If no one tells you how important that first week is… I’m telling you now. That first week is SO important in your breastfeeding journey!
Building your milk supply begins in those precious first hours after birth. If you are planning to nurse, it will be essential to get baby latching right away. Skin-to-skin helps this occur as naturally as possible, and has many other benefits for mom and baby! Request to see a lactation consultant in the hospital as soon as you can! Hospitals in the U.S. usually have one on staff. Latching does not always come naturally and can use guidance. (If you’re planning to give birth soon, consider taking a breastfeeding course! Many hospitals offer them.) Breastfeeding should not hurt. If you are experiencing pain, gently break baby’s seal on your nipple by inserting your pinky finger in the corner of their mouth and try re-latching, with assistance from a nurse or lactation counselor. Honestly if you’re in a pinch, watching YouTube videos can really help! Feed baby on demand, watching for hungry and full cues (see my Bottle Feeding highlight for cue posts) This means making sure baby latches both breasts every 2-3 hours on demand around the clock.
If you cannot latch, are separated from baby, or choose to exclusively pump, it is incredibly important to begin expressing right away and continue around the clock every 3 hours. A manual pump or hand-expression might work better to remove that colostrum initially, and an electric pump later. (Check my Manual pump highlight on Instagram for demo videos!) Colostrum can be thick and sticky, and an electric pump might not extract it as well as hand-expression or a manual pump can. Collect this colostrum on a spoon, in a medicine syringe, or in a medicine put to feed to baby. A baby only needs about 5-7ml of colostrum per feeding, which increases to 20ml by day 3 and up to 60ml by 1 week.
For more tips on getting started Exclusive Pumping right from the start, click HERE. For tips on transitioning to exclusive pumping after exclusively nursing, click HERE. Make an appointment to see a lactation professional when you arrive home from the hospital if you are having ANY difficulty or pain.
Let’s get technical:
There are 3 stages of Lactogenesis (milk making). When you are pregnant, you are already entering into Lactogenesis 1: Colostrum! Colostrum is so important for baby’s gut development. It contains immunological properties and helps baby pass meconium, acting as a gentle and necessary laxative. Lactogenesis 2: As soon as your placenta detaches after birth, your body experiences a hormonal change which allows your transitional milk to begin coming in. This milk is slightly less yellow and greater in volume. Lactogenesis 3: Through frequent nursing or pumping, your transitional milk will turn into whiter, mature milk.
So when does your milk come in?
Your milk is already in! Colostrum IS milk! What people usually mean when they say this, is when your milk turns a paler yellow and increases in volume (transitional milk), resulting in a feeling of heavy fullness in the breast which usually takes 3-5 days (can take longer for c-section mommas. You can’t just wait for it to come in though…. you need to ACTIVELY work for that transition to happen- this is an ACTIVE waiting period- latching, hand expressing, or pumping needs to happen around the clock to trigger this next stage of lactation. Milk removal should be REGULAR (meaning nursing/pumping is spaced somewhat evenly) and FREQEUNT (every 2-3 hours around the clock, yes even at night!)
Does your milk supply increase as baby’s intake increases?
This one is mainly for EXCLUSIVE PUMPERS- Build your milk supply EARLY so that you have enough for baby! (For nursing mommas, your baby’s frequent and regular demand for milk should build and maintain your supply.)
It’s super important to begin building your supply FROM BIRTH and work work work (pumping 8+ times a day) to build it until your supply regulates by 2-3 months. From there, you’ll have to protect that supply so it doesn’t begin to decrease… but you may be able to pump fewer times in a day. Aim for 120 total minutes in 24 hours.
*This is not a scientifically accurate graph… it’s a rough visual to give you an idea that you “should” be at your max output around 1-2 month mark, when baby is at their max intake. ⭐️ Ideally, you’d want to be ahead of baby’s intake- your supply could build faster than baby’s intake. Don’t use your baby’s intake at 2 weeks as your goal. 🌟 Your goal should be what a typical baby drinks in a day, which is approx 25-30 ounces. (They may drink less as they begin to eat more solid foods toward age 1.) UNLIKE formula-fed babies, breastmilk-fed babies usually do NOT continue to need greater amounts of milk daily.👶🍼 Most babies plateau out at ~30 oz/day from 1 month onward. They might take slightly more per bottle but fewer bottles per day equaling the same daily total.
You might be thinking… What happens when my bottle-fed baby needs more milk? The goal, of course, is to already have that max output amount, right? But many of us can’t, or we might have had a “bad start” and didn’t pump enough in the beginning due to any number of reasons. What do we do then?
Power pumping is a way to imitate cluster feeding and signal to your body to increase output- You pump 20 minutes, rest for 10, pump 10, rest 10, pump 10. (It takes an hour) Do this once a day for a week or two. It should have a cumulative effect. Check out my page on Milk Supply for more tips! And of course,
Supplementing is OKAY!!! It may actually make you feel LESS stress after you begin to supplement!
How often should I pump?
Keep in mind that this is a pumping website… if you are nursing, follow baby’s feeding cues for nursing at the breast. Work closely with an IBCLC for any direct latching advice.
Here’s an EXCLUSIVE PUMPING SAMPLE SCHEDULE for those who need it!
You might see a different schedule that begins at birth with 8 ppd (pumps per day) and ends at 12 months with 1 ppd. That schedule is great if you’d like to be weaned by 12 months. Use THIS schedule as a sample for building and maintaining your milk supply until you are ready to wean. Alter as needed, based on what’s best for your schedule and family priorities.
This is a SAMPLE schedule based on typical/average output. Every mother is different! Every breast has a different storage capacity and every mother produces a different daily total. Some mothers need to pump more frequently, some can go longer between pumps because their breasts can store more milk!
‼️ If you see a drop in your supply after dropping a pump, you may need to remain at a higher number of pumps per day. Do what works for you and your baby. ❤️
What if I got off to a bad start?
Did your breastfeeding journey get off to a bad start? 😓
When I was researching low supply, one of the reasons for secondary low supply was “Bad Start.” I was thinking, phew that’s harsh! But literally there’s not much of a better way to say it! 🤔
We know that milk supply is usually based off of the demand for milk, whether it’s being demanded by baby nursing or by the act of pumping… and we know that this demand should begin within the first few hours after birth, literally as soon as possible. Milk must be removed frequently (every 2-3 hrs) around the clock beginning at birth, in order to establish a full supply.
But… life happens. C-section recovery, NICU stays, life events, stress, etc… and not every mother gets off to a “good start.” If that’s you…. HAVE GRACE WITH YOURSELF MOMMA. That’s the first step.
If you’re under 2 months postpartum, you have the greatest chance of still recovering/building your supply because it’s likely that your supply has not regulated yet. So….
1️⃣ Take a look at your priorities. If giving 100% breastmilk is a priority to you, get yourself on a strict schedule of pumping every 3 hours around the clock- set alarms in your phone.
2️⃣ Get a quality pump, correctly sized flanges, and replace parts as needed. (Exclusive pumpers should replace their valves every 1-2 months.)
3️⃣ Get yourself on a diet that supports lactation- HIGH calories full of good fats and protein. HYDRATE. Google galactagogues and eat them!
4️⃣ Try POWER PUMPING (See my highlight on it) It should have a cumulative effect so do it once a day for a week straight.
⭐️ IMPORTANT ⭐️ If you know that any breastmilk is better than none, and you cannot make pumping top priority, pump on as strict of a schedule as you can manage and supplement what you cannot produce. Like I said, give yourself grace. We are all living different lives and taking a good look at priorities will let you know if you can honestly make exclusive pumping work… AND THAT’S OKAY!
(YES there are outliers to low supply that an IBCLC can work with you on… the info I post is for the average/typical experience. UNDERSTANDING low supply can be really helpful- follow @lowsupplymom on instagram and learn more about Primary vs. Secondary low supply HERE.)
What was YOUR first week like? Tell us in the comments below!