Why are the first weeks of breastfeeding so intense?
Be prepared. This is a time of intense breastfeeding. Here are breastfeeding basics from Day 4 to Week 6.
- A baby's stomach stretches from the size of a shooter marble on Day 1 to a chicken egg by Day 10.
- Most babies feed 8-12 times a day but not at set times. They may bunch feedings close together for part of the day.
- Babies may take one breast at a feeding, or they may need to feed from both breasts. Let your baby decide.
- Most mothers start to make much more milk starting on Day 3 or 4.
- Drained breasts make milk faster. Full breasts make milk slower.
- Breastfeed only. Avoid pacifiers and any other liquids.
- Your milk production grows from about 1 ounce (30 mL) to about 30 ounces (900 mL) between Days 1 and 40.
What to Expect
- If your breasts feel very full, breastfeed more or express milk. This will make you feel better, not worse.
- By Day 3-5, baby's black stools turn first green and then yellow. After that, expect 3-4 or more yellow stools every day.
- Expect 5-6 or more wet diapers a day by Day 5.
- Your baby should be back to birth weight by 2 weeks. Then expect baby to gain about 7 ounces (210 g) a week or 2 lbs (900 g) a month.
- Your baby may want to feed again soon after breastfeeding. This is normal now.
- Most babies sleep for one 4-5 hour stretch each day. It may not be at night.
Things to Learn
- Breastfeed whenever your baby wants to. You'll know it's time when baby's head turns from side to side with an open mouth. Or when she puts her hand to her mouth.
- Don't wait until your baby fusses or cries. When upset, it's harder to feed well.
- Use a position that feels good for you and your baby.
- Learn to sleep while you breastfeed. Practice during the day.
- If breastfeeding hurts, get help. A small change in how your baby takes the breast may be all you need to feel better.
- Find a mother's group near you. Spend time with other breastfeeding mothers.
Seek Breastfeeding Help When
- Breastfeeding hurts.
- Baby loose more than 10% of birth weight or after Day 4 gains weight too slowly.
Even when breastfeeding is going well, you may experience some of the following:
- Your baby has fussy times. (Most babies do.)
- She wants to feed again soon after breastfeeding. (Most babies do.)
- She wants to feed more often. (This adjusts your milk production.)
- Your breasts no longer feel full. (Usually at about 3-4 weeks.)
- She wants to feed less often or for a shorter time. (Babies get faster with practice.)
- She wakes a lot at night. (Babies need to do this to get enough milk.)
- She will take a bottle after breastfeeding. (Babies like to suck.)
- You can't express much milk. (This skill takes practice.)
You Know You Have Plenty of Milk When
Baby Gains Weight Well On Breast Alone
0-4 months: 7 ounces (210 g) a week or 2 lbs. (900g) a month
- 0-4 months: 7 ounces (210 g) a week or 2 lbs. (900g) a month
Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers