Normal Breastfeeding Patterns

In the Early Days

During the first few days after birth, many babies want to breastfeed often and long – sometimes for an hour or more at a time – until the mother’s milk supply becomes more plentiful.

Some babies are uninterested in nursing or very sleepy for the first few days. In this case, mother is encourage to breastfeed at least 8-12 times per day by trying to rouse the baby.

Frequent and Unrestricted Breastfeeding In the Early Days Offers Health Benefits for Both Mother and Baby

  1. Provides the baby with the colostrum he needs
    • Although colostrum is small in quantity, it is rich in nutrients and immunities.
  2. Gives the baby practice at nursing before his mother’s breasts become full
    • Giving the baby lots of time at the breast in the first few days allows him to learn to breastfeed effectively before his mother’s breasts become fuller as her milk supply becomes more plentiful, usually on the third or fourth day after birth.
  3. Prevents exaggerated newborn jaundice
    • Research comparing groups of babies breastfed for varying numbers of times per day has confirmed that those fed more times have lower bilirubin levels. This is because the colostrum has a laxative effect, stimulating the baby’s bowels to expel his bilirubin-rich stool before the bilirubin is reabsorbed by his body.
  4. Stimulates uterine contractions in the mother and lessens the chances of hemorrhage.
  5. Prevent painful engorgement in the mother.
  6. Stimulates the mother’s milk to increase more quickly.

During a newborn’s first day or two (while the mother is producing colostrum alone), he will wet only one or two diapers per day. When his mother’s milk becomes more plentiful, the baby’s output will gradually increase (over the next day or two) to six to eight wet cloth diapers or five to six disposables every 24 hours.

In the first few days after birth, the baby’s dark tarry stools are called meconium. Colostrum is a natural laxative and is important in helping the infant pass this first stool. If feedings are going well, typically by about the third day a baby’s stool changes from black and tarry to the green transitional stools and by the fifth day to the typical yellow human milk stool.

Whether breastfed of artificially fed, newborns tend to lose weight during the first three to four days after birth. This is due to the shedding of excess fluids in the baby’s tissues at birth and the passage of meconium (the first stool). A weight loss of 5 percent to 7 percent is normal. Birth weight should be regained by ten days to two weeks of age.

When breastfeeding is going well, water or formula supplements are not needed

Early supplements are not only unnecessary, but they can also contribute to health problems in mothers and baby and interfere with breastfeeding in the following ways.

  1. Supplements fill up the baby, making him less interested in breastfeeding, and water supplements contribute to weight loss. A baby who fills up on water is not getting the calories he needs.
  2. Water supplements contribute to newborn jaundice. The baby’s first stool (called “meconium”) is rich in bilirubin. Colostrum has a laxative effect, helping babies to pass this meconium more quickly, thereby keeping bilirubin levels down. Water supplements, on the other hand, do not stimulate bowel movements, causing the bilirubin to be reabsorbed into the baby’s system and increasing the levels of newborn jaundice.
  3. Formula supplements in the newborn period can sensitize some babies to milk allergy or intolerance.

Early Bottle and Pacifier Use

This has been associated with breastfeeding problems, such as incorrect sucking technique and breast refusal. Pacifier use has been associated with increased incidence of:

  • Early weaning
  • Incorrect sucking technique at the breast
  • Slow weight gain
  • Ear Infections
  • Thrush
  • Dental problems
  • Mastitis


Resources: LLL International, The Breastfeeding Answer Book, 3rd Revised Edition

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