I hear this almost every day: My baby had to have formula in the hospital because I didn’t have any milk. Or, My baby wanted to breastfeed constantly so the nurse gave him formula.
Way too many healthy newborns are given formula in the first 48 hours after birth. New moms are often told that their baby is “starving” because they “don’t have milk yet.” Unfortunately, frequent feedings are seen as a sign of inadequate milk production instead of a sign of a healthy baby who is learning to breastfeed.
Your body is preparing to breastfeed your baby even before she is born! Around the 5th month of pregnancy, your breasts produce a yellow,/orange nutrient-rich fluid called colostrum. It is available as soon as your baby is born. Colostrum is the perfect first food for premature as well as full-term infants. It is rich in anti-oxidants, minerals and antibodies to protect your baby. It also acts as a laxative—helping baby rid her body of the meconium or first stool.
Right after your baby’s birth, the sudden drop in progesterone tells your body there is a baby to feed and it switches gears to begin producing milk. The transition from colostrum to mature milk is a gradual process. In the 2-3 weeks following delivery, you will notice your milk becoming thinner, less yellow and more “milky.” You will also notice your breasts becoming heavier and your baby gulping noisily as she breastfeeds.
Immediately after birth, however, your baby is not ready for big feedings. Her stomach can only hold 2-3 teaspoons at a time. In addition, she is learning to suck, swallow and breath rhythmically. Colostrum is delivered to her in small amounts. Perfect for the new baby learning to breastfeed.
Your brand new baby may want to breastfeed very frequently—especially the 2nd day of life. Frequent feedings enable her to get many small doses of colostrum and encourage a faster transition to mature milk. As the milk volume increases, your baby will be satisfied longer between feedings.
So tuck your baby in close and forget about anything else that you think you need to do. The frequent contact in the first few days will allow you and your baby to get to know each other. Enjoy! You are learning to dance together.
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