One of the biggest challenges I experienced when breastfeeding for the first time was the amount of unknown involved. Completely new to both of us and with limited knowledge of how to breastfeed successfully, I found there was no way of knowing how much milk my daughter was consuming, when she was going to nurse next or even whether I was giving her enough of the nutrients that she needed.
My friend recommended that I track my daughter’s breastfeeds using a tracker app on my phone, helping me to learn more about my baby’s breastfeeding journey and provide some reassurance. It completely changed the way I saw nursing and helped me relax too.
What is breastfeeding tracking?
There are various ways to track your breastfeeding and whether you use a feature rich app on your phone or an old school pen and paper, the general aim is the same. Recording data around your baby’s nursing such as when feeding occurs, how long each nursing session lasts and even something as simple as which breast you fed from last, can really help you learn more about any schedule, routine and trends your baby may be creating. This can be particularly useful in the early days whilst breastfeeding is still becoming established.
Why should you track your breastfeeding journey?
For me, one of the main benefits of tracking your breastfeeding is that it helps you understand your baby a little better. Even from a young age, you can start to learn the average gap between feeds, how long your baby generally feeds for and how many feeds a day they generally have, as well as start to identify trends such as noticing that they cluster feed between the hours of 7pm and 10pm. The more you know about your baby and their emerging habits, the more prepared you can be for them.
Secondly, those early days with a newborn are pretty overwhelming. When you are overtired and sleep deprived, even simple things like remembering how long it’s been since you nursed and which breast you used last can be forgotten. I found just having a note of the time the last feed ended was a really useful reference if I started to worry or wondered why she was becoming fractious.
Some of the downloadable breastfeeding tracker apps can offer some really valuable feature rich options too, such as the ability to create graphs and charts and visually track your data; but essentially you can record what feels important to you, even if that’s how full your breasts felt or how content your baby seemed. You can even try different holds or positions and see whether this impacts how long they nurse.
A word of caution…
Whilst there are lots of benefits to tracking your baby’s breastfeeding schedule, I would also approach with a little caution. Tracking data too closely can make you become a little obsessed with the numbers, when the reality is, nothing with a baby is an exact science. One day they may just throw out a red herring, go on a mini nursing strike, experience a particularly bad bout of colic or simply have not slept well the night before. Just because they have a change to their usual routine, doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.
If tracking this closely causes additional anxiety rather than providing reassurance, you may find that you can step away from the data once nursing is established and go with your gut instead.