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breastfeeding: a guide through the first 7 days

Hey, honey!! One week’s it going?? Congratulations on your new baby!! ⠀

The first week is a learned process for you and baby so there will lots of practice to perfect breastfeeding. As a new mom I’m sure you have loads of questions which is normal.

Though breastfeeding can be difficult for some at first it’s important to make sure you have the right professional guidance and support to the first few days to ensure breastfeeding initiation is successful.

1. Breastfeeding 1-2 days

Maintain Skin to Skin

Skin to skin is imperative for breastfeeding initiation. Skin to skin calms mother and baby so there's less crying and prepares baby for a feed. Skin to skin releases hormones that relieve stress and stabilize baby's temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar. Skin to skin also releases the hormone oxytocin which promotes healing in mom.

Watch this video of skin to skin within the first hour of birth.

Keeping your baby awake

Not only is mom tired from childbirth so is baby. It takes a lot energy to transition Earthside and babies will sleep to conserve their energy...pretty smart! Babies are ready to learn once they are born so honing in on that first hour feed is imperative. Keep baby awake by removing clothes and placing baby skin to skin. Research shows that breastfeeding within the first few hours of birth can increase breastfeeding duration. If you’re having trouble Most babies learn to latch later. Practice.

Watch for baby's hunger cues

Your baby will let you know when they are ready to eat through a series of movements called hunger cues such as sucking fingers, rooting, smacking lips, sticking tongue out, turning head to look for breast and lastly crying. If mom has missed the previos cues before crying it may be difficult to latch your baby because baby is frustrated. It is important to keep baby's hands free to watch for cues so do away with mittens and swaddling. Of course when in doubt, whip them out and nurse.

Baby will also display signs when they are full such as unlatches or falls off the breast. Turns away from the nipple. Relaxes their body and opens his fists.

Latching at the breast or Pumping.

Babies are born ready to learn to feed. If you place your baby on your belly as soon as your baby is born to they will perform the breast crawl and latch on their own within 90-120 minutes. Making sure baby your baby has a good latch is key to breastfeeding. Tickle baby‘s lips with your nipple to encourage baby to open wide. Aim your nipple for the roof of baby’s mouth and towards the throat. Remember it’s bread not nipple feeding so make sure as much of your areola goes into baby’s Mouth. “Wide open mouth, whole areola”. In a comfortable position make sure baby's belly is touching your belly to ensure correct positioning and a painless latch.

If baby is not able to latch seek help with a lactation consultant to assist with baby's latch and positioning. Don't worry, most babies learn to latch within a few days. In the meantime, hand express your milk frequently to maintain our supply and feed baby with a cup,spoon or syringe until latching is perfected. Do not use a bottle to feed baby as this may cause nipple preference.


During the first two days you will produce a thick sticky milk called Colostrum aka 'liquid gold'. This is the first milk that baby will drink. It is rich in vitamins, proteins, antibodies and antiviral agents. It is considered your baby's first immunization and will come out in tiny drops. It also acts as a natural laxative and will help baby to eliminate their first poop, mecomium within the first days of life.

Avoid Pacifiers

Nursing on demand is the priority after birth. You will never be able to nurse your baby to often. The use of pacifiers to sooth baby may present a nipple preference and will make it more difficult for baby to latch on to the breast. When using pacifiers, moms tend to miss hunger cues as well. When mom misses hunger cues she is not feeding on demand enough to empty the breast to produce more milk which may lead to a decrease in milk volume. You are all the comfort your baby will need. Leave the pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established for at least 6 weeks.

Diaper and Weight Check

Monitor your baby's diaper output. Baby should have 5-6 wet diapers and 2-3 poopy diapers. Poop will be a odorless, yellowish color. Weight gain is the first way to see if baby is eating well. Most baby's will lose up to 10% of weight in the first week of life but with frequent and optimal feeds baby's weight should return to their birth weight in 7-14 days.

2. Breastfeeding 3-5 days.

Your milk will begin to transition and increase in volume as well. Moms may notice their breasts are fuller and more tender. This is normal but continue to feed on demand at least 10 or more time in 24 hours to establish a regular milk supply. Engorgement, when breasts are full and swollen to the touch and painful. It occurs when breasts are not emptied often enough and can cause challenges for moms early on such as clogged ducts and mastitis.

Milk Letdown Arrives

When your milk transitions and the volume increases you will experience what is called a let down reflex. Your milk can gradually increase or it can happen suddenly, but more than likely it will occur gradually. Your breast may feel fuller and more tender. Other women may become engorged which can lead to challenges if you are not removing milk frequently.

If engorgement occurs it may be more difficult and more painful for your baby to latch because your breast are too hard your nipple may not extend out for baby to latch. Massage the breast before feeding and hand express milk to soften the breast for a better latch. Cold packs in between feeds can ease pain.

Nurse frequently and on demand

By the third day baby is feeding more frequently and it appears as if baby is starving, this is activity is called cluster feeding when baby feeds more more frequently through out the day. You are enough and your milk is fine this just lets our body know its time to make more milk. Nursing frequently and on demand ensures baby is eating well and you are maintaining your supply. When you deliver your baby you have many milk receptor sites open and waiting to be filled during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and each time you nurse they fill up letting your body know...I need all my milk!! ⠀

Breast milk is easily digested so baby will be very hungry very frequently. In the first week baby’s tummy will grow from the size of a cherry to a large egg. Pretty quick in order for baby's tummy to grow he or she needs milk to fuel this energy and growth. As baby’s tummy grows so will the demand for more milk.

Demand your supply!!

Diaper and Weight Check

Continue to monitor your baby's diaper output. Baby will have 6-8 wet diapers and 3-5 poopy diapers by now because of growth and intake of more milk. Poop will vary in color but will normally start out a greenish color and change to a mustard, yellowish color that is seedy and curdy. Again,baby should return to birth weight with -14 days. If your baby is not gaining weight seek help from a lactation consultant immediately.

5. Breastfeeding 5-7 days

It is a bit uncomfortable when you first begin to breastfeed but it shouldn't be painful. Around the the third to fifth day you may experience tenderness but should subside after a couple of weeks. If you are experiencing severe pain that lasts longer than a minute or so or in between feeds, cracked or bleeding nipples, this is not normal and you should seek out a lactation consultant to make sure your positioning and latch is correct.

Now you are getting the hang of breastfeeding and feeling like a pro. Your baby will be nursing frequently,at least 10 or more times in 24 hours. Nurse or pump frequently, pump only if you are exclusively pumping or there are medical concerns, to keep the milk volume increasing and flowing. We recommend no pumping for 6 weeks until you have established a supply and breastfeeding is going well. Pumping too soon and too frequently can lead to more challenges like an over supply of milk. It sounds like something you’d want..more milk right..but if it’s an “over” supply that means it’s over the normal amount of milk your body should make. If you are not removing the milk effectively and consistently it will lead to clogged ducts or mastitis. ⠀

Besides, nipple stimulation is key to maintaining milk supply. No need to add unnecessary stress, honey. Pump only if you have decided not to nurse at the breast, plan to be away from baby or if medically needed such as for feeding of NICU babies. ⠀

As your baby grows they will feed less frequently but become efficient at removing milk more quickly too, because they are more mobile, distracted and getting closer to beginning solids but not until 6 months of age as recommended by the AAP. Still feed on demand and at least one feed throughout the night to maintain your supply.

So this is the time to enjoy, learn and bond with your baby. Find quiet places to feed and get some rest. Practicing safe bed sharing practices with the side lying position ensures Moms will get more rest.

To make sure you reach your breastfeeding goals make sure to surround yourself with mothers who successfully breastfed. You will have a mix of emotions when it comes to breastfeeding even hating it but knowing it is the best first food for your baby. Breast friends are your goal friends. When you're ready and cleared from your doctor start attending breastfeeding support groups to make new mom friends because you will need it. Begin joining groups while you are pregnant to familiarize yourself with the basics of breastfeeding. If you find yourself feeling negatively when breastfeeding read this article to see why.

So remember, honey! ⠀

Lots of Skin to skin. ⠀

Belly to belly.⠀ ⠀

Wide open mouth. ⠀

Whole areola. ⠀

10 or more feeds in 24 hours. ⠀

How can I help you achieve your goals today?

Jada Metcalf | is a mom of two, ROSE Community Transformer, WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and lactation consultant in training and a maternal wellness boobtik business owner.

Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including the CDC (Center for Disease Control), AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and WHO ( World Health Organization)

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