The first 24 hours after your baby is born, you and baby will likely spend a lot of time learning to nurse. Your body will be producing colostrum, which is clear with an amber hue. If you are told you need to pump, don’t be concerned about the small amount of colostrum you may produce: your baby’s first few days, his stomach is the size of a large marble and not capable of much stretching yet, so your colostrum is the perfect amount for him.
Colostrum is high in sugars and has strong diuretic properties that help clear the intestines of meconium. It is also full of antibodies, which help protect your baby against illness.
You may feel as if your new baby is having trouble deciding if she wants to nurse or sleep when presented with the breast. Keep in mind that she has just left a perfect, warm, safe, and quiet environment, and as your chest is biologically designed to smell similar to the amniotic fluid she has spent her life floating in, there seems to be no more perfect place to be, whether hungry or not.
You and your baby will reach a comfortable rhythm soon, but until then, follow her lead: sleep when she sleeps, and soak in every new moment! Expect at least one wet and one dirty diaper on day one.
On day two, make sure to nurse your newborn every two hours or more on demand, or 10-12 times per 24 hour period. If friends and family come to visit, ask them to help you with any household chores that may need doing in exchange for a couple of minutes holding the baby;
try to keep your baby to yourself as much as possible, preferably skin-to-skin. Near the end of the second 24 hours, your baby may start seeming a little more frustrated and hungry, as if the colostrum your body is producing isn’t enough. Don’t worry, he is not critically hungry, nor is your body failing you;
this is simply nature having engineered your baby in such a way that he can communicate to your body that soon he will need more than colostrum. Whether you realize it or not, your body is already starting to respond. Expect at least two dirty and two wet diapers on day two. You may also begin to see a lightening in the color of your baby’s stools.
Anywhere from day three to five, your milk will shift from colostrum to transitional milk, which is greater in volume and whiter in color, with a slight yellow tint. Your baby will be fine if your milk doesn’t “come in” before day five – remember, nature rarely makes mistakes.
As long as your newborn has moments of quiet alertness along with good latch and is wetting and soiling the proper number of diapers (one for each day of life up to day four), and stools are progressing from the black, tarry meconium to yellow, more seedy poop, you should not worry.
Stay in touch with your breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician and a good lactation counselor if you begin to get nervous, but try to trust your body and your baby. When your milk does begin to come in, nurse often and do not skip feedings.
Always try to stay well fed, well rested, and properly hydrated during the beginning of your career as a new mother. Mothering a newborn can be tiring, and taking good care of yourself will make it easier for you to take care of your baby. Nap when baby naps, and call on support people to help you with all things not baby. Most of all, soak in these first few days with your new child.
Hector Cruz is the Founder of the global campaign “Project: BreastFeeding”. He is passionate about helping to educate men of the importance of their roles in breastfeeding support. He is married and has a beautiful daughter and two dogs.