The first week after birth is the critical time to get many things right from the start. Successful breastfeeding is one of them. Knowing what to expect in the first week of breastfeeding can create a pleasant transition to motherhood.
What to expect in the first few days
In the first few days, you and your baby will be getting to know each other and understanding what works. Generally, here are what to expect in the first few days:
Day 1: Immediately after birth, pregnancy hormone drops, and prolactin starts working, telling the breasts to produce milk. However, this process of milk “coming in” can take 3-5 days, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see huge milk flow in the first week.
Your baby may feel sleepy, but babies should feed within 30 minutes after birth. Your baby will only feed a small amount (say a teaspoonful) each session, which means you may have to feed your child as often as every 1 to 3 hours.
The first flow of breastmilk is called colostrum, which is thick, very concentrated, and usually golden yellow. It is rich in immunoglobulin that helps prevent infections, so it is extremely important that your baby gets it.
Day 2: Your baby may want to feed more often, perhaps every hour or two, and may have some green/black poop and two wet diapers. These numbers are indicative and may not suggest the exact frequency of your child.
Frequent breastfeeding during the first few days stimulates milk production and let-down. As your baby suckles, with a proper latch, your body responds by releasing the hormone oxytocin, which tells the muscles in your breast to squeeze milk towards your nipple — the “let-down reflex”. You may get a tingling sensation during sucking, and when your milk starts flowing, you will notice your baby switching from sucking to swallowing.
Day 3: Your milk production begins to increase. So, your baby will have fewer and longer feeds, and the poo changes to a greenish-brown color.
If your baby is still learning how to latch properly, you may experience some soreness or crack in the nipples — putting milk on your nipples after each feeding can alleviate the pain. However, try to persist with breastfeeding; it will get easier.
Day 4: Your mature milk starts coming in. Your baby may be feeding every 2-3 hours. The poo will be mustard in color, and your baby may wet four diapers in a day.
Now, you may notice that when your baby starts fussing and turning the head sideways (rooting), the baby might be signaling a hunger cue. Sometimes, the milk let-down may be too much for your baby to swallow, causing the little one to cough and splutter. When this happens, you may have to let your baby rest for a while before continuing.
Day 5: Milk flow increases to about 500-800 ml per day. Some babies may poo three to four times. You may get five or more wet diapers.
Don’t worry if you feel like your baby wants to feed so often and wondering if it’s because of inadequate feeding. You should feed your baby as often as the little one wants; this keeps your body producing more milk. As a rough guide, feed your baby at least 8-12 times every 24 hours during the first few weeks.
Day 6: Your baby feeds longer in each feeding session, and you should expect more wet diapers.
If you feel like your body is not producing enough milk, try to reduce stress. Cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, reduces oxytocin. If there is less oxytocin in the body, it is harder for the body to get the milk flowing. Focus on the bonding. Trust in the process and relax.
Day 7: You should feel more comfortable breastfeeding and your baby knows how to properly latch.
A good latch empties the breast, and empty breasts maintain steady milk production and minimize engorgement.
Try to persist with frequent nursing, especially during the night when prolactin is at its peak; it keeps the body producing more milk and increasing supply.
People’s physiology differs and so does the time it takes for milk to start coming in. Your body will eventually adjust to meet your baby’s needs. Stay calm and keep on feeding.