Whether you are breastfeeding or not your breasts will begin to transition from colostrum to mature milk at about 2-5 days postpartum. This post is geared toward breastfeeding mothers. If you choose to feed artificial breast milk (formula) it’s a good idea to manage the swelling in your breasts with expressing your milk to comfort for the first few days and slowly expressing less milk each day after the first couple of days to prevent mastitis (a painful breast infection which can cause you to be very sick).
To learn more about getting breastfeeding off to a good start and know what to expect in the first two hours postpartum please see my earlier post in this What to Expect series. You can also learn more about what to expect that first night home from the hospital (regardless of the timing of that due to a normal vaginal birth, surgical birth, or bringing a preemie home) here.
In the first 24 hours after birth, your baby is receiving colostrum which is a thick breast milk that is extremely high in antibodies and vitamins because baby has such a small tummy. The average a baby receives is about 0.35-3.68 oz in the first 24 hours (based on a 7 lb 8 oz baby) (Source: Counseling the Nursing Mother, Fifth Edition). Your body begins producing this liquid gold breast milk during pregnancy and it protects baby against bacteria and helps jump start baby’s immune system and GI system to living in the world outside of the womb.
Sometime in the first 2-5 days your body will begin producing more milk as it begins transitioning to mature milk. I don’t like to use the phrase “milk coming in” because colostrum is also breast milk. It’s all important and vital to baby’s survival and optimal growth and development.
You may notice some engorgement in your breasts at this time. Not all mothers experience this and those who do notice varying degrees of this engorgement and time that it lasts. It typically resolves in about 2 days but it may take about 7 days after milk transitions for it to resolve but it will get better each day. Not all of this fluid in your breasts is breast milk. Much of it is lymphatic fluid and blood from which milk is synthesized. Like if you have an injury, ice packs can be very helpful after a feeding to help take this engorgement down. The very best way to resolve this is by putting your baby to your breast frequently-a minimum of 8-12 times per day, many babies like to nurse more frequently.
Your baby’s stomach has increased to the size of a ping pong ball (like in the picture above). Baby will take an average of 14-19 oz per day of breast milk. Your milk will slowly transition over the first two weeks postpartum but the components quickly resemble those in mature milk.
Things to Watch For:
- Baby should be on the breast 8-12 times per 24 hours (or more frequently). Feedings may last 7 minutes up to an hour or possibly longer. Expect to spend lots of time feeding your baby and recovering from birth. Your baby will get more efficient at nursing over time.
- You should notice your milk increasing in volume and transitioning between day 2-5. If by day 5 you do not notice your milk increasing in volume or baby has lost more than 10% of birth weight (7% is the number where we really start watching babies closely but if you received IV fluids during labor your baby may lose more) contact your doctor and your baby’s doctor right away and seek help right away from an IBCLC.
- Follow the care instructions from the hospital regarding cord care, body temperature for you and baby, and other discharge directions.
- If you have any breastfeeding questions contact a breastfeeding professional right away.
- Baby’s stools should become more green in this timeframe as your milk transitions. Baby should have at least 1 wet diaper in the first 24 hours, 2 the second day, 3 the third day, and so on until baby is having at least 6-8 wet diapers and 3 yellow seedy poopy diapers by the end of the first week. Baby’s stool should be the consistency and color of French’s mustard with sesame seeds in it (the seeds are the curding milk from digestion).
- Skin-to-skin contact helps babies to breastfeed better. Many issues can be resolved by making the breast a happy place to be even if baby isn’t latching. Getting help from a breastfeeding professional is also very important in this process. If you don’t feel the care plan that you and your professional work out together is working you can always seek extra help or seek a second opinion. Like doctors, breastfeeding professionals all have different areas of expertise and unfortunately not all are on the same page with evidence-based information because we are continually learning more and more about breastfeeding.
What did you find most helpful in the first 7 days postpartum?
If you have breastfeeding questions in the Oklahoma City, Mustang, or Yukon areas I am happy to help. I offer breastfeeding classes and consultations. You can find out more on my website or contact me here.