Colostrum: Your Baby’s First Meal
The milk you produce the first days after delivery is called colostrum.
Colostrum provides all the nutrients and fluid that your newborn needs in the early days, as well as many substances to protect your baby against infections.
Your colostrum’s yellowish color and thickness are due to the fact that it is higher in these protective factors.
Compared with more mature human milk, colostrum is also higher in protein, slightly lower in sugar, and significantly lower in fat.
While your breasts will not feel full the day that you give birth, you already have enough colostrum to nourish your baby.
It is important to know that on the first day after delivery you will make drops of colostrum, the next day your body will produce about a teaspoon for each feeding and by the third day you will make about a tablespoon of colostrum for each feeding.
Day to day your milk production will increase in amount and become more creamy, or white in color—a time that mothers frequently refer to as the milk “coming in.”
Your baby is born with a suckling instinct, though it is stronger in some babies than in others.
Since this instinct is intense immediately after birth, it is best to introduce them to the breast within the first hour or so of life.
Not only will them suckling at your breast stimulate your breasts to produce more milk, thus beginning the establishment of a reliable milk supply, but it will signal your uterus to contract and decrease the chance of excessive bleeding after delivery.
This first feeding will also help your baby begin to learn how to nurse.
Placing the newborn baby skin-to-skin against your chest will help to encourage your baby to smell the colostrum and want to latch on and begin their first feeding.
In fact, the initial phase of breastfeeding is a learning process for both mother and baby.
Some newborns show little initial interest in nursing. Fortunately, newborns do not need much fluid and their mothers’ breasts contain only small amounts of the very important colostrum.
At this stage, it is more important that babies feed frequently than it is for them to feed for long periods of time.
Since the breasts are not yet extremely full of milk, they remain soft and supple after delivery, making it easier for the baby to learn to suckle.
In these early days, it is normal for a baby to lose some weight. This weight loss consists of extra fluid accumulated during pregnancy.
In the days after delivery, your baby’s appetite and need for fluids will increase.
Approximately two to five days after birth, the colostrum production will give way to a higher volume of transitional milk.
Keeping a record of your baby’s feedings and dirty diapers may help you know that your baby is doing well.
Many hospitals will provide you with a log book to record feedings, wet and dirty diapers for the first days. Since each day is very different early on this can be helpful.
Consider downloading a baby feeding App too if you find this easier than paper.
Is Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Nearly all new mothers worry whether or not their baby is getting enough milk.
Breastfeeding mothers cannot measure exactly how much milk their newborns take, but you can tell in other ways whether your baby is getting enough to eat.
Your well-nourished newborn should:
- Lose no more than 8-10 percent of their birthweight in the first few days after birth before starting to gain weight again.
- Have one or two bowel movements per day on days one and two, with blackish, tarry stools, and at least two stools that are beginning to appear greenish to yellow on days three and four. By five to seven days, their stools should be yellow and loose, with small curds and should number at least three to four per day. When your milk production increases, your baby will often stool with each feeding for the first month of life.
- Have six or more wet diapers per day, with nearly colorless or pale yellow urine, by five to seven days.
- Seem satisfied and happy for an average of one to three hours between feedings.
- Nurse at least eight to twelve times every twenty-four hours.
Get Prepared For…. Baby Night Owl
Newborns sleep for most of their first 24 hours as they recover from the delivery (there are always exceptions).
During the second and third nights, most babies will wake up and cry more often, they may seem to be hungry constantly.
This normal behavior is displayed by both breastfed and formula-fed babies.
Newborns cry more during the night to make sure they receive adequate care and nutrition during a time when their mothers and caregivers are sleepy (smart babies!)
If your newborn displays hunger cues (sticking out tongue, lip-smacking, rooting), then latch them on to breastfeed.
Call your nurse if you need assistance.
If your newborn has recently completed a great feeding and still seems unhappy, try the soothing techniques discussed below.
Hold your undressed baby next to your bare chest. Babies stay warm and are calmed by your heartbeat when held skin-to-skin.
Ensure that baby’s nose is not covered and their skin stays pink.
If you are sleepy or asleep, your baby will be safer when placed in the bassinet.
Swaddle baby snugly (but not too tightly). Most babies will stay calmer longer and sleep better if their arms are swaddled straight down along their body.
If you can slip two fingers between the blanket and your baby’s chest, then baby has enough room to breathe.
Check out this great video about swaddling.
Allow baby to be un-swaddled some times during the day when baby is awake and happy, and limit swaddling to brief sessions after 2 months of age.
Hold baby in your arms so they are on their side or tummy.
When a baby is upset, holding or placing them on their back can make them more upset.
Babies should always be placed on their backs for sleep or when left unsupervised.
Offer baby something to suck on (mother’s breast or a clean or gloved finger). Sucking causes endorphins or “feel-good” hormones to be released in babies’ brains.
Rock or sway your baby or pat thier back while holding them. Babies miss the constant movement and floating they experienced in the uterus.
Say ‘shhhhhh’, talk and sing to them, or play music or white noise. Babies are familiar with the loud music of their mothers’ heart, pulsing vessels and intestines.
Consider watching Dr Harvey Karp’s videos about ‘Happiest Baby on the Block’ and infant soothing.