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Breastfeeding your newborn: Your guide to the first 7 days of nursing

Breastfeeding is normal, natural and instinctual, but it's also a learned process for both moms and babies.


It's normal to have questions. It's to be expected that new moms will need information as breastfeeding unfolds after birth. Along with some loving care and guidance, and a good dose of trust in the process and your body, it's vital to have good information about what to expect in the first few days of breastfeeding, especially since so much changes that first week—from birth to colostrum to “milk in"!

This article provides an overview of what happens over the course of the first week and beyond of breastfeeding, but the keys to remember are:

—Keep baby close with skin-to-skin.

—Nursing every 2 hours is normal.

—Rooting, fist-to-mouth and lip-smacking, are baby's hunger signs.

—Check diaper output: Generally 3 to 5 poopy diapers and 5 to 6 wet diapers per day.

—Your latch shouldn't be painful. Get help if needed.

“A mother's milk is liquid love."

Here's a breakdown of the first week: what's normal + what to do if something goes wrong.

1. Breastfeeding the first few hours after birth

Maintain skin-to-skin.

Unless you or your baby has a medical condition that requires immediate attention, it's important to spend a good few hours with your baby skin-to-skin directly after birth. Even babies born via C-section can be placed in a mother's arms after birth.

Check your early latch.

Most babies (especially ones born to mothers who didn't have pain medication) will crawl up to the breast and latch on themselves. Numerous studies have shown the importance of these first few hours ( here's one). Babies are most alert and primed to nurse in these post-birth hours.

Remember baby's deep sleep.

After the first few hours, babies often fall into a deep sleep and are less able to nurse well. There is also evidence that nursing in the first few hours leads to long nursing duration in the long-term. Babies are learning as soon as they are born, so give them the chance to learn to nurse. If you aren't able to, or if something goes wrong, don't worry—with help, almost all babies can learn to latch later.

2. Breastfeeding on days 1 to 3

Nurse frequently.

For the first few days after birth, expect your baby to nurse very frequently. There is absolutely no schedule yet. If you are in a hospital, have your baby room-in with you. Keep your baby skin-to-skin with you for most of the day. This way, anytime your baby looks for the breast, it will be right there! Rooting, head bobbing, fist sucking, mouth fluttering—these are all signs your baby is ready to nurse.

Avoid artificial nipples.

You can't nurse too often. Ask that the hospital give your baby no artificial nipples—no bottles or pacifiers. You are all the food and comfort your baby needs.

All hail colostrum.

During the first three days, you are producing a kind of milk called colostrum. It's small in amount, but rich in vitamins, proteins, antibodies and antiviral agents. It's your baby's first inoculation. It also acts as a laxative and helps your baby clear out his first poop (meconium).

Keep an eye on baby's weight loss.

It is normal for breastfed babies to lose a bit of weight in the first three days of life. Five to 7% is in the normal range. Part of this is the passage of the first poop and other fluids from birth.

You don't need to supplement your baby. In fact, your baby's stomach is about the size of a marble right now, so feeding a few ounces in a bottle will most likely make your baby spit up. The colostrum your body produces is small in amount for a reason—it's just the right amount for your baby's stomach to hold.

Having latching issues?

What if your baby is not latching? While rare, it does happen that some babies have trouble latching in the first few days. If this is the case, get some help from a lactation consultant or trusted helper right away.

In the meantime, keep your baby skin-to-skin, hand express your colostrum (pumps don't work as well in these first few days before your milk “comes in") and feed your baby the colostrum with a small spoon or a medicine dropper.

3. Breastfeeding on days 3 to 5

Sometime between the third and fifth day after birth, your milk will become more abundant.

Milk letdown arrives.

It can often happen suddenly, but is sometimes more gradual. Some women just feel fuller, and might notice their baby swallowing more milk (not everyone can hear a baby swallow, and that doesn't mean the baby isn't getting milk!). Other women become quite engorged when their milk comes in, which can be a challenge in itself.

Overfilling is possible.

The key is to make sure your baby is deeply latched on, and to nurse frequently to empty your breasts and prevent them from overfilling.

Try hand expressing.

If your breasts are so full that your nipples become flattened, your baby may have trouble latching on. Hand expressing a little milk to soften the nipple, or trying a technique called Reverse Pressure Softening, can make the nipple more pliable and make latching easier.

Gently massage.

Get some help with these techniques if necessary. If you are so engorged that your milk isn't flowing, gentle massage can help. Cold packs or chilled cabbage between feedings can also be helpful.

Do a diaper check.

Soon after your milk comes in, your baby's poops will transition to a greenish-brownish color, and will take on a mustard yellow color soon after. Wet diapers will become more abundant as well.

4. Breastfeeding on days 5 to 7

Once you've gotten over the hump of the first few days, you might be starting to find a groove with breastfeeding. Your baby will still be nursing very frequently, about 10 times in 24 hours. Some will have a slightly longer stretch (though not always at night!), but most will need to nurse every two hours or so.

Learn baby's hunger cues.

Once your milk is in and you know that your baby is gaining weight, you can let some longer stretches happen, but remember to always nurse when your baby shows cues like rooting, head bobbing and fist sucking. Even a baby making light sucking motions is a cue to nurse!

Schedules vary.

Some babies will seem to have an erratic eating schedule, wanting to nurse every hour for a few hours, and then being passed out for a few hours after that ( cluster feeding). All of it is normal.

Continue checking diapers.

Babies generally have three to five poopy diapers per 24 hours. The poops should be at least the size of a quarter, yellow in color and sometimes seedy in texture. Variations in color are normal too. Some babies will poop after every feeding, and some will consolidate the poops more. Pee diapers vary, but five to six wet diapers per day is normal.

Check baby's weight.

Diapers only tell half the story of how much milk a baby is getting. The most reliable test is a weight check (no clothes or diaper, and on the same scale each time if possible).

Get help if you need it.

It can take up to two weeks for a baby to get back to his birthweight, but by the end of the first week, a baby should be gaining rather than continuing to lose weight. If your baby isn't gaining weight, get help right away!

Supplement if needed.

If you need to supplement, pump your milk and feed it to your baby. Here is a post I wrote about supplementing the breastfed baby, and the importance of doing so early on if your baby is losing too much weight.

Tenderness should subside.

Nursing should be pain free by the end of the first week. Some mild tenderness when your baby first latches is within the spectrum of normal, but pain that is severe, lasts more than a few seconds, lasts between feeds, or that is accompanied by broken or cracked skin, is not normal.

Get help!

If this is the case, get help sooner rather than later because these problems only tend to get worse with time. Often all that you need is a quick adjustment to your latch, or positioning. Some moms and babies need a little more help. Find a lactation consultant or other trusted helper. This type of thing usually requires in-person help.

“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers— strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength."
Barbara Katz Rothman

5. Beyond the first week

You just had a baby and your body needs to heal after birth.

Relax + snuggle.

Your baby will want to nurse a lot and be near you. Now is the time to clear your schedule and let yourself be lazy and snuggly with your baby! Lots of new moms have trouble with this because they are used to getting things done and feeling independent. But this time is brief and you will thank yourself later for taking the time to rest and establish breastfeeding.

Ask for help.

Remember, you don't have to do everything alone. Get help! Your partner, your family, your neighbors—accept all offers of help. Let others keep house and feed you so you can rest and nurse.

Find support + find your tribe.

Do you love breastfeeding? Hate it? Feel overwhelmed? All these feelings are normal, and it's normal to feel all of them all at once. ( Here is a good article to help you distinguish these normal feelings from postpartum depression or anxiety.)

Once you have recovered from birth and breastfeeding is established, join a local breastfeeding support group. Meeting other breastfeeding moms will help you feel normal. Plus, more concerns come up after that first week, and it's great to have the wisdom and support of other mothers.

Wendy Wisner is a mom of two, a freelance writer and a lactation consultant (IBCLC).

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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