What to expect: A timeline for breastfeeding moms




Before birth:

  • Prepare by reading and attending a breastfeeding class, the same way you approach the birth experience itself. Most of us have not grown up around breastfeeding role models in a large extended family.

Immediately after birth

  • Most babies will nurse better at this time than they will for the next couple of days. Take advantage of this wakeful time to get your body started on a milk supply.
  • Don't assume you are going to instinctively know how to breastfeed; don't assume that your baby will naturally know what to do either. The first couple of weeks are a learning time for both of you. Be patient. Ask for help. Plan on spending all your time nursing and resting those first days - you are nesting and getting to know each other.

1-3 or 4 days

  • Baby may rather sleep than eat. You will not have a full milk supply yet, but your baby will get an adequate supply of colostrum. Regular stimulation of your breasts will help establish a good milk supply.
  • It is ok to nurse the baby as often as he likes. But if baby is not waking on his own at least every 3 hours, you must wake him so he is eating at least 8 times in 24 hours. (10-12 feedings is optimum)
  • In most cases it is not necessary to supplement with formula, but if the baby's blood sugar is low or he is slow to start peeing or stooling, your medical provider may recommend a small amount of formula after baby has suckled at the breast. It is normal for a baby's weight to go down a bit during this time.
  • If you are not happy with how things are going, get help early. It's easier to correct problems early than to be re-building a milk supply next week. Call a lactation consultant (look for C.L.E. or I.B.L.C. certification) or the hospital where you delivered.

3-5 days

  • You may feel engorged (tender, full) as you begin producing more milk. The most important thing is to keep the milk flowing with regular breastfeeding, hand expressing, pumping, or a combination of these. Moist heat and massage will help relieve discomfort. In 24-48 hours, this discomfort will pass.
  • Overly full breasts may make it difficult for baby to latch on (pump or hand express a bit before nursing), but your growing milk supply will appeal to baby's desire for instant gratification and you should begin hear his suck and swallow.

1-2 weeks

  • Baby should appear satisfied after feedings and your breasts will feel softer after feedings. Your breasts may leak in between feedings; this will probably subside after a few weeks.
  • Baby should have 6-8 wet diapers and 3-4 yellow stools per day for the first 2 months of life.
  • Breastfeed 8-10 times per 24-hour period, but baby may begin to have one longer interval (up to 5 hours) between feedings. By the end of the second week, most babies will have regained their birth weight.