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Breastfeeding -- Answers to Moms' Most-Asked Questions

Sudden Hunger, Biting, and Pumping

1. Why is my baby suddenly acting so hungry?

It may seem as if you're always nursing your infant, especially in the beginning. Breast milk is easily digested, so a newborn needs to eat at least eight times in a 24-hour period.

But don't be alarmed if your baby suddenly wants to feed even more frequently than usual. Hunger spurts are common in breastfed infants, especially those who nurse exclusively. They often occur around 10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 3 months of age, though they can happen at any time. In some cases, they're caused by a temporary decrease in a mother's milk production, due to overexertion or fatigue. Although you may be tempted to give your baby formula or even cereal to satisfy him, doing so may only reduce your milk supply.

Instead, simply follow his cues and put him to the breast as often as he asks. You'll probably need to breastfeed for 20 minutes every two hours or so for a couple of days until your supply adjusts to his increased demand. During this time, eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. And get extra rest: Even though you've heard it a hundred times, try to nap when the baby does, get someone else to cook dinner, and ask your partner, friends, or relatives to pitch in with chores (or let the house go for a couple of days).

2. What if my infant bites me?

It's one thing to nurse a toothless newborn; it's another to put a baby with a few tiny choppers to your breast. But your little one

isn't likely to nibble while she's actively feeding -- her tongue will cover her lower teeth when she's suckling. At the end of a meal, however, when the flow of milk has tapered, an infant can get restless or playful and take a nip.

To discourage her, gently remove her from your breast as soon as she stops swallowing. If she manages to chomp down anyway, say no in a firm voice and end the feeding. Nearly all babies learn pretty quickly not to bite the mom who feeds them!

3. When's the best time to start pumping?

Mothers, whether they're going back to work or not, often tell me that they've waited six weeks (or until they think breastfeeding's been well established) to begin using a pump. But it's fine to start sooner -- even the day your milk comes in.

There are several advantages to expressing your milk during the first week of your baby's life. The key to stimulating production is to empty the breasts. So if your newborn doesn't nurse vigorously, pumping for about ten minutes immediately after each feeding can drain most of the remaining milk. It can also help relieve engorgement and coax flat or inverted nipples to protrude more.

After the first week, you can express any leftover milk after your baby's early-morning and/or midmorning feed -- the times of day when your supply is most plentiful. This practice will continue to increase your daily production as well as provide milk that you can store or freeze for later use.