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Breastfeeding in the early days

Welcoming a new little being into the world is a time filled with love and wonder. Breastfeeding can be a beautiful part of this journey, sparking both anticipation and concern. But it doesn't have to be stressful, it can be a intimate moment between mother and child.

Download the LEIA Health-app to access the feeding tracker.

The First Day 

Your baby's preparation for the first breastfeeding began during pregnancy and occurs directly after birth when you have skin-to-skin contact. Instinctively, your baby may seek the breast and eventually latch on to nurse, provided the baby has the time and space to do so at their own pace. When the baby is awake and shows interest in sucking, allow them to breastfeed. Having skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, whether it was a vaginal birth or a cesarean section, provides an optimal start to breastfeeding and helps the baby maintain good blood sugar levels and body temperature.


First Week 

Your baby's breastfeeding pattern changes throughout the first week. On the first day, the baby may be a bit tired after birth and may sleep longer periods after nursing; aim for skin-to-skin contact as much as possible even when your baby is asleep. If the baby doesn't latch well, you can entice them with a few drops of breast milk. After the first day, the baby should eat at least 8 times a day, but newborns often want to suck more frequently. On the second and third days, your baby is often much more alert and wants to breastfeed most of the time, even at night. Most newborns wake up several times a night to eat, and many need to be fed every three to four hours, including during the night. A baby typically consumes between 60 and 90 milliliters of breast milk per feeding during the first weeks of life.


Breastfeeding patterns

From day two to five, the amount of milk increases, and your baby's breastfeeding pattern changes again. Now, they may breastfeed and then doze off alternately.

This change in breastfeeding pattern is natural. The amount of colostrum is perfectly tailored to the size of the baby's stomach as it grows. On the first day, the stomach is the size of a hazelnut; by three days old, it's the size of a walnut, and after a week, it's about the size of a plum.

Tips for the early days of breastfeeding:

  • Be responsive to your baby's cues.

  • Let your baby lead breastfeeding sessions.

  • Establish your own breastfeeding pattern that suits you and your baby.

  • There is a wide variation in how often and how long babies want to breastfeed.

Try not to let too much time pass between feedings, especially in the early days, for both your baby's and your breasts' sake. Breasts need frequent stimulation because the more often you breastfeed, the more milk is produced; each breastfeeding session makes a difference to your milk supply. If the baby for any reason doesn't breastfeed, you may need to express milk by hand to stimulate milk production initially.


Routines or not?

A small child has no routines, and their feeding patterns can vary greatly. Some babies want to eat often, sometimes several times an hour, while others need to be reminded to eat in the first few weeks. The recommendation is to feed on demand, meaning to feed when the baby signals hunger. Initially, the signals are often quite subtle, such as the baby turning their head or bringing hands to the mouth. If these signals are missed, the baby may start to whimper and become fussy before eventually crying.

Until the birth weight is reached, it is recommended to feed on demand but also to feed the baby even without signals if three hours have passed between feedings, to avoid the baby becoming too tired and thus harder to feed. Once the baby has reached their birth weight and feeding feels established, you no longer need to watch the clock but feed when the baby signals hunger. If you breastfeed, feeding on the baby's cue will also help increase breast milk production at the rate the baby needs. It's common for infants to experience evening fussiness, meaning the baby may want to be close and seem restless in the evening. If you breastfeed, it's not uncommon for the baby to want to be at the breast for several hours in a row. It's a natural behavior and doesn't necessarily mean your baby is hungry. Sucking provides comfort to the baby, and during breastfeeding, the baby also gets pain relief if, for example, they have a little tummy ache. Today, research suggests that we actually can't breastfeed our babies too much. If you go to the Child Health Center for regular weighings, you can feel confident that they will notice if your baby isn't getting enough. If you feel worried between visits, you can feel reassured if the baby is urinating as expected and otherwise alert and lively between naps.

It's important to remember that breastfeeding isn't the only way. All parents and babies are unique, and what works for one family may not suit another. If breastfeeding doesn't feel right for you, or if difficulties arise, there is always support and help available.

'' I struggled to get started with breastfeeding, but when I began using the breastfeeding log in the LEIA Health app, it got much better, and I got a good handle on it!''

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