Congratulations on your new baby! As a new parent, you may have many questions about taking care of your little one, including how to feed them. Breast milk is often referred to as “liquid gold” for its numerous benefits for both the mother and the baby. But the first week can raise many questions without the right education. We created this brief understanding of how breast milk changes in the first week to help guide you through some common questions and signs to look for.
What is Breast Milk?
Breast milk is a natural fluid produced by female mammals to feed their young. It contains all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that your baby needs to grow and stay healthy. It also changes in composition as your baby grows, adapting to their changing nutritional needs.
You will encounter two forms of milk in the first week: colostrum and mature breast milk. Colostrum is produced in the first two to four days after birth, while mature breast milk comes in after about seven to ten days, further establishing a supply around days ten and 14.
First Week Development
The first week of breastfeeding can be a challenging time for both mother and baby as they learn how to properly latch onto the breast. During this time, your breasts may become engorged and feel very full. This is because they are producing colostrum, which is rich in antibodies and helps protect your baby from infections in the very early stages of immunological development.
In the first few days after giving birth, your baby will only require small amounts of colostrum. Their stomachs can hold about a teaspoon of fluid, so do not worry if it seems like your baby is not eating a lot. It’s essential to continue breastfeeding frequently during this time to establish a good milk supply.
Around the third or fourth day, your mature milk will start to transition now that your body understands you’ve given birth, and the production demand is there. You may experience some discomfort from engorgement. This is normal, but you can alleviate it by using warm compresses and massaging your breasts before feeding.
If engorgement persists, consider using an handheld milk pump on the opposite breast to release some of the pressure. Try to avoid an electric pump, if possible, until well after your milk supply is established.
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding may take some time and practice, but with patience and support, it can be a rewarding experience. For a full-term infant, typical breastfeeding practices will serve you well. Things like proper latching techniques, comfortable seating positions, and frequent nursing sessions are key for success.
If you deliver your baby prematurely, following preterm infant breastfeeding strategies is advised and the NICU and a lactation consultant can help. Increased skin-to-skin contact, manual expression, and potentially syringe feeding your colostrum in the first week are all applicable options for success and establishing a healthy milk supply for the long haul.
The first week comes with a lot of learning and worry, but don’t worry about your breast milk as it’s designed perfectly for your new baby’s needs. With a little understanding of how the supply changes and what to look for, you’re set up for a successful and beautiful breastfeeding journey.