No two babies are alike, and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all breastfeeding advice. Certainly there are some basic important principles that all nursing mothers need to follow like early, frequent feeding, making sure baby is positioned so that the head and body are in line, and making sure the latch is deep. However, some babies do really well just nursing on one breast per feed, while others need to nurse on both breasts. And some babies need a technique called switch nursing to keep them awake and actively nursing throughout the feed. If your baby is a picky little eater who seems to want to nibble forever or a sleepy baby who falls asleep quickly at the breast, then this technique might be right for you!
Your Sleepy Nurser
Sometimes newborns just have a really hard time staying awake to finish a feed. I always encourage moms to use breast compression to keep baby actively nursing. Simply stroke the beast toward the nipple as you are nursing. This will accomplish 2 things: first it will move the nipple in baby's mouth reminding him that he is actually supposed to be suckling; however, it may also move some milk into his mouth, thereby triggering a swallow and continued sucking.
Once baby is no longer responding to breast massage and compression with active sucks and swallows, it is time to take him off and switch sides. Some babies will reach that point in as little as 5 minutes. That's fine. Take him off, stimulate him or burp him, and put him on the other breast. When he stops actively nursing there, you will go back to the first breast.
You may end up nursing 2-3 times on each breast. Think of it as a multi-course meal. He starts with his appetizer on the right side for example, then gets his soup on the left. Then he goes back to the right for his salad and back to the left for his entree, if he's still hungry there's no reason he can't go back to the right for dessert and even get after-dinner drinks on the left. Remember to begin each feed on the opposite breast from the one you started with last feed.
The key to switch nursing is watching your baby and being tuned into his eating. As long as he is actively nursing, he stays on the same breast. Don't worry about what the clock says. Focus on your baby's active nursing.
Mothers often experience a second letdown 7-12 minutes into a feed, so switch nursing allows baby to be suckling actively again the second time he goes onto each breast, thereby getting more calorie-rich, nutritious milk than he would get if he were suckling less effectively.
You will know baby is getting enough if he is content after nursing. Once your milk is in (between days 3 & 6 usually) a newborn should have at least 6 wet diapers a day and 3-4 poopy diapers a day during the first month or so.
Not for Everybody
This technique isn't for every baby. Mothers who are producing copious amounts of milk for example, would do better to just nurse on one breast per feed. Some mothers may find this works great in the newborn period, then find they are able to move toward just nursing on one side per feed or just one time each on both breasts. Remember that YOU ARE THE EXPERT ON YOUR BABY! You need to do whatever works best for the two of you. If in doubt, contact a lactation consultant who can help you figure out what is best for YOUR baby!