Timeline of a Breastfed Baby

All babies reach milestones on their own developmental timeline. A multitude of factors influence the rate of each baby’s individual growth such as genetics, form of delivery, gestation at delivery, medical issues, effectiveness of the placenta prior to delivery, and so on.

However there is a persistent and understandable demand from first-time mothers for information on what is considered ‘the norm’. This is particularly so with breastfeeding, as understanding breastmilk intake is more complex than looking at the oz mark on a bottle. This is a topic rife with large-scale confusion, especially as breastfeeding mothers are in the minority and can often find themselves, and their health workers, comparing their baby with formula-fed babies.

Breastfed babies are not the same as formula fed babies. One is fed the milk of its own species; the other is fed the milk of an entirely different species, so it is unsurprising that stark differences can be observed.

What follows is a timeline detailing the journey of the average breastfed baby. I hope it will prove to be a useful and reassuring tool for new mothers.

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At Birth:

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  • Given enough uninterrupted time skin-to-skin, your baby may move towards your breast and begin feeding without assistance.
  • The first feed helps to stabilise baby’s blood sugars and protect baby’s gut (NCT).
  • Most babies will nurse better at this time than they will for the next couple of days. Take advantage of this. “A full-term healthy newborn’s instinct to breastfeed peaks about 20 to 30 minutes after birth if he is not drowsy from drugs or anesthesia given to his mother during labour and delivery” (La Leche League). Breastfeeding in the delivery room or the recovery room after a caesarean section lays the hormonal groundwork for your future supply of mature milk.
  • If you experience greater than expected blood loss while giving birth or have retained placenta inside your uterus after birth, this can lead to milk supply problems.
  • Make sure that the midwives are aware that no formula is to be given to your baby unless strictly necessary and not without your consent.
  • Your baby will be weighed following his birth.
  • Your baby’s first feeds are about quality, not quantity. At the moment, and for the first few days after birth, your breasts are producing small quantities of colostrum (about 3-4 teaspoons daily). This is a concentrated clear yellow secretion which is high in protein, fat-soluble vitamins and minerals, as well as antibodies that protect your baby from bacterial and viral illnesses.
  • Because they don’t know how to breastfeed efficiently yet, newborns sometimes nurse for fifteen or twenty minutes (Gonzalez 2014).
  • As your baby’s mouth is so small at this age, you may need to squeeze your breast (think of holding a sandwich) so that your baby can latch on to the nipple more easily. Once your baby is latched, you can let go.
  • Your newborn should not go longer than three hours between feedings. However you may find that he is very sleepy for the first few days and may not be interested in feeding. If this happens, you will need to wake him up. Undressing him and giving skin to skin contact will help wake him up and encourage him to feed.
  • As you feed, the hormone oxytocin will help your uterus regain its tone after birth. This process also protects against excessive bleeding as you recover from childbirth. You may feel mild menstrual-like cramps whilst your uterus shrinks
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I first gained a GNVQ in Health and Social Care, then a BTEC National Diploma in Nursery Nursing. After that I went to university and got a first class hons degree in Early Childhood Studies. Then changed unis and got another first class hons degree, this time in Law.