Most babies will have at least some jaundice in the first few days following birth.

What Causes Jaundice?

Once babies are born, they do not need as many red blood cells as they needed for life in the womb. They therefore break down these extra red blood cells after birth. Bilirubin is the waste that remains.

Baby’s body gets rid of the extra bilirubin through the liver. A newborn’s liver, however, can be a bit immature. Jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up faster than the newborn’s liver can break it down and pass it from the body. The amount of yellow varies due to the level of bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream.

Sometimes babies are jaundiced due to an underlying issue such as a blood incompatibility (mom and baby have different blood types and the mother’s antibodies attack the baby’s red blood cells) or an infection. If baby’s jaundice shows up within the first 24 hours after birth or lasts longer than normal, additional tests may be required.

How Do I Know If My Baby Has Jaundice?

Newborn jaundice will first appear on the baby’s face and eyes, typically around 2 days of age. As baby’s level of bilirubin increases, the yellow color moves down the body. Jaundice usually peaks on the third or fourth day of life and then starts to go away. As the bilirubin level in baby’s bloodstream falls, the yellow color will fade, first in the lower parts of baby’s body and lastly in baby’s face. When the baby’s face and whites of the eyes are back to normal color, you know that the jaundice has resolved. This usually happens by 1-2 weeks of age.

The Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend early screening for jaundice. This screening often involves testing a small sample of your baby’s blood. A newer technology uses a light meter pressed against baby’s skin for an initial measurement of jaundice. In this case, blood tests are only done if the light meter reading is high.

A simple way to look for jaundice is to take your baby near a window during daylight hours.  Press your baby’s skin with your finger and quickly release. You may be able to see the yellow tinge of the jaundice on baby’s skin. (Please note: It is difficult to assess jaundice in artificial lighting or if your baby is wearing yellow.) If you see jaundice past your baby’s hips and baby is not feeding well or has been born prematurely, notify your healthcare provider.

What Should I Do If My Baby is Jaundiced?

If your baby is jaundiced, the best thing that you can do is to make sure baby is getting enough milk.  Feed frequently, at least 8-12 times per day. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties, seek help from a trained professional.  Bilirubin is excreted in the baby’s stools. Infrequent bowel movements allow the bilirubin to be reabsorbed from the gut rather than being eliminated in the stool.

Jaundice can make babies sleepy. You may need to wake the baby to feed or use wake up techniques to keep baby actively nursing at the breast.

What Are the Treatment Options for Jaundice?


In most cases, jaundice will resolve on it’s own without the need for treatment. If treatment is required, phototherapy is used. Phototherapy is a light treatment that will help your baby clear the bilirubin from his system. Most commonly, phototherapy is done in the hospital although a few communities offer phototherapy in the home. In the most severe cases, a blood transfusion may be required for baby.

When Should I Be Worried?

You should notify your healthcare provider if your baby:

– Has jaundice during the first 24 hours of life.

– Is too sleepy to feed, despite the use of wake up techniques.

–  Is not having an adequate number of wet and dirty diapers.

In most cases, jaundice is normal and will resolve on it’s own, especially if your baby is feeding well. If you are feeling uncertain or have any questions, please notify your healthcare provider.


References and More Information:

  1. If Your Baby Has Jaundice.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 21 Nov. 2015. Web.
  2. Jaundice in Caring for Kids, Canadian Paediatric Society, Feb. 2012. Web.
  3. Jaundice in Newborns (Hyperbilirubinemia) Health Link BC.12 Apr. 2016. Web.


Learn more about newborn care: Cord Care and Tummy Time.



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About the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.


(Photo courtesy of Flickr: rchristie)

(Photo courtesy of Flickr: rchristie)


Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby


“I am trying to introduce a bottle to my 6-week-old baby, in the hopes of having baby’s Dad or grandparents feed from time to time. She’s somewhere between adamant and passive refusal! Do you have any suggestions? We’ve only tried twice, so perhaps we need more practice… “ 


 Our Answer:

phpTIo13oPMIntroducing a bottle to a breastfed baby can be a bit of a challenge. It may take a bit of time and practice.


An occasional bottle does not usually interfere with breastfeeding, but every baby can be different. You were wise to wait until 6 weeks before introducing a bottle, to give your supply time to become established. Waiting until 6 weeks also gives your baby time to practice at the breast, before being introduced to something new. If your nipples become sore or if your baby becomes reluctant to latch at the breast after you start giving an occasional bottle, you may want to hold off for a bit.


There are lots of other ways for dad or grandma to bond. I enjoyed this article written by a blogger I follow on Facebook: Why Dads Don’t Need Bottles to Bond with Their Babies.


Some tips for getting your baby to take a bottle:

1.         Put breast milk in the bottle and warm it to body temperature.

2.         Experiment with different slow flow nipples; you may find one your baby prefers.

3.         Your baby may take a bottle more easily from someone other than mom.

4.         Try when your baby is sleepy or just waking from a nap.

                                                                                          – Hope this helps! Jana


P.S. We received a follow up email …this clever mom figured out what worked for her baby!


Later this afternoon I tried the bottle again, and was successful! I started breastfeeding, and then when she pulled off for a break I swapped in the bottle. She drank about 2.5 oz. and then finished a bit more off the breast at the end. Will have to just keep practicing every now and then. It’s mostly for when grandparents visit and they give baby’s dad and I a chance to have a little freedom.


For more information about bottling breast milk, see How to Bottle Breast Milk: Answers to the Top 9 Questions.


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About the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.



Photo courtesy of Boehmer Photography