So we’re just over a week in and things seem to be going well. My little one has got the hang of feeding and seems to be asking for milk every two hours or so during the day and between 3 and 4-hourly at night. Most of the feeds are quite short, something I struggled with at first as I suppose I remember the later stages of breastfeeding last time round, where two or even three boob-loads wasn’t an unusual quantity. But, of course, my little week-old bundle has a tummy the size of a walnut so a few minutes here and there is currently delivering plenty of sustenance.
It’s during these early stages of feeding that you begin to understand more about how your body works and how it interacts with your baby. First time breast feeders won’t know what it feels like when your milk first comes in, how fast it flows, how to recognise and deal with engorged breasts and so on. During my first experience of breastfeeding, my milk arrived with a bang; I suffered a major emotional wobble and my little one stubbornly refused to continue feeding. It’s worth noting that this is quite common – just as you feel you’re starting to establish a bit of a routine, both you and baby have to deal with the change from colostrum to milk and it can throw everything out of kilter for a day or so. I know I always say the same but this is where support is vital – and perseverance. Colostrum is quite thick and gloopy so baby will have had to work hard to get any quantity. Milk on the other hand is much thinner and often flows faster so, suddenly, your little one is getting copious mouthfuls of lovely nourishing milk and might be a little freaked out in the process! It’s probably worth mentioning here that, initially, when baby latches and drinks, they are getting a fairly thin consistency of milk known as fore milk. It’s only as they continue to feed that they start to get a creamier, thicker milk, known as hind milk which contains more calories. It’s therefore important always to feed fully on each side to ensure they get this mix of different milk. I think it’s amazing that the human body is so complex. Just the fact that we can suddenly start producing this completely unique and life-giving nourishment is incredible, but the fact that its composition can change to suit the needs of your baby is beyond comprehension. If it’s a hot day, your milk will be thinner and contain more water to ensure your baby can re-hydrate sufficiently. In fact it’s important to remember that sometimes baby may just want a drink (hence a shorter or more frequent feed now and again) – the beauty of breastfeeding is that you only ever need to offer the boob – no need for water or other baby drinks as your little one can get absolutely everything they need just from your body.
If you’re concerned about baby getting enough milk, don’t forget wet nappies are a good way to measure this. With breastfeeding, of course, we can’t see how much baby is taking in but plenty of wet nappies are a great indicator that all is well.
Of course there are other “outputs” that will guide you to understanding that baby’s system is up and running…more on those in part 2!!