Newborn Breastfeeding: What to Expect

Newborn Breastfeeding: What to ExpectAs you embrace your newborn baby for the first time and breathe in her delicious scent, it’s a great time to begin your most precious early motherhood experience: breastfeeding! Breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth is beneficial to both you and your baby. Newborn breastfeeding takes a lot of practice so the earlier you start, the better you’ll be able to navigate together. Today we’re sharing what to expect from newborn breastfeeding.

Eager to Nurse

Most full term newborns are eager to nurse. Believe it or not, your newborn will know your voice and enjoy your warmth immediately as you cradle her for the first time. And she’ll be able to locate that delicious breast milk you’ve been brewing. While her motor skills are lacking, many newborns can “crawl” to find their mother’s breast for nursing.

Early Breast Milk

The first type of breast milk you will produce may not look much like you expect. Your early milk is called colostrum and it is a yellowish paste-like consistency that is rich in protein, carbohydrates and antibodies to protect your baby. It is very easy for your newborn to digest colostrum and will encourage bowel movements to cleanse her system after being in the womb. You may not produce a lot of colostrum but a little bit goes a long way in your baby’s tiny tummy. After two to four days, your initial milk will start to come in. This increases in fat that your baby will need to grow.

How Often To Feed

For at least the first six weeks of your baby’s life, newborn breastfeeding can be a full time job. Newborns may nurse up to 12 times a day – that’s every two hours around the clock. Depending on your pediatrician’s advice, you may need to wake your baby every two hours for daytime feedings and every four hours for nighttime feedings. It’s common for newborns to fall asleep while breastfeeding so you may want to un-swaddle your baby and stimulate her with tickles or a wet washcloth to keep her engaged.

Signs Your Baby is Getting Enough Milk

Observing your baby is the best way to tell if she’s getting enough breast milk. While it’s normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their birth weight during the first few days of life, your baby should start regaining weight within a week. Weight gain is a sign that your baby is feeding well. Your baby should also wet and soil many diapers a day – possibly one or two between each feeding. Additionally, most satisfied babies will act content after feedings, however this is a tough gage because your baby may be fussy for other reasons than being hungry.

Latch and Positioning

Latch and positioning are two important parts of successful newborn breastfeeding. Establishing a good latch from the get-go is crucial. Some babies get the hang of latching right away and others need a little help. You can encourage good latch by helping your baby open her mouth completely, placing your entire areola in her mouth and ensuring her tongue and lips are in the proper place. You’ll probably want to play around with breastfeeding positions until you find the ones that are most comfortable for you. Switching positions during feedings and throughout the day is helpful for stimulating milk ducts all over your breast and to reduce the nipple soreness.

Common Issues

Unfortunately nipple soreness is often an unwanted side-effect of newborn breastfeeding. If you experience sore nipples, check your baby’s latch or seek help from a nurse or lactation consultant in the hospital. Even if your baby is latching properly, you may feel tenderness for the few weeks. Use a lanolin based cream or your own breast milk to soothe and heal your nipples.

Once your milk comes in, your cup may runneth over. In other words, you may overproduce milk at first as your body naturally adjusts to your baby’s needs. This can lead to engorgement, plugged ducts or a breast infection. You may need to pump to relieve your breasts in-between feedings. Conversely, if your milk supply is low, pumping between feedings can help build your milk supply. Plus feeding often and enjoying lots of skin-to-skin contact will help stimulate milk production.

Seeking Support

Many moms, especially first-time moms, find newborn breastfeeding to be the hardest stage. You’re both learning the ropes and there are sure to be some bumps along the way. That’s completely normal and it’s essential that you stay calm and continue to work together while trying to overcome any challenges. The good news is that there are many ways to get help. For in-person support, reach out to a lactation consultant through your hospital, OBGYN practice, La Leche League or WIC office. You can also find a wealth of online resources or seek help from an experienced mom friend. Never feel you are in it alone because there are plenty of people ready and willing to help.

Sources:  KellyMom, Fit Pregnancy, BabyCenter and La Leche League


Loving Moments believes moms should have the knowledge, resources and power to make the healthiest choices for their babies, starting with breastfeeding. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month in August, we are sharing Breastfeeding Basics, our educational blog series that we hope will empower you with information, encouragement and inspiration to meet your breastfeeding goals.