Most babies will have a long breastfeed straight after birth and then will likely fall asleep for 6-8 hours. This is the perfect time for you to have a well-earned rest too as it may be the last time you have a long uninterrupted sleep for a long time!
It is important to take this opportunity as once babies wake from their long first sleep after birth they tend to feed really, really, frequently in the first few days! This is very normal and nothing to be concerned about.
At first your baby has a very tiny tummy and only drinks a small volume of colostrum from your breasts. The colostrum is absolutely perfect for your baby right now, it tastes sweet and is in small quantities to not overload their system. Colostrum is not very high in protein or fat so this means your baby likes to feed on the breast really frequently to keep filling them up with small quantities of colostrum.
Addressing the Worry of Not Enough Milk Supply
Some mums may think that they do not have enough milk for their baby at the beginning because the baby appears constantly hungry, but this is not true. Just because baby is feeding really often, i.e. every 45mins – 3 hours does not mean that you do not have enough.
Babies need to go to the breast frequently in order to initiate your milk supply for this next week and lay down the foundations to make a good milk supply for the future too. The other thing is babies like to be in almost constant contact with their mum.
It can be scary and overwhelming to be out in the bright lights at first, all you baby has ever known is you, inside you the sounds and light, smells and touch were all lessened. Baby is learning what it’s like to be out and they need you to keep them calm. This is why many babies are content when in contact with you or your partner but cry as soon as they are placed in their bassinet. This is not forever but very normal at first.
Make sure you utilise the help from your partner or parents, friends to cope with the constant holding and cuddling babies need at first. There are no studies anywhere which say that you will spoil your baby by holding them too much. This is just very old fashioned advice that has been proven wrong time and time again!
Humans need to be held, just like our cousins the primates, need to be held when they are babies.
How Do I Know if Baby is Getting Enough Milk at First?
As long as your baby is doing enough wet and dirty nappies the midwives will keep encouraging you to hold your baby in skin to skin contact and feed on demand, as this is perfect right now. Babies usually do at least one wet nappy on day one and at least 2 wet on day two and 3 wet on day 3.
Over these three days you should see dirty nappies full of meconium stools as well. As your milk comes in you will notice babies stools change colour to eventually being yellow and seedy by day 4-5.
When the Milk Comes in
Once your milk starts to come in you will feel your breasts getting heavier as the volume of milk increases. The consistency of the milk changes too from this stage onwards. Mature milk has larger amounts of fat and protein and can fill baby up for longer. Babies still feed frequently though, anywhere between 8-12 times in 24 hours is normal and important to make sure baby is getting enough.
Your breasts make milk based on a system known as supply and demand. The more your baby breastfeeds (demands) the more milk your breasts produce (supply).
Sometimes mums ask “can my baby really be hungry again?” The answer is “yes!” In the first month if your baby is awake they are usually awake for food. Babies may have times when they like to just be held or moved around but usually if they are awake in this first month it’s good to offer them the breast.
As they grow and get into their second and third month of life you may find their feeding pattern changes and settles down and they will have longer periods of being awake to play and interact with you. But in this early phase feeding is key!
As baby and you learn to breastfeed over the next few weeks you will find baby’s breastfeeds probably settle into a recognisable pattern. As you both grow in skills and confidence you will find breastfeeding feels much easier.
To help you understand what happens in the first few days after birth, we have prepared two videos. We hope you find them useful as you start your breastfeeding journey!
Are you a breastfeeding mom? How would you describe your experience so far? To find out more information on breastfeeding and what’s normal join the conversation on our Medela Australia Facebook page.