The early days of parenting and learning to breastfeed are both exciting and challenging. Learning to breastfeed is new for both mothers and their babies.With patience and time you will find you start to get the hang of it, but for many women this does not occur instantly and it takes a few days and for some even weeks before breastfeeding runs smoothly.
Mothers are unsure of the amount of milk they are making. A mother’s milk goes through many changes in the first week. Mothers may notice changes in the volume of milk in the breasts and the colour of her milk over time.
Refer to the section “The Breast Makes Milk” on the “How to Breastfeed” page for information on colostrum (the first milk in the breast) and how the milk changes over the first week to mature milk which is higher in volume. For this reason mothers will notice changes in the amount of milk and fullness of their breasts. Some mothers may experience engorgement during the early days as the breasts work to determine how much milk the baby needs. Refer to the “Engorgement” section on the “Common Concerns” page if this is an issue you are experiencing. Be sure to refer to this section if you think you are engorged as it is important that mom is comfortable and that the breasts are not overly full.
Although you cannot see the volume of milk the baby is drinking, you will be able to determine that your baby is getting all the colostrum he/she needs in the early days by monitoring wet and dirty diapers. Refer to the section on “How to Know Your Baby is Getting Enough” on the “The Early Days” page. The volume of milk and number of wet and dirty diapers will increase over the first week. In this section you will find a chart which you can use to track this information. A baby who is breastfeeding well will have energy and will actively feed at the breast. A very sleepy baby may not have the energy to feed and may fall asleep at the breast.
It is common for the breasts to leak milk in the early days.Some women may notice leaking before a feed or from the breast not being suckled during a feed. As well, just hearing a baby cry may cause the “the milk ejection reflex” and leaking in some women. When the mature milk comes in over the first weeks, the breast is trying to determine how much milk the baby needs. Over time, as the lactation system matures, many women notice the leaking stops. This is not related to milk supply but is a sign the breast is beginning to know how much milk to make for your baby.If you experience leaking, breast pads may help keep you comfortable. See the “Things to Consider” section on the “Everyday Life Part 2” page for information on breast pads. You will want to change the breast pads frequently if you find you are experiencing leaking, as the moist breast pads may contribute to the development of thrush at the breast.See the “Thrush” section on the “Common Concerns” page for more information.
Many parents are unsure if they should let their baby sleep or wake the baby up for feeds in the first days.Cue-based feeding is suggested for breastfed babies, this refers to watching your baby for feeding cues and feeding your baby when he shows signs of hunger. Most babies will feed 8 or more times in 24 hours which includes day and night feeds.When to wake your baby for feed:
In the first days, many babies will not wake on their own as they are tired and adjusting to the world outside of the uterus. For this reason it is suggested that if a baby does not wake on his own within 2-3 hours after breastfeeding, all parents should wake their babies. Parents may also have to work to keep their baby awake during feeds. Breast compressions during feeds can be helpful in keeping your baby actively feeding at the breast.When to use cue based feeding:
Cue based feeding can occur when:
During the early days there is colostrum in the breast. This milk is very nutritious.It comes in smaller quantities, is thicker and removed slower from the breast than mature milk. For this reason it may seem that babies feed more frequently during the first few days. This frequent feeding may be referred to as cluster feeding. This can also occur during growth spurts as the baby gets older.With cluster feeding, the frequent breast stimulation helps increase a mother’s milk supply. Refer to the “The Breast Makes Milk” section on the “How to Breastfeed” page for more information.
The early days can be overwhelming for many new mothers.Be sure to rest and relax with your baby. Refer to the “Supporting Mom” page for tips on how friends and family can help.It is normal for mothers to experience a variety of emotions in the first days. Refer to the “Feeling Down” section on the “Everyday Life Part 2” page if you are feeling down, stressed or overwhelmed. Remember to take care of yourself and ask for help from others as you rest, recover, and learn to breastfeed.
Breastfeed your baby early after birth and often. Most babies will feed at least 8 times in 24 hours. Watch for and follow your baby’s cues. Your baby will tell you when he is ready and eager to feed. Your baby will show some signs called "feeding cues."
Early cues: "I'm Hungry."
Mid cues: "I’m really hungry."
Late cues: "Calm me, then feed me."
If your baby shows late feeding cues, it is time to calm your baby before feeding him. You can do this by:
At the start of the feed, your baby will have shallow and quick sucks. When your milk starts to flow, the sucks will become deep and slow. You will notice a pause during the suck when your baby’s mouth opens the widest. Your baby will drink milk during this pause and you will probably hear or see his swallowing.
Click here to see what feeding cues look like:
Hand expressing colostrum or breast milk is important because it helps you to:
Hand Expression is a painless, convenient way of removing milk from the breast. You can practice expressing breast milk as soon as your baby is born or even a week or two before your baby is born. In the first 2 to 3 days after birth, you will get a small amount of colostrum, maybe 5 to 10 ml (1-2 teaspoons) or less. Colostrum, a yellowish fluid, is the first milk. It is important for your baby to get your colostrum because it helps your baby’s immune system. It is also very rich in nutrients.
To express colostrum for your baby:
Although you cannot see the amount of milk the baby drinks, you can see what is coming out, so tracking wet and dirty diapers is a great way to see how much milk your baby is getting.
To make sure your baby is getting enough milk, keep track of the number of wet and dirty diapers in a 24¬hour period.
Click here for a chart with information on monitoring wet and dirty diapers:
Skin-to-skin is a way of holding your baby that both babies and parents find enjoyable. The baby wears only a diaper and is held in an upright position on the mother’s or father's bare chest.
A light blanket can be draped across the baby’s back. When babies are held skin-to-skin, they can hear their mothers’ or fathers’ heartbeat and breathing, and smell and feel their skin. This is familiar and comforting to babies.
Remember to make sure your baby is warm when you remove him from your chest by using a blanket or dressing him appropriately.
Hold your baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible after giving birth. Hold your baby skin-to-skin for an hour or more and then, as long as you wish. As your baby grows, continue holding your baby skin-to-skin often and for long periods.
Every newborn baby undergoes painful procedures in the first hours and days of life as part of routine medical care. The good news is parents can make a difference. Researchers have found that parents can use breastfeeding and skin-to-skin to help comfort their newborns during these procedures. This helps keep both babies and their parents more comfortable.
Premature babies benefit from skin-to-skin. Sometimes this is called Kangaroo Care.
Fathers/partners or another person you are close to can also provide skin-to-skin care to comfort and nurture your baby anytime.
Click here to for more information on skin-to-skin:
Click here to watch a video on breastfeeding positioning:
Video provided by Region of Peel Public Health. Their website has many breastfeeding tutorials and resources which are available in seven different languages. Please contact your local health unit for more information on breastfeeding services and resources in your area.
Breastfeeding is natural, but it can take time to learn. There are times when you may need to get help from a health professional.
Be sure to get help right away if you notice any of these signs:
Other signs that something is wrong:
For breastfeeding resources and help in your area visit: