Breastfeeding – Getting Started
A great start to breastfeeding begins during pregnancy. Knowing what is normal can help to smooth out some of the bumps you may encounter.
If your baby has not yet arrived, start by downloading our free ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding. Download it here.
Baby’s first 24 hours
Once baby arrives, snuggle in close skin to skin contact for at least an hour after birth if possible.
Breastfeeding can take a bit of practice. Both you and baby will be recovering from birth. Babies are often in a quiet alert state for the first hour after birth. This is a great time for a first feeding attempt.
Once baby latches, try to limit distractions. This is a special time and you have waited a long time for this first introduction! Most procedures, such as a baby bath, can wait.
The colostrum your baby receives in early breastfeeding is important for baby and has been referred to as “baby’s first immunization!”
After the first quiet alert stage, your newborn will enter a state of deep sleep and will be difficult to wake to feed. This may be a better time for mom and baby to get some rest. When baby wakes from this deep sleep, try breastfeeding again.
Rooming in is important as you start to learn your newborn’s feeding cues. Cues your baby may be ready to feed include:
- stirring and stretching
- turning the head with an open mouth (“rooting”)
- bringing hands to his mouth
- making sucking motions
Crying is a late sign of hunger. If your newborn is already crying, try to calm baby prior to offering the breast by holding close, talking quietly, or rocking gently.
If your baby has not latched by 6 hours of age, hand expression will stimulate your body to begin the milk production process. Drops of colostrum expressed can be fed to baby on a spoon.
Be patient. Most babies will eventually latch to the breast. It sometimes can take a bit of patience and practice!
24-48 hours after birth (Day 1-2)
During this stage you can expect your baby to have at least one wet and one dirty diaper. Baby will be passing black sticky stool called meconium (see photo here). You should start hearing the occasional swallow at the breast, a soft “cah” sound.
It is normal for nipples to feel “tender” as you get used to breastfeeding. If you would describe your nipples as “sore” or if you find yourself curling your toes with pain, please ask for help! The earlier you get help, the better for both you and baby.
48-72 hours after birth (Day 2-3)
On Day 2, baby’s feeding pattern changes and you may start to wonder if you have enough milk. Baby will want to be at the breast frequently, sometimes still rooting or chewing on hands after feeds. This may be tiring for you as you may feel like all you are doing is breastfeeding!
It is important to try to sleep when the baby does as baby may only have one longer stretch of sleep in 24 hours. The frequent feeding at this stage is a signal to your body to make more milk. When you express a drop of milk you may notice a change from the golden colostrum color to a whiter, watery appearance.
You may start to notice your breasts feeling heavier. As the breasts get heavier, your baby will begin to swallow more frequently during feeds. After a feed your baby will be content and relaxed and go to sleep. Your baby’s stools will enter the “transitional” stage (see photos here). You may notice a pinky orangy color resembling brick dust in the baby’s urine (see a photo here). It is normal at this stage. The urine should become colorless and free of brick dust in the next few days.
During this time, your breasts may feel overly full and tender. This is normal. Your breasts will adjust to the amount your baby needs over the next few days. A few minutes of massage and warm compresses prior to feeding may help the milk to flow. Cool compresses after the feed may help with swelling.
If the areola (the brown area around the nipple) is too firm you may find your baby slips off the breast with latching attempts. Try moving the swelling away from the nipple and areola with counter pressure.
You will hear louder and more frequent swallows during this stage. After breastfeeding on the first side, burp baby and offer the second side. Do not be alarmed if your baby is not interested in the second side. Baby’s tummies can hold only a limited amount of milk. One side may be enough.
If your baby wants to eat an hour later, it does not mean that she did not get enough the first time. A full tummy of milk can be digested in 90 minutes or less!
Your baby’s weight will begin to increase. Newborns typically gain about 20-30 grams per day (almost 1 ounce). More than this is not a concern. A breastfed baby can never gain too much!
Baby’s stools will become watery, bright mustard yellow and curdy (see photo here).
If your breasts are heavier, the feeds are comfortable, and your baby is gaining, you are off to a great start! You have worked hard to get to this stage and are probably a bit sleep deprived. Sleep when the baby does, limit company and try to focus on caring for yourself.
If you are struggling with breastfeeding, seek help as soon as possible from a healthcare professional or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.
Surrounding yourself with other breastfeeding mothers can be invaluable! Ask your community health nurse if there are mother’s groups that she can suggest.
Learn more about breastfeeding a newborn in our online Simply Breastfeeding course (12 videos that teach you everything you need to know about breastfeeding).
References and More Information:
- “Average Weight Gain for Breastfed Babies.” KellyMom.com. 11 Apr. 2016. Web.
- Bonyata, Kelly. “Breastfeeding your newborn — what to expect in the early weeks.” KellyMom.com. 01 Mar. 2016. Web.
- “Establishing Your Milk Supply.” lllc.ca, La Leche League Canada, 2010. Web.
- Holmes, Allison V., Angela Yerdon McLeod, and Maya Bunik. “ABM Clinical Protocol #5: Peripartum Breastfeeding Management for the Healthy Mother and Infant at Term, Revision 2013.” Breastfeeding Medicine 8.6 (2013): 469-73. Bfmed.org. Web.
- Newman, Jack, MD, FRCPC, and Edith Kernerman, IBCLC. “Breastfeeding – Starting Out Right”, 2009. Web.
- “When will my milk come in?” KellyMom.com. 15 Mar. 2016. Web.
- “Weight Gain and Knowing Baby Is Getting Enough Milk.” La Leche League Canada. N.p., n.d. Web.
Learn more about breastfeeding in these posts:
- How often a newborn feeds
- Finding a comfortable breastfeeding position
- How to help baby to latch
- How to tell if baby is getting enough milk
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
- Download their FREE ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.
- Download their FREE video course Getting Ready to Breastfeed.
- Download their FREE app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking.