By R. Nathan Landefeld, MD, FAAP
Physicians’ Primary Care
I wish that all first-time, breastfeeding moms were told that breast milk does not come in on day one.
So many who want to breastfeed want to give up or start supplementing with formula when they are not producing vast quantities of milk on the first day. It’s not until day 3, 4 or even 5 (really) that you are making any significant quantities of breastmilk.
At first, there is a bit of colostrum that provides antibodies to fight infection and some other very important substances. This is completely fine. After all, it has been going on this way for a few million years before the invention of bottles and formula.
Babies are made to get through this period. Their fluid reserves are increased when they are born to get through the first days with minimal intake. Each day, for the first 3 – 5 days, their weight goes down. They are not losing muscle, bone or brains – just water. They can often lose 10 percent (sometimes more) of their initial birth weight through water loss. Then on day 3 – 5, as milk comes in, the weight bottoms out and starts climbing up again.
Getting the baby on the breast every 2 – 3 hours starting just after birth is very important. This is how mom’s body learns to start producing milk. The baby latching on tells her posterior pituitary gland to start producing oxytocin, a hormone that does many things, including inducing breastmilk production.
So realize that milk does not come in on the first couple of days after birth. The baby will start getting very hungry after the first 24 hours. This is good. We need a hungry baby who wants to breastfeed a lot to get that milk to kick in. Remember, “Billions and Billions Served” (more than McDonald’s) Hang in there.