Your Baby’s Nutrition in the First Few Days

The process of breastfeeding and the qualities of your milk change as your baby grows and develops. For example, the nutrients in your milk adapt to your growing baby’s needs, and the infection-fighting properties also increase if you or your baby are exposed to some new bacteria or virus.

Here are things you should know about the first month of breastfeeding:


Most full-term, healthy babies are ready and eager to begin breastfeeding within the first two hours of birth. After the initial feeding, a baby may fall asleep or be drowsy for the next two to 20 hours, so he or she may not want to breastfeed again this first day. However, a baby should breastfeed several times that first day.

Days 2 to 4

Although your baby may need practice with latching on and sucking, by the second day your baby should begin to wake and cue (show readiness) every one and one-half to three hours, for a total of eight to 12 breast-feedings in 24 hours. These frequent feedings provide your baby with antibody-rich first milk called colostrum. Your baby should suckle for at least 10 minutes and may continue for about 30 minutes on the first breast before letting go, or “self-detaching,” without help from you. When your baby finishes at one breast, you can burp and change a diaper before offering the second breast.

Days 3 to 5

The volume of breast milk produced increases dramatically at about three or four days after birth, and the milk is said to have “come in.” Your baby probably will drift off after his or her eight to 12, 10 to 30-minute feedings and act more satisfied after a meal. Weight gain should pick up within 24 hours of this increase in milk production, so your baby begins to gain at least half an ounce (15 g) a day.

Days 5 to 28

Your baby will become more proficient at breastfeeding as the first month progresses. Expect to feed your baby about eight to 12 times in 24 hours and for approximately 10 to 30 minutes at the first breast before he or she lets go of the breast without your help. You can then burp the baby, change his or her diaper, and switch to the second breast. Usually, your newborn will breastfeed for a shorter period at the second breast, and sometimes he or she may not want to feed on the second breast at all. Simply offer the second breast first at the next feeding. This is important because otherwise the second breast may stop producing milk.

Let your baby set the pace for breastfeeding. Pay attention to his or her feeding cues. Do not wait until the baby cries to feed. The number of feedings each baby needs and the length of time each feeding lasts will vary from baby to baby. Trying to force a breastfed baby to wait longer between feedings, or fit a particular feeding schedule, can result in poor weight gain.


Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Jovino, DO

Date Last Reviewed: 4/6/2010

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