Getting through the first six weeks of breastfeeding can be exhausting. Your baby acts differently every week, mystifying you. Here’s what to know about the first few weeks so that you can flow into motherhood with ease.
Weeks 1 and 2: Bond With Your Baby
The first two weeks are the most important for bonding with your baby and establishing your milk supply. As soon as your baby is born, bring him to your chest if possible. The skin-to-skin contact will stimulate your little one’s responses, and he will use his instincts to find the nipple and latch on.
Your milk won’t come in for about three to five days after you give birth. That’s not a problem. You’ll be producing colostrum, which is a syrupy substance that provides all of the nutrients that your child needs.
Offer the breast as often as you’d like. Your baby should nurse every two to three hours in the first week. Nursing when your infant shows signs of hunger, such as smacking his tongue against the roof of his mouth or trying to suckle on your shoulder, will tell your body how much milk to produce for his needs. Wearing nursing bras, tanks and shirts will let you be read to nurse frequently while staying covered and comfortable when you’re not nursing.
When your milk does come in, you may be engorged. Full breasts can feel firm, and engorgement may be uncomfortable. Learning how to express milk by hand can relieve the pressure so that your breasts become soft enough to allow a good latch.
Your nipples may become slightly tender in the first few weeks. They’re not used to being exposed to this kind of moisture and friction. Slipping gel pads into your nursing bras can provide soothing relief.
If you feel pain during or after breastfeeding, consult a lactation professional. They’ll help you make sure that your baby is latching properly. Nursing shouldn’t be painful.
Weeks 3 and 4: Nurse on Demand
By the third week, your infant will be more alert. Although she might nurse for longer stretches, she is also becoming more efficient at getting the milk out.
Don’t be alarmed if your nursing sessions don’t get longer. As long as your baby has a good latch, is gaining weight and producing enough wet and dirty diapers, she is likely getting what she needs. Your milk will change as your baby gets older, delivering the right ratio of nutrients for your little one’s development.
Should you put your infant on a feeding schedule? Until the three-month mark, your supply will depend on the frequency of your nursing sessions. Make sure that you nurse on demand, which means as often as your child is hungry, so that your body makes as much milk as your baby needs.
Weeks 5 and 6: Changes in Feeding Patterns
Babies typically have growth spurts between weeks four and six. You may be surprised when his feeding patterns change dramatically. Infants may cluster feed, wanting to suckle for what seems like hours on end. Indulge this behavior; it is normal. Stimulating the breast encourages it to produce more milk, which will be necessary for your baby’s growth milestones.
This is also a good time to consider testing out your breast pump. Your supply will have regulated somewhat, and you may want to try expressing some milk and offering it to your infant if you plan to go back to work or will be introducing a bottle in the near future. As long as nursing is going well, your baby shouldn’t experience nipple confusion at this point.
So many women say that nursing is fraught with challenges. There’s another handful that reports that they just put their babies to their breasts, and their little ones latched right away. Your infant knows how to breastfeed because all she has to do is follow her instincts. If you haven’t seen many women breastfeed, which is a definite possibility in our culture, you might not know what to do. Support is vital throughout your journey. Keep a lactation professional’s number on hand, and don’t be afraid to call if you have any questions.