What to Expect in the First Few Days of Breastfeeding
When will your milk come in? Will your baby get plenty to eat during those first few days? How can you increase milk production? Breastfeeding moms face many questions in the beginning, but your body is the perfect milk-making machine, ready to produce the nutrition your baby needs on-demand. Ease your breastfeeding worries by learning more about what to expect and what helps.
When Does Your Milk Come In?
You may not notice it, but your body starts producing colostrum during pregnancy, sometime around your 16th to 22nd week. Colostrum is name of the pre-milk that your baby gets in the first few days. It’s packed with immune-boosting antibodies and nutrients, and it’s ready to go as soon as your baby is born.
You don’t produce a lot of colostrum, but your newborn only needs about 1 ounce in the first 24 hours, so the amount is just right for his needs. His tummy is so small that he can’t handle more than a small amount at each feeding. Over the next few days, he will breastfeed more often, but still only consume about 1 ounce of colostrum each time. During that time, your body shifts from making colostrum to producing the mature breast milk he will eat for as long as you nurse.
How Long Does It Take to Establish a Regular Milk Supply?
About 30 to 40 hours after you deliver your placenta, your body gets the memo to start ramping up breast milk production. The milk supply gradually increases during that time until it fully comes in, typically around two to three days after you give birth. Don’t panic if you haven’t established a regular milk supply in a few days. Some women take longer than three days to really experience the full milk supply.
You can tell when you’re producing lots of milk by the way your breasts feel. You might experience fullness, swelling or heaviness in your breasts. Some women have a warm or tingling sensation. Now’s the time to invest in breast pads. You also may notice leaking when your breasts are full.
What to Do if You Have a Low Milk Supply
Hormones drive milk production after birth, but some women have a low milk supply or worry about producing enough milk. Some issues that may delay your milk production include:
- Lots of IV fluids during delivery
- Pain medication
- Blood loss
- Breast issues
- Health problems that affect your hormones
Many of these are out of your control, but none of them should stop you from breastfeeding. In most cases, you can still establish a sufficient breast milk supply. You just may need some extra time.
Simple steps can help you increase your milk production and help your milk come in quickly. Nursing early seems to increase milk production during the first few days. Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after birth, and offer the breast often. If your baby has difficulty latching on or has a medical problem that keeps you from breastfeeding, start pumping shortly after birth. Skin-to-skin contact can also help with breast milk production.
It’s difficult if your milk supply seems low, but staying relaxed and trying to avoid stress about the situation can help. If you worry about your milk production, you may cause more issues. Surround yourself with people who are comforting and supportive of your breastfeeding efforts, and create a relaxing environment for nursing. Getting support from a lactation consultant can help you establish good breastfeeding techniques and improve milk production.
When to See a Doctor
Discuss breastfeeding with your doctor before giving birth if you have a medical condition that may interfere with milk production. After birth, your baby’s weight is monitored to make sure she’s getting enough to eat. If your baby isn’t gaining weight, work with your doctor to get help with your supply. Babies lose weight after birth but should get back to birth weight in one to two weeks. After that, normal weight gain for a newborn is 4 to 7 ounces per week.
Babies who get enough breast milk usually have four to six wet diapers per day, and their urine is pale. Breastfed babies tend to have two to three bowel movements a day in the first month. If your baby’s wet and dirty diapers don’t add up, talk to your pediatrician. Your baby may be perfectly normal, especially if she’s gaining weight, but her doctor can give you guidance.