What to expect your first few weeks breastfeeding

Once Baby is born, your number one job will be making sure that they get enough to eat. But what else can you (and Baby) expect in your early days of breastfeeding?

Feeding Baby

Most babies aren’t born breastfeeding experts. While you’re working hard to catch up on sleep and feed Baby, they are also working hard to figure out how this whole breastfeeding thing works. During these weeks you’ll want to keep breastfeeding Baby frequently to help you maintain a good supply of milk. In the first few weeks, Baby will likely want (and need) to nurse frequently, eating at least every one to three hours each day over a 24-hour period and waking up to breastfeed. Baby might want to cluster feed (shorter, more frequent feedings ‘clustered’ together), and if so, this is totally normal. In weeks 2 through 6, you’ll want to breastfeed Baby at least eight to twelve times per 24 hours, and even more if they like to cluster feed.

Watching Baby grow

Some weight loss in the first week of a baby’s life is normal, but after that, their weight should start to go up steadily. If Baby is gaining weight, you most likely have an adequate milk supply and can be certain Baby is getting enough to eat. At the end of the first and second weeks of breastfeeding, you’ll want to have Baby weighed to make sure they are growing at a healthy rate. A healthy newborn should lose no more than 7% of their birth weight in the first few days after birth. After this, they will start to gain roughly 6 ounces per week.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on the number of diapers they are going through. In the first 4 days, newborns typically produce one dirty diaper; after day 4, they should pass 3 to 4 stools daily. Once their mom’s milk comes in, babies produce 5 to 6 wet diapers every 24 hours. If your baby isn’t pooping at all after day 4 or 5, it’s a good idea to check in with their pediatrician. 

What it’s like for you

It’s safe to say you’ll be doing a lot of nursing and diaper-checking in the first few weeks after Baby is born. But there’s a whole other person in this equation, whose well-being should be considered during these weeks – you! Feeding in the first few weeks will no doubt be a learning experience for you. Every woman’s experience breastfeeding is different, so it’s hard to know for sure how that time will go for you. But here’s a little information on what most new moms can expect in those first few weeks.

  • First week: In the first few weeks, your milk is coming in and changing in consistency, color, and quantity. It might be hard to take care of yourself these first few weeks, and you may feel like you have to squeeze in meals and sleep, but it’s important to try your best not to neglect your health during this time. If your breasts are sore, consider taking a hot shower or applying a warm wet compress to them for some relief, or ask your provider if pain medication is a good idea – not just to relieve pain, but to make breastfeeding easier.
  • Weeks 2-6: Your mature breast milk will have come in, and at times, you might feel really full. This is normal, and it just means that your body is making necessary breast milk adjustments. 

When to call your provider

Keeping in mind how much fluctuates and changes in the first two weeks, and how many behaviors and patterns are completely normal for a new baby, it’s wise for women to call their healthcare provider or a lactation consultant if any of the following apply.

  • Their baby hasn’t produced any dirty diapers by day 5
  • Their baby’s urine is still dark in color after day 3
  • The baby’s stools are dark in color, as opposed to mustard-colored after day 4
  • The baby is soiling diapers or nursing less frequently than recommended
  • The mother has sore breasts, fever, chills, or flu-like pains, all of which could indicate mastitis, which is an infection in breast tissue

With all of this new information, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed, and things will take a little time to fall into place. Some moms struggle a bit in these first few weeks, and if this happens to you, consider calling a lactation consultant, as they are uniquely qualified to advise and support you while you’re breastfeeding.

  • “Breastfeeding: The First Weeks.” ClevelandClinic.org. The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 2016. Web.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 129(3). Web. Mar 2012.
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