Beginning Breastfeeding

*This post presupposes a healthy, uncomplicated, full-term pregnancy, a normal spontaneous delivery, and no underlying issues predisposing to a low milk supply.

One of the most common freak-out posts that I encounter in Mommy/breastfeeding FB groups goes something like this: “OMG! I just gave birth to my baby 1/2/3 days ago and I STILL don’t have any milk! There’s nothing coming out of my boobs but this clear, thick, yellowish liquid. My baby must be starving to death! What do I do??”

I must admit that I too shrieked something like this in the first two days after I gave birth to my firstborn, although I mostly limited my rants to my Mom, my husband, and my pediatrician. Which is good, because it’s not funny when even a fully-trained physician goes into meltdown mode over something that she’s supposed to know something about. (Spoiler: No. Being a doctor other than an OBGYN or Pediatrician DOESN’T prepare you for your own experience at all if you didn’t research or attend classes beforehand. And I claim PTSD and weird hormonal imbalances from just giving birth, so there.)

I’ll just say what my beautiful, thankfully serene pediatrician said at the time:  Don’t. Panic.

In the first place, that weird, thick, yellowish liquid IS a kind of milk. It’s called colostrum, and it’s called liquid gold for a reason: It’s the most nutritious substance you will ever make; packed with nutrients, antibodies, and white blood cells that are specially tailored to strengthen your baby’s gut and immune system. It’s one of the best birthday gifts he can ever receive from you. There might not be a lot (just spoonfuls), but don’t worry; your baby’s stomach is so tiny at this point (like a grape or a calamansi, is how my pediatrician described it to me) that he’ll be satisfied with the little that you are producing. Just be prepared to feed every 2-3 hours round the clock (10-12 times a day), or even hourly at first, because he’ll digest that stuff very fast. (Or if you’re unable to feed directly for whatever reason, use a hospital -grade double electric pump following the same schedule.) Check with a nurse or lactation consultant to make sure that your latch is correct. Offer your breast at the first sign of hunger, such as restlessness, rooting, or sucking of fingers; don’t wait for your baby to start crying.  Alternate sides, but finish one side first before offering him the second. And don’t be worried if he loses some weight, as this doesn’t mean that he is not getting fed; a 7-10% weight loss is normal or physiologic for breastfed babies in the first week of life.

In the second place, your milk won’t actually “come in” until an average of 2-5 days after birth. Just keep latching on demand (“unlilatching”) until then to stimulate production. Don’t try to avoid or forgo the early morning feeds because this is when your prolactin (the milk-making hormone) levels are the highest. You’ll just wake up one day with engorged, hot, veiny, painful beasts that may be soaking your shirt with milk. This is what happened to me with all of my kids, on the third morning exactly, and I don’t deny that I was immensely relieved all three times. It is also at this point that you’ll start producing the mature white milk that you may be familiar with, although it might still be lightly colored yellow or even orange (transitional milk). It might stay like that for around 2 weeks before becoming completely white or even bluish white. Keep draining your breasts as often as possible by unlilatching so that you can attenuate the engorgement and maintain your supply.

Your baby should also regain the weight that he initially lost by the time that he is around 10-14 days old.  Just make sure that he is otherwise active, producing lots of wet or poopy diapers, has pale yellow to clear urine after day 3, and is already producing mustard-colored poop by day 4.  If not, or if you think your baby is getting dehydrated, don’t hesitate to bring him in for a checkup.

Otherwise, you can borrow my mantra: “Keep Calm and Just Breastfeed!”

What breastfeeding issues most concerned you in the first 3 days of your baby’s life?

IMG_20170719_102447

A photo of my slightly yellowish transitional milk from when my daughter was a week old.

 

Other issues might have come up at this point, such as nipple soreness or bleeding, inverted nipples, improper latch due to tongue-tie, painful engorgement, mastitis, etc., but I’ll address them in future posts. 

 

References:

  1. Kellymom
  2. American Pregnancy Association
  3. Medela
  4. La Leche League

 

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