Breastfeeding Basics: Baby's first feeds

Each mother's breast-milk is uniquely formulated for her own baby and is full of infection-fighting cells and protein that will help keep a baby both happy and healthy. If you've chosen Breast-feeding, it can be enjoyable for both of you.

The first feedings with your baby are special moments. Helping your baby get the important nutrients they need to grow and develop is a wonderful thing, but the time you spend together is just as important.

It can take some practice at first and its not for everyone, see below for what to expect

What to expect with your first feeds

Your breast milk will come in a few days after your baby is born. Until then, your breasts will be busy producing colostrum for your baby to drink instead. This thick, yellowish substance is full of protein and antibodies that will help your baby fight off diseases.

Colostrum is intended to be your baby's very first food and his first 'immunisation' against diseases. Your baby has lots of stored water and fat to use whilethey take in this precious material. Their tummy can only hold a teaspoon of liquid at this age, so don't need a lot to fill up.

Before your milk comes in fully, your newborn may start nursing every hour for the first day or two of life. This helps your body create a good milk supply, one perfectly tailored to your baby's needs. In just two to four days, your body will adjust itself to this 'information', and your baby will need to nurse less often, about every two to three hours, or eight to 12 times in a 24-hour period.

When your milk comes in it will look very different from the colostrum; normal breast milk looks more like skimmed milk… a thin, bluish-white liquid.

Establishing a Good Milk Supply

When you are nursing, good nutrition, plenty of fluids and rest are all essential. Sleep when the baby sleeps and drink plenty of healthy liquids. Milk, water and juice are all good options – and remember to relax.

You will need to maintain a basic healthy diet to keep up your breast milk production, but you don't need anything fancy.

In general, your body reacts to your baby's hunger: If they don't eat much, you won't produce as much, and if they eat a lot, you'll produce a lot!

When to Feed Your Baby

Feed your hungry newborn on demand – that is, whenever they want to eat. They won't eat much at any one feeding in the first days since their stomach is so small. Most newborns will need about 10 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period, or one feeding every one to three hours.

When establishing your milk supply, wake your baby up to feed if she sleeps more than three hours during the day or four hours during the night. Otherwise they'll wake up too hungry to feed well. When things get up and running, she'll wake you up as she needs to.

How Much is Enough?

Like lots of breast-feeding mothers, you might not be sure when your baby has had enough to eat. You will know he is getting something if you can hear him swallowing as he nurses. Another clue is how well your baby sleeps after a meal. If her tummy is full and her diaper is clean, she will probably fall right back to sleep after feeding.

Other signs that your newborn is getting enough to eat:

  • She produces about six wet diapers every day after your milk comes in and between two and five loose, yellowish stools each day until she's six weeks old. Some babies are such efficient breast milk processors that they pass stools very infrequently.

  • Her urine is a pale yellow, not deep yellow or orange

  • Your breasts feel soft and 'empty' after each feeding

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