A guide to breastfeeding during the first few weeks

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Elaine Hart, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, is passionate about empowering moms to breastfeed their babies. Although it can be overwhelming for many new moms, she says it’s the optimal way to feed your baby and the best source of nutrition for most infants. 

As an experienced OBGYN and a mom who breastfed her kids while working full-time, Hart has information that will help new moms know what to expect while breastfeeding their babies.

But first, why breastfeeding?

For infants, breastfeeding decreases their risk of infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, diabetes, obesity, asthma and allergies, and some cancers.

For moms, breastfeeding helps aid weight loss, decreases a mother’s risk of certain cancers, metabolic diseases, and postpartum depression. “Studies have shown that breastfeeding your first baby for 13 months or breastfeeding four or more babies cuts your risk for breast cancer in half,” Hart says. Plus, breastfeeding can save parents approximately $3,000-$5,000 per year on most formulas.

Breastfeeding during the first few weeks

This first period of breastfeeding is the most difficult, Hart says. “You’re a new mom; you’re just learning and figuring things out. It’s normal to become discouraged but hang in there. I guarantee it will get easier. It can take up to three weeks to get the hang of it.” 

After the first few days, a baby will start to get on a feeding schedule, which will make things more manageable. A mom’s mature milk will begin to flow in greater quantities, mom and baby will start to bond more, and both will become more efficient at breastfeeding.

“Being a new mom, you may start getting feedback from other people saying that your baby isn’t getting enough milk or is hungry, but don’t listen,” Hart says. “The only person you need to listen to about the health of your baby is your pediatrician. Stick with it if your goal is to breastfeed.”

Important things to remember

1. It takes 2-6 days before you start producing mature milk. Before that, it will be colostrum. 

2. Colostrum is very good for your baby and will provide the nutrition they need until the mature milk comes in.

“An infant has a tiny stomach,” Hart says. “The colostrum is enough to fill their stomach and is like superfood for them — it’s extremely nutrient-dense.”

3. Nipple soreness is temporary and will go away within 4-5 days.

However, Hart says it should be soreness and not outright pain. “If you’re experiencing extreme pain, the latch of your baby to your nipple might not be good,” she says. “Work with your lactation consultant who can help address the issue of optimal latching.”

4. The more milk you take out, the more milk your body will make.

5. Babies have growth spurts.

Babies will have periods when they’re extra fussy because they’re not getting enough milk. This fussiness will make moms second guess themselves and feel like they’re starving their baby. Hart says it is only a growth spurt — their first comes between the first 7 to 14 days of life, then another around 6 to 8 weeks, then three months, six months, and so on.” Each time a growth spurt occurs and a mom doesn’t feel like she’s producing enough milk, Hart says to increase the frequency of feeding or pumping, and the mom will catch up to the baby’s need.

6. Plan to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months

“Babies get the most nutrition from milk the first year of life,” Hart says. “And we recommend aiming to breastfeed your baby for at least a year.” However, at the six-month mark, pediatricians generally encourage introducing additional foods such rice cereals, green vegetables and yellow vegetables.

Support we offer

Children’s Hospital provides services, tools and support for mothers and babies from a first positive pregnancy test through birth and beyond.

For expecting mothers who choose to deliver at Children’s Hospital, there are certified lactation specialists who visit every new mom and walk her through the breastfeeding process. For any other new or expecting moms, the Birth and Beyond Education Center hosts a breastfeeding basics class taught by a certified lactation educator. This class will answer any questions from babies’ hunger cues, positioning and latching, to ways a dad can be an active participant.

Visit our website to find out more about the breastfeeding basics class or call 800-825-5437.

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