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Colostrum is the nutrient-rich milk called “pre-milk,” which your baby will receive for the first few days after birth. This thick, yellowish milk contains powerful immune boosting properties. Colostrum is produced in tiny amounts, and it is packed with everything your baby needs during those first few days. On day one, a newborn baby only requires about 2 -10ml of colostrum per feeding! No wonder it is referred to as "liquid gold." By day three, on average, mothers are producing between 15 - 30ml of milk.
It is best to breastfeed as early as possible after birth and as often as possible during those first few days to encourage the onset of mature milk. A baby is usually quite alert immediately after a natural birth, which makes the first hour following birth the best time to initiate breastfeeding.
Newborn babies have the innate ability to find the breast (while lying on the mother’s chest) and latch all by themselves! Watch the breast crawl video here.
Your breasts may start to produce colostrum during pregnancy, weeks or even months before your baby is due, although, most mothers only notice this "pre-milk" after the birth of their babies.
Most mothers will transition from producing colostrum to what is called “mature milk” on day 3. Some first-time mothers may only notice mature milk coming in on day 4. (Signs discussed below)
You can expect some baby-blues just as your mature milk starts to come in, this is normal and due to all the hormone fluctuations in your system. During this time you might feel unusually weepy and particularly emotional; this should only last for a day or two. If you are still feeling this way two weeks in, its best to talk to your lactation consultant. It would be a good idea to continue to take your prenatal vitamins for a few months after giving birth. Know that breastfeeding will help to prevent postpartum depression.
A let-down is also known as the milk-ejection reflex. It is essentially when the milk is ejected from the breast. It is perfectly okay if you never feel a let-down, but most mothers will experience a tingling feeling in their breasts and nipples when the breast milk starts to flow.
A let down usually occurs a few seconds or minutes after your baby has started nursing, although you may have more than one let-down during a feeding session. It can also happen when a mother hears her baby cry (or any baby for that matter) or sees her baby. A let-down occurs due to the hormone Oxytocin, AKA the “love hormone.” Oxytocin causes the muscles in the breast to contact, which squeezes the milk out. Some mothers also experience uterine cramping while nursing, this is nothing to be concerned about and is just your body’s way of getting your uterus back to its original size. Learn more about how breastfeeding shrinks your uterus.
It is best to breastfeed your baby before they start crying. Here are the signs of hunger to look out for.
If your baby is not latched on well, and milk transfer is insufficient, it could result in a low milk supply as well as very sore, broken nipples. It’s a vicious cycle because the more painful your nipples are, the less time you are likely to keep your baby at the breast. Less time at the breast equals less milk. It is imperative that your baby has the best latch possible.
Deep Latching Technique
Adequate Milk Transfer
Keep an eye out for any signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, a sunken fontanel (soft spot on top of the skull) and a decrease in wet diapers. Breastfed babies do sometimes lose some weight after birth, but should regain their birth weight by day 10.
Signs to look out for - is my baby getting enough milk while nursing?
Changes can come gradually or suddenly, it really is different from one mother to another. Milk production will start to diminish if no milk is being removed during this time.
Please contact your local la leche league or lactation consultant if you have any concerns. They can assess the situation and advise accordingly. Be sure to contact them if: