How your breasts produce milk
Your body makes two hormones that are important to breastfeeding: prolactin and oxytocin.
- Prolactin makes the cells in the alveoli (little sacs) produce the milk.
- Oxytocin causes cells in the alveoli to tighten and squeeze the milk down through the milk ducts and out the nipple. The process is known as “let-down.”
Milk production is based on supply and demand. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body will make.
Did you know?
- All shapes and sizes of breasts produce milk.
- You can breastfeed if you have had either a vaginal or a Cesarean birth.
The first milk you produce is called colostrum. This is low in volume but packed with antibodies (to protect your baby from diseases).
Colostrum is thick and concentrated. Known as “liquid gold,” it is very high in protein and nutrients. It is the perfect food given in the perfect amount.
Over the first week, your milk gradually increases. Breastmilk has all the nutrition your baby needs. You do not need to give your baby water.
Normal breast changes
The first few days after birth you will notice that your breasts:
- are soft
- produce colostrum
- do not feel full
Between the second and sixth days after birth you will notice that your breasts:
- produce milk that is thinner and whiter
- swell because of the extra fluid. (Nursing or hand expressing often will reduce the swelling.)
Normal newborn behavior and feeding patterns
Sometimes, in the first two weeks, your baby will not wake up on his own to eat. You need to wake your baby every two to three hours to feed.
Your baby will be calm and alert for a couple of hours after birth. He may be tired for the next 12 to 24 hours. The goal is for your baby to feed every two to three hours.
You will see a big change in your baby’s behavior the second night after birth. He may want to feed more often than one to three hours. Your baby may be unsettled unless at your breast or cuddling skin-to-skin.
Your baby will regulate your milk supply. Together, you and your baby will develop your own rhythm.
What you and your partner can do
Sleep when your baby sleeps. Limit visitors. Try calming techniques. Swaddle your baby in a blanket. Stay calm and call for help if you need it.
Getting ready to breastfeed
Your partner can help you with any of these:
Did you know?
- Babies are most interested in feeding between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. This is a great time to practice breastfeeding, which will boost your milk supply
- Breastfeed at least every three to four hours at night.
- Get the room ready.
- Adjust lighting (if needed).
- Ask visitors to step out of the room.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off the TV or phone.
- Get yourself ready.
- Wash your hands.
- Get a glass of water.
- Get comfortable.
- Massage your breasts to get the milk flowing.
- Get your baby ready.
- Enjoy skin-to-skin contact.
- Help watch for feeding cues.
- Help calm your baby if he is unsettled.
Skin-to-skin contact keeps your baby warm. You can cover the baby with a blanket.
Alternate which breast you start with at each feeding. Allow your baby to drain the first breast well. You will know your breast is draining well when:
- your breast softens
Choose a well-fitting nursing bra that wicks away moisture. If your nursing bra becomes wet, change it.
- your baby becomes relaxed
- swallowing occurs less often
- your baby comes off your breast
Burp your baby and offer the second breast if you see feeding cues.
Remember, you cannot breastfeed too often. Feeding often keeps your breasts soft and easier to latch onto.
There is no “one” right way to breastfeed. Choose the position(s) that work best for you and your baby.
Regardless of the position that you use, it is important to keep your baby’s head, shoulders, and hips in a straight line. The correct positioning is tummy to tummy and nose to nipple.
It is also important to bring your baby to your breast rather than your breast to your baby. This will prevent you from getting a sore back from leaning over.
Here are some positions you can try: