Breastfeeding During the First Week

Wow! You did an amazing job bringing a new member of your family into this world. You deserve a parade in your honor. The first week with a newborn is all about adjustments and learning on the fly. Breastfeeding is no different. You can study up on breastfeeding for your whole pregnancy, but when it comes time for the real thing there will definitely be surprises. In order to get you as prepared as possible however, we want to talk about breastfeeding during the first week and what it may look like.

Experts encourage mothers to start breastfeeding within the first hour of your baby’s life. This may not always be possible but it’s a good goal to set if you have the opportunity. Newborns tend to be alert for a few hours after their birth, and it’s a good idea to get in the habit of feeding as soon as you can. While you’re in the hospital, take advantage of lactation consultants who can give you some tips on how to make breastfeeding as successful as possible for you and your baby. In the first few days of life, baby’s will feed on command. This means that baby’s will be ready to eat around every two hours, though it may be shorter or longer. Newborns should not go more than 4 hours without being fed, even overnight. This is a tough schedule, but necessary to keep them growing healthy and strong. 

In the first 72 hours of breastfeeding, your body is producing a nutrient dense substance called colostrum instead of mature breast milk. To learn more about this and the process of milk coming in, check out our blog on Breastfeeding Supply. While colostrum has all of the nutrients your baby needs in these first few days, they will still lose weight. It is typical for babies to lose between 5-7% of their birth weight. This is natural and will be regained as you start to produce breast milk. Even though it is normal, keep an eye on your baby’s weight and consult an IBCLC or a pediatrician if you are concerned. 

There’s a misconception around breastfeeding that as soon as you start the milk will just flow right out of you. While you will certainly produce more as time goes on, the first few feedings are just drops of milk. There are a few key ways to increase your breastfeeding supply that should be used as soon as possible in those first few days. Hand expressing is a technique that allows you to release milk from your breasts using only your hands, and it is often the easiest and most comfortable way to pump in the first few days. Research has shown that frequent hand expression combined with electric pumping during the first week helps to boost your body’s natural milk production3. Click here to learn more about the mission of First Droplets and breastfeeding during the first week.

While your baby is being fed colostrum, they may only have one or two wet diapers a day. After your milk supply arrives, it is typical to expect upwards of 6 wet diapers each day. Keeping track of these can help you make sure your baby is hydrated enough. In addition, newborn poops start out a dark tarrish color and transition to a more orangey color as milk production increases. Look out for around four of these diapers a day, this is a likely sign your baby is getting enough nutrition. To find out more about the different types and colors of newborn poops, head over to our piece on what the different colors of poop mean.

As you and your baby get more acquainted with each other, you will start to learn their hunger cues more. In the first week, it’s very unlikely that there will be any time of pattern or schedule to when your baby wants to eat. Feeding them while they’re hungry until they are full is good for their nutrition and sleep habits. The most important thing to remember during this time is that breastfeeding can be hard. If you have questions, concerns, hesitations, or just need to get something off your chest, lactation consultants will be your best friend. Never hesitate to ask for help, you are doing amazing!

Resources

  1. Littleton, K. (Ed.). (2019, November). Breastfeeding FAQs: How Much and How Often (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. KidsHealth. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/breastfeed-often.html. 
  2. Wisner, W. (2021, May 7). Breastfeeding your newborn: Your guide to the first week of nursing. Motherly. https://www.mother.ly/child/milk-mama-expert-tips-for-the-first-week-of-breastfeeding. 
  3. We know that making plenty of milk is the key to successful breastfeeding. But did you know that the first hour after delivery is the most effective time to begin? Discover the best tool to begin breastfeeding: your hands. Droplet. (n.d.). https://firstdroplets.com/#mission. 

Claire Dowell