Timeline of a Breastfed Baby

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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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Day 1:

  • During your baby’s first 24 hours, he might wet his nappy only once or twice (Fredregill 2004). This is because the colostrum you produce is highly digestible and perfect nutrition for your baby, so there’s not much left to eliminate.
  • Over the next 24 hours, your baby will begin to increase their hunger so they are having eight to twelve feedings per 24 hours. Many babies will feed more frequently than this and it may seem as though your baby is insatiable. This is because his stomach is so small it gets full very quickly and empties very quickly. Feeding frequently is also essential to build up your milk supply, so feed on demand rather than clock watching.
  • Most newborns require 10 to 45 minutes to complete a feeding (Murkoff. S).
  • It can take a week or two for your letdown reflex to work in sync with your baby. Until then it’s likely to be erratic (Rapley and Murkett 2012). Offering your baby a chance to feed whenever you notice a tingling sensation or a sudden leakage of milk will help it begin to work more reliably.
  • Expect at least one or two wet nappies each day for the first few days after birth. It may be difficult to tell if a nappy is wet at this early stage, and it is normal to find pink crystal-like stains. If you are finding it difficult to judge if your baby’s nappy is wet, try putting a cotton ball in the nappy. When your baby urinates, the cotton ball will feel very wet.
  • During this period, your baby’s mouth is acutely sensitive to any stimulation. A dummy, bottle, or sucking on your finger stimulates your baby’s mouth differently than your nipple. A newborn can easily become accustomed to this overstimulation of the tongue and hard palate. “Confusion can occur after just one exposure to a bottle or dummy” (Rubin. S). Therefore try to avoid or delay your baby’s contact with non-breast suckling until he is at least 6 weeks old.
  • These first two weeks are crucial for breastfeeding. Frequent and effective feeding during this time primes milk-making cells, laying the foundation for optimum milk production. In many cases where breastfeeding goes wrong, the problem can be traced to this very early period (Rapley and Murkett 2012).
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