The First Few Weeks

October 25, 2010

As this is the beginning of a new blog, I thought a great place to start would be the beginning phase of milk production. I am passionate about mamas learning how to get breastfeeding off to a good start. I am also passionate in my frustration with the negative messages mothers are hearing about their body’s ability to sustain their babes during the first phase of milk production. It is very uncommon for a mother to experience breast fullness or leak any whitish colored milk for 40-70 hours or 2-3 days. Many hospitals are giving mothers the message that as they have ‘no milk’ during this time. Families are often told that they will need to pump and/or supplement with formula. I am certain that the human race has not typically gone without nourishment during the first 3 days of life since the dawn of time. Historically, mothers were able to feed their babes before hospitals swooped in to save us bearing gifts of funnels and tubes attached to our breasts.

Although mature milk typically arrives around the 2nd or 3rd day after birth, variations of normal do exist. As birth intervention rates go up, so do the rates of breastfeeding interventions. Many moms who experience a cesarean birth often experience the second stage of milk production between 4-6 days postpartum. This does not mean a mother has colostrum for 2-3 days followed by empty breasts for another couple days and then her mature milk comes in. What it does mean is that your body has to work extra hard to interpret all of the different hormonal and chemical messages it has received or failed to receive during a medicated and surgical process. For this reason, it is all the more important to put baby to breast often. Colostrum will be available until the next phase of milk production begins. Whatever a pump can do, a baby can do better! 😉

I am going to explain the basics of milk production because I want mamas to feel assured that this WILL work. Your amazing body that grew such a perfect baby knows just how to continue to nourish her. When or if you start leaking colostrum during pregnancy does not determine breastfeeding success. Some moms leak colostrum when they are 4 months pregnant. Some never leak a drop. It is all well within the ranges of normal. Colostrum will be present and available when you first put your newborn to your breast. The stomach capacity of a newborn on day 1 is 5-7 milliliters. That is about 1/5 of an ounce. By day 3 it is approximately 25 milliliters, that is still not even 1 full ounce. As certain hormonal levels change within your body you will experience the next phase of milk production. During this time moms typically experience breasts feeling full, sometimes leaking, and sometimes engorgement. This phase of breastfeeding is so important! This is when it is up to you and your baby to establish how milk production will work for you. Breastmilk will now be available utilizing a supply and demand method. This means that the more your baby is at the breast, the more milk your body will continue to make. During these days of fullness it can feel like your body overcompensates, I joke that our body needs to be ready in case we have triplets or a 20 pound baby. It can be really surprising to new moms when a week or two later their breasts begin feeling empty. This is a time when some moms begin supplemental feedings. However, when you begin experiencing occasional feelings of emptiness in your breasts (most typically in the evening) it is a wonderful sign. This means that your body is now in the third and final phase of milk production. You have done such an amazing job of paying attention to your infant’s feeding cues and instinctively putting your baby to breast that your body is now totally in sync with your baby’s needs. You are now making the perfect amount of milk for your baby, no more and no less. As the needs of your babe change, your breastmilk will adjust to meet those needs.

I have briefly addressed many topics in this post that I cannot wait to go into more detail on. I plan to discuss these subjects in depth complete with resources in future posts.