The First Few Weeks of Breastfeeding

In the first few days , the milk that you make in the first few days is called colostrum. It is yellow in color and rich in nutrition. Colostrum protects your baby from disease and gives her everything she needs. After three to five days , your milk will change to a bluish-white color and will be produced in greater amounts.

Let your baby nurse whenever he/she wants, day and night-usually about 10 to 12 times in 24 hours. Feeding often will get your milk flowing, help you make plenty of milk and help your baby grow. By four to five weeks, your baby will probably have a more regular feeding pattern and nurse less often.

Feeding cues - early signs that he is hungry - include:

  • Sucking on his hands
  • Smacking his lips
  • Moving his mouth
  • Moving his eyes while sleeping
  • Sleeping lightly after one or two hours of deep sleep

Don't wait until your baby is crying for a feed - that is a very late sign of hunger.

Here are some signs that your milk is flowing well:

  • A change in your baby's sucking rate from rapid sucks to sucking and swallowing rhythmically, at about one suck per second.
  • A tingling or pins-and-needles feeling in your breast.
  • A sudden feeling of fullness in the breast.
  • The other breast is leaking milk.
  • You've become thirsty.

Always wash your hands before breastfeeding, or pumping/expressing milk.

Avoid using a bottle or pacifier too soon, as it can get in the way of developing a good breastfeeding routine.

Adding extra foods like cereal, fruits and vegetables before six months of age is not recommended.

Breastfeeding FAQ

  • For how many weeks or months should I breastfeed or give breast milk?
  • Can I produce enough milk?
  • At each feeding, how long should my baby stay on the breast?
  • How do I know if my baby is getting enough food?
  • Can I breastfeed if I'm sick?
  • Can I breastfeed if I take medication?
  • Can I breastfeed if I smoke?
  • Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?

For how many weeks or months should I breastfeed or give breast milk?
Any amount of time spent breastfeeding is good for your baby-though the longer, the better. Experts recommend that you give only breast milk and no formula, water or food until the baby is about six months old. Then you add baby foods and continue to feed your baby breast milk or formula or both.

Can I produce enough milk?
Almost every woman - no matter how small or large her breasts are - can make more than enough milk for her baby. To get the milk, your baby needs to be latched on well and nurse often.

At each feeding, how long should my baby stay on the breast?
Let your baby nurse until he is satisfied, often from 10 to 20 minutes on each breast. If it seems like your baby is nursing for too long or not long enough, check with a lactation consultant or doctor.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough food?
Your baby will let you know when she is satisfied. Often, when a baby is satisfied, her hands and body are relaxed, she'll remove her mouth from the nipple or will fall asleep. There are other signs that your baby is getting enough. She'll be gaining weight, as your doctor will be able to tell you. Also, the amount of urine and number and appearance of bowel movements she has each day can help you know that she is nursing well. This table will guide you:

Can I breastfeed if I'm sick?
During most illnesses, such as colds, flu and other infections, it is important to continue to breastfeed because breastfeeding gives your baby the antibodies to protect against infection. If you are worried that your illness might hurt your baby, talk with your health care provider, especially if you have to go into the hospital. In most cases, you can pump your milk and have a family member give it to the baby until you recover, with your provider's permission. There are very few conditions where mothers should avoid breastfeeding (HIV-positive mothers, for example, should not breastfeed).

Can I breastfeed if I take medication?
Most prescribed and over-the-counter medications are safe to take when breastfeeding. However, there are some medications (including some birth control pills and herbal remedies) that should not be used by breastfeeding mothers. Speak with your health care provider about any medications you take to be certain that they are safe to take when breastfeeding.

Can I breastfeed if I smoke?
Mothers who smoke can still breastfeed. Of course, it is better that you not smoke-BUT, if you continue to smoke, it is still better to breastfeed than formula-feed. Whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, you should not smoke in the same home as your baby. Secondhand smoke is harmful to babies and can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and asthma. If you need help or want to find a local quit smoking program, call 311.

Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
Most prescribed and over-the-counter medications are safe to take when While you are nursing, it is best not to drink alcohol. An occasional, single drink is okay, but drink just after you nurse rather than just before.

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