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Breastfeeding: What to Expect the First 3 Days

Each child has a different story, different birth, different journey, and different breastfeeding journey. Out of the hundreds of moms and babies I have helped, not one is alike.

Each day after your baby is born is a new challenge, but with these basics I hope to give you reassurance and the confidence to trust your body because the female body truly is incredible.

Day 1:

Babies are tired in their first 24 hours of life and they are most active in the first 3 hours of life. They are most alert during this time and then go straight into a sleepy period for about 4-6 hours. Typically babies get about 2-4 good feeds (about 15-20 minutes of active, rhythmic suckling) in the first day with the best feed occurring right after birth. Feeling strong tugs and pulls, contracting, feeling hot, sleepy, and thirsty are all ways your body is reassuring you that you and your babe are doing the right thing!

Also, what goes in must come out! One pee and one stool is the goal for the first 24 hours.

Babies typically show that they are hungry by smacking their lips, rooting around, and bringing their hands up to their mouth. If they have not shown you any cues by two and a half hours, put baby skin to skin and offer the breast to baby. They may or may not take it and that’s okay in the first day as long as you are offering it every 2-3 hours to show baby that food is available when they need it.

Baby’s stomach can only hold one teaspoon of nutrient-rich colostrum! At each feed baby gets about 2-10mls of colostrum, which your body starts making about half-way through your pregnancy.

Clients always ask “Is my baby getting enough milk?” If you are feeling strong tugs and pulls, baby has a deep latch, and baby is peeing and stooling there is no reason to think baby is not getting enough.

Day 2:

Babies become more alert in the second 24 hours of life as they realize they are no longer in the womb. This is usually when cluster feeding begins and babies want to eat for a span of  about 4-6 hours with only small breaks in between. This is normal behavior and is nature’s way of bringing your milk in based on your child’s needs. Milk can come in anywhere from day 3 to day 5 depending on various interventions during birth.

Two pees and two stools is the goal for the second day. On day two, having sore nipples is normal. If you are feeling pinching during feedings, contact your lactation professional to assess the situation. Pinching typically means your baby is not on deep enough and your lactation professional can help with positioning and latch. On day two, follow your baby’s cues for nursing.

You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby!

Day 3:

The third 24 hours you may start to see deep blue veining happening on your breasts, which means your milk is on its way! Feeling warm to the touch and fullness are also signs that you are in the transitional milk stage. You will be able to notice and hear baby swallowing; their stomachs are expanding more and are taking in more volume on day 3. Three pees and three stools is the goal on the third day. Many parents worry about baby’s weight loss but a loss 7-10% weight loss is normal leaving the hospital, birth center, etc.

Going home, feeding your baby every 2-3 hours, even during the night, is very important if it is your goal to exclusively breastfeed. If you let baby sleep through the night, then your body no longer thinks it needs to make as much milk.

Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all women planning to breastfeed see a lactation professional within 3-4 days after birth. She can help assist in proper latch and assess exactly how much milk baby is getting by weighing your baby both before and after a feeding with a special scale that measures in grams. The AAP also recommends holding off on the use of a pacifier until 3-4 weeks or until breastfeeding is well established and waiting until 4-6 weeks to introduce a bottle.

These are the basics of the first few days. Schedule a visit from a lactation professional to discuss any questions or concerns and for further assistance.

Written by Marisa Oliver, Certified Lactation Counselor

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