Breastfeeding in the first few days can be exciting as well as daunting for first time mothers. Learn all about what to expect in the first few days of starting a breastfeeding relationship.
It seems pretty easy when you see someone breastfeeding a baby. Without missing a conversation, open a button and latch on a baby.. Very natural. It may look like a normal, natural and intuitive process; but doesn’t come naturally at all to first time moms and their babies. It is a learned process for both.
Once you get through first few days of trial and error, breastfeeding becomes natural. It is important to have good information beforehand about what to expect in first few days of breastfeeding, to get a head start on a healthy future.
Here’s breakdown of breastfeeding in the first few days, plus much more,
- Breastfeeding within first few hours after birth
- Breastfeeding on days 1 to 3
- Breastfeeding on days 3 to 5
- Breastfeeding on days 5 to 7
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Breastfeeding within first few hours after birth
Newborns are awake and alert for the first 1 to 2 hours after they’re born. Once labor and delivery nurses do their physical check up on newborns, they are ready to eat. If it’s possible, you should try to breastfeed your newborn during these two hours. Here’s what you need to do,
Skin to Skin contact
It is important to put the baby skin to skin on your chest when they are wide awake in first hour of life, if possible. When you and your baby are skin to skin, your milk production and baby’s feeding reflexes are prompted. These will allow your baby to naturally bring his way up to your breast and more breastmilk will be made sooner.
You should remain skin to skin even after a first feed as this will help your baby to feel your warmth and reduce stress, helping both of you to recover from the birthing process.
Even babies born via cesarean section can be placed in a mother’s arms or father can hold the baby skin to skin until the baby is ready for first feed.
Remember, it may not be possible if you or your baby has a medical condition that requires immediate attention. Not to worry, you can work on this when you get a chance.
Feed your baby
Baby should be fed within first 1 to 2 hours after birth. Study published in Int Breastfeed J. 2008 states that nursing in first 120 min after birth leads to longer nursing relationship up to 4 months.
After the first few hours of birth, babies often fall into a deep sleep and are less able to nurse.
You don’t start making milk right after delivery. The yellow, thin liquid that you’re producing is called colostrum. This ‘liquid gold’ is rich in protein, vitamins and mineral that your baby need to fight against harmful bacteria and virus and stimulate baby to produce antibodies. It also protects baby’s immature immune systems. It also acts as a laxative and helps your baby clear out his first poop (meconium) and reduces jaundice risk.
You will likely make very little -two to three teaspoons- colostrum from both breasts each feeding. Which is normal, as your baby won’t take more than 1 to 2 teaspoons each feeding. A newborn’s stomach is very small – size of a cherry-and cannot hold a large amount of milk. That is why colostrum is very concentrated, and babies need to be feed often in the beginning.
Check your latch
Several studies have shown that babies born to mothers who didn’t have pain medication, will crawl up to the breast and latch themselves when prompted to breastfeed within first few hours after birth (source).
Realistically, it can be tough for some moms and their babies (including my firstborn) to latch perfectly after birth. Some babies require a practice to master the skill of latching. Remember that breastfeeding, positioning and latching your baby may not feel comfortable right after birth, but this will change as you do it more often. While you are in delivery room, you will get a help with positioning and latching your baby from well-trained nurses and midwives.
Breastfeeding on days 1 to 3
Depending on the type of delivery and labor, baby and you are likely to be exhausted. About 3 to 4 hours after birth, baby tend to go into deep sleep. How do you keep your baby nourish and establish your milk supply? Here’s what you need to know,
Expect your baby to nurse frequently for the first few days after birth. Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply. The more your baby breastfeeds – the more milk you will produce – “Supply and Demand’’.
There is absolutely no feeding schedule yet. Just concentrate on breastfeeding when your baby gives you hunger cues, such as:
- stirring from his sleep
- head bobbing
- sticking tongue out
- sucking sound
- making cooing noises
- lip smacking
- Fist to mouth
Crying is later stage of hunger. Don’t wait until baby is crying, as it is harder to feed when crying at this stage and both of you’re still learning.
These early feeds can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to 45 minutes, as your baby is still developing the muscles and coordination to suck efficiently.
Some newborns are very sleepy at first, wake baby to nurse 2 hours after last feed during days and 4 hours after last feed at night.
Aim for nursing at least 10 – 12 times per day (24 hours). You may only get a couple of feedings (6 to 8) at first day after birth as baby may go into a deep sleep to recover from the birthing process.
Stay away from pacifier
If possible, avoid artificial nipples, pacifiers or bottles. Make yourself available for your baby needs.
Baby’s weight loss
Within first 3 days of life, breastfed babies are expected to lose 5-7% of birth weight. It is normal partly due to first bowel movement.
Watch out for pee and poop
First 24 hours after birth, baby must have at least 1 wet diaper and 1 black poop (meconium).
Day 2 after birth, baby should have 2 wet diapers and second black meconium poop.
Day 2 after birth, expect 3 wet diapers.
Try to nurse on both side at each feeding on days 2-3 aiming for 10-15 mins on each side. Your baby may have trouble latching in the first few days. If this is the case, get a help from lactation consultant while you are still at hospital.
If needed, hand express colostrum and feed your baby with medicinal spoon. While you are at hospital, nurses are well-trained to guide you through all these issues.
Breastfeeding on days 3-5
Most likely you are home by now with your baby. Feeling more comfortable in your own house with baby.
Welcome transitional milk
Transitional milk should start coming in between days 3-5. It is a mix between colostrum and mature milk ( comes around day 10) and appears when your milk first comes in. It is a bit orange in colour and little less rich than colostrum but has more fat and calories.
Some women feel fuller all of a sudden while for some it is a gradual process. Some women feel engorged when their first milk comes in. To minimize engorgement,
- Nurse often
- ensure good latching and positioning
- Let baby finish the first breast completely before offering other side
Your baby may have trouble latching, if your breasts are fuller or engorged. You can hand express or pump off a little milk to soften the nipple and then try latching again (Make sure to freeze any amount of expressed milk for later use, in case you can’t make milk anymore). You can also try a Reverse Pressure Softening method to soften your nipple.
To relieve discomfort from engorgement, use cold packs or chilled cabbage leaf compresses between feedings. Gentle message can also help decrease discomfort from engorgement.
Poop-When your milk comes in, baby’s stool will change from black to greenish colour and will take on mustard colour thereafter. Breast milk is easy to digest so baby could have anywhere from 4 to 6 yellow, watery, speedy, curdy poops after day 3 to 5. Some babies poop every time they nurse, or even more often–this is normal, too.
Pee – Baby will have 4 wet diapers on 4th day and 5 wet diapers on 5th day after birth. When milk comes in wet diapers will increase in number and will be heavier.
Breastfeeding on days 5 to 7
After first few days of trial and error, you might be starting to get a hang of it. You may have started recognizing your baby’s feeding pattern. Your baby will still nurse frequently about 10-12 times in 24 hours.
Your schedule of feeding baby may very from your friend. Remember, your baby is different then your friend’s baby. Some baby may want to nurse every hour for couple of hours and then passed out for few hours after that- called cluster feeding.
Important thing is learning baby’s hunger cues. Always feed your baby when he shows cues listed above.
Diaper check again
Poop: Babies generally have 3 to 5 poopy diapers within 24 hours. The poop should be size of a quarter and yellow in colour. You don’t need to vary about variation in colour and texture of poop.
Pee : Expect 5 to 6 wet diapers and will be heavier as mentioned above.
After mother’s milk come in, on average breastfed baby gains 170g/week (source).Take a baby for a weight check at the end of first week. Weigh baby without cloths and diaper. It can take up to 2 weeks for baby to get back to birth weight.
If you are concerned about baby’s weight gain, consult your doctor or lactation consultant immediately.
Supplement your baby
There are tons of benefits of breastfeeding to both mom and baby. If you need to supplement, pump your milk and feed it to your baby. It may seem hard to keep up with breastfeeding and may tempt you to supplement your baby with formula. But before you do that, read about these breastfeeding facts that will motivate you to keep going.
To correct for lack of exposure to sunlight, a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU should be given to all breastfed babies. This supplement should be given from birth until baby is 1 year old or until baby’s diet include equal amount of vitamin D from other food source.
Feeling pain when Breastfeeding
You may feel sore, tender nipples after mom’s milk come in. Frequent feeding may worsen problem quickly. Some moms feel severe pain that lasts between feeds and/or cracked nipple. If this is the case, you need in-person help from lactation consultant. Often quick adjustment to latch or positioning relieves discomfort.
Check your baby’s latch
Baby not latching properly is the most likely cause of breastfeeding pain. Ensure large portion of the lower part of the areola is in baby’s mouth while latching and your nipple against the roof of her mouth. If you are not getting good latch on, insert a clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth to break the suction and then let baby latch on again.
Try different breastfeeding positions
A laid-back, koala or upright hold, cross-cradle or lying down hold may take pressure off the painful areas of breast.
Watch this video to learn about 13 breastfeeding positions and adopt one that is most comfortable for you and your baby.
Air dry nipple
Air dry nipple with clean, soft muslin cloth after each feeding. As damp condition, increases the chances of infection. Use disposable or washable nursing pads to absorb any leakage and remember to change it frequently.
Sooth your nipples
Gently apply a few drops of your breast milk or apply ultra pure lanolin cream to dry nipple to relieve soreness. You could also try hydrogel pads straight from the fridge to get instant pain relief.
Use breast shells to prevent your clothes from rubbing against sore areas of your nipple.
Consult a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist if the pain while breastfeeding doesn’t subside after a few days.
Related article: 19 Most Common Breastfeeding Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Related article: Natural Remedies for a Clogged Milk Duct
Beyond the First Week
Yay, you have made it to the first week after birth. Get comfy and cozy with your baby in an area with few distractions and low noise levels because babymoon starts now. Your baby will want to be with you and nurse frequently. So, ensure you settle in a position that’s comfortable for you and baby while breastfeeding. If you are sitting up use a nursing pillow to raise baby to a comfortable height.
Keep in mind that you and your baby are still learning, so you need to focus during feeding.
Try to relax
Feeling a little overwhelmed? That’s normal. But stress can inhibit a let-down of milk. So, try to relax before breastfeeding. Here is a good article on how to survive emotionally and physically during first month with newborn.
Once you have established a breastfeeding and recovered from birth, join a local breastfeeding group. Avoid Facebook online group if you can. Meeting other breastfeeding moms will help you feel normal and they will understand what you are going through.
Need a Help With Breastfeeding?
Its okay to get anxious about breastfeeding in the first few days. Although it is a natural part of the birthing process, it is not always easy. Many women need help learning how to breastfeed.
At some point of breastfeeding journey, most women have common questions – is my baby latching on properly? is she getting enough milk? how to increase milk supply? and list goes on.
Many women, including me, prepare themselves well in advance (third trimester), by taking online breastfeeding class. This 90 minutes online class can help you prepare for your breastfeeding success. With help on latching and positioning to common mistakes moms make when breastfeeding and more, this course has it all to make it a positive experience
Read full review of Online Breastfeeding Class by Milkology here.
Remember that, breastfeeding may hurt initially, but it offers lots of benefits for both you and your baby. Once you get past initial phase of trial and error days of finding the best systems that works for you and your baby, nursing becomes the most rewarding responsibilities. So, hang in their mamas !!
How About You?
How was breastfeeding for you in early days? Please comment below.
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