There’s quite a learning curve for new moms. From learning how to get a diaper right to maneuvering your child’s arms into that first onesie, there is almost instant information overload – especially when it comes to breastfeeding. I get so many questions from new moms about breastfeeding – from milk supply to why babies always seem so hungry. Here’s some information that may help regarding the top three questions I get regularly from new mothers.
Q: Why is my milk not coming in right away?
Maybe the biggest misconception people have about being a new mom is that the milk comes in right away. When that doesn’t happen, there can be confusion at a minimum, and panic can set in as a worst-case scenario. New moms are worried that their child isn’t getting enough nutrition so they may supplement with formula instead. Here’s what you need to know: don’t panic. New milk does not come in right away – in fact, milk doesn’t typically come in for three to five days. The first nutrients your baby will get comes from mom’s colostrum. This is a substance that helps bridge the gap in those first days of life between the womb and the outside world by preparing the intestines for food. Babies come out prepared for limited feeds, with stores of fat, sugar and water to tide them over. Your baby will thrive on your colostrum for the first three to five days, and then the milk will come in to take over.
Q: Why is my newborn hungry all the time?
Babies are extremely hungry in the first 24 to 72 hours – in fact, they can feed twelve times a day or more. This often leads some moms to be concerned that their baby isn’t getting enough milk when they are feeding. Here’s why that’s happening: your newborn baby’s tummy is the size of a shooter marble. It doesn’t take much to fill it up, typically 5 to 7 mL. Anything more than that will likely be spit up. A three-day-old newborn’s tummy is generally the size of a ping pong ball, and a ten-day-old newborn stomach is roughly the size of a large chicken egg. In addition to having small tummies, it takes a lot of suckling to remove the thick colostrum from the breast. They also tend to cluster feed together, perhaps feeding for 2-3 hours straight, but then giving you a longer nap. It’s important to remember that your body will make the right amount of milk in response to your baby’s feeding needs, so make sure you’re allowing them to feed when they’re hungry and your body will provide the right amount of nutrition during this extremely important time period. Your body provided all the nourishment baby needed for the first nine months of the baby’s life in the womb, and in almost all cases it can do so for the next six months and beyond.
Q: Should breastfeeding hurt?
No! If breastfeeding hurts, it is important to seek the help of a lactation consultant to help correct the situation. Many times, new moms will suffer through painful breastfeeding because they want to make sure their baby is getting the proper nutrition. However, if breastfeeding is painful, it’s likely because the baby is incorrectly latched. Pain is telling you that the baby is pinching the milk ducts closed, so mom ends up with very sore breasts and baby doesn’t get enough milk. Breastfeeding should tug, not pinch. If you’re having trouble at all, make sure you contact a lactation consultant or your Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician to help guide you through the process.
Dr. Melaine Mouzoon, F.A.A.P., is a pediatric hospitalist and managing physician of immunization practices and travel medicine at Kelsey-Seybold. She is an advocate for supporting new moms in achieving successful breastfeeding and in helping new dads to become involved in the care and emotional support of their children.