The First Week After The Birth – What To Expect

The First Week After The Birth - What To Expect

Just had a baby or about to have one?


You’re probably curious as to what to expect in the very first week as a new mother.

What will breastfeeding be like? What will baby’s behaviours be like?

And, ahem, welcome to the club – what will baby’s poo be like, and is it normal?

Yes, you’re about to become more acquainted with poo than you ever have been in your life.

To get you started on your very first week as a new mama, here’s a helpful day-by-day breakdown of what to expect, written by midwife, Alan Rooney.

The First 24 Hours – Day 1

Your Breasts: Your breasts will still feel soft at this stage.

Your Milk: You will be producing colostrum, which is thick and may be clear or yellow in colour. It will be small in volume, but high in calories and protein for your baby. The average amount a baby receives in the first 24-48 hours is 5-15 ml per feed. It is perfectly suited to meet baby’s needs.

Your Baby: After the birth, skin to skin contact with your baby is very important. Your baby will usually look for a feed within an hour of birth. Baby is initially alert and likely to feed well and then may have a long sleep. Some babies are sleepy and may only want a few feeds in the first 24 hours – others are more wakeful and want to feed frequently. Baby may feed for a short time, from around 5-10 minutes or even 20-30 minutes on one or both sides.

Baby’s Nappy: Within the first 24 hours expect one or two wet nappies. You may need to pull disposable nappies apart to check that they are wet, because disposable nappies pull the urine away from the baby’s skin and lock it away in crystals. Your baby will also pass meconium – a thick, sticky black/green stool. This will happen at least once in 24 hours but may be more.

Feeding Your Baby: Correct positioning and attachment are very important. Check the shape of your nipples each time the baby comes off the breast. Your nipples should look round and should not look squashed, pinched, flattened, ridged or distorted in shape. If this occurs, ask for assistance with your next feed. Remember – breastfeeding is a natural thing to do – but it is a learned skill and you and your baby are learning together. See some video clips on how to latch a baby.

Advice For Mamma: Do not feel anxious or embarrassed to ask for advice and assistance with attachment, or for help to get you and your baby feeling comfortable. The more help you have initially, the sooner you will gain confidence.

Tip from BellyBelly: Many new mothers find it very confusing getting conflicting breastfeeding advice in hospital, as different midwives can offer different advice. While midwives to get lactation training, they are not trained lactation consultants. It is a great idea to join the Australian Breastfeeding Association who you can call (even if you’re not a member) to ask for advice. Alternately hiring your own private lactation consultant can be worth its weight in gold – they can come to you and stay with you for a few hours to get any issues sorted and mum reassured. Look for an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) if you can. Also, if your partner or a friend/family member can bring you in some arnica, its a great homeopathic remedy for tissue damage and bruising – it can help you recover from the birth, especially if you’re feeling sore. I’ve even heard surgeons recommend it. You can find arnica at health food stores or some pharmacies.

24-48 Hours After Birth – Day 2

Your Breasts: They will probably feel soft and comfortable at this point, but may begin to feel fuller and heavier towards 48 hours after birth.

Your Nipples: Some discomfort (pulling or stretching) is common when baby first attaches to the breast, as your nipple and breast tissue are drawn to the back of baby’s mouth. This settles after a few minutes and should not be painful.

Your Milk: You are still producing colostrum, with the volume increasing a little. It is still perfect for your baby’s needs.

Your Baby: Baby is waking up and becoming more alert. Her or she may seem quite unsettled and need to feed more frequently, for up to 30 minutes on each breast. Your baby may need 10-12 feeds in 24 hours, day and night, but should have at least six feeds in 24 hours. Your baby’s sucking should be deep and rhythmic. Baby may need lots of cuddling time between feeds while he/she gets used to life outside your uterus.

Baby’s Nappy: There should be one or more wet nappies in this 24-hour period. Again, you may need to tear the nappy open and check the inside. There will still be some meconium; at least one dirty nappy and perhaps more. It may be less thick and becoming brown in colour.

Advice For Mum: Check your nipple shape after feeds. Ask for help whenever you need it for feeding or with settling your baby. You might be very tired today, rest when your baby rests to help you cope with sleep disturbances at night.

48-72 Hours After Birth – Day 3

Your Breasts: Your breasts may still be soft or beginning to feel heavier and fuller. They also be warmer to touch.

Your Nipples: Some women experience increased sensitivity in their nipples over the first 72 hours. It settles down once milk volume increases.

Your Milk: Colostrum changes to transitional milk; it looks thinner and yellow to creamy white. Volume is increasing slowly, responding to baby’s needs.

Your Baby: Your baby is ‘programmed’ to know what he or she needs to do to ‘bring milk in’. Your baby may want to feed very frequently, for example, a cluster of 4-5 or more feeds close together and then may settle for a little longer. This is normal as long as the attachment and positioning is correct and he or she is sucking correctly. For more information, you can read our article on cluster feeding, which can be a bit of a shock to new mothers. Cluster feeding doesn’t mean you don’t have enough milk, it’s a normal pattern to help increase your breastmilk. It can be helpful to make yourself familiar with the three reliable signs that you have enough breastmilk.

Your baby likes to stay in your arms and will often settle better when being cuddled. You may also notice your baby studying your face. Your baby’s eyes can focus best on objects about 50-60cm away. This is about the distance between your face and your baby’s when feeding. Your baby has been hearing you talk to him/her for a few months and now wants to get to know the person who has been making all those sweet noises.

Baby’s Nappy: Output increases as milk flow increases, so you can expect two to three nappies in this 24 hours. Stools are brown to khaki green in colour.

Advice For Mum: You may feel tired and emotional, so make sure you sleep or rest when baby rests. It is recommended to keep visitors to a minimum on day 2 and 3, to allow you and your partner to get the chance to rest or watch educational videos – and to get to know your new baby!

72 Hours Plus After Birth – Day 3-4

Your Breasts: Your breasts may feel full, heaver and firmer and may be tender or uncomfortable.

Your Milk: Milk becomes thinner and whiter in colour and more plentiful, often known as the milk ‘coming in’.

Your Baby: Your baby may continue to be wakeful and feed frequently. It is still normal to have 6-12 feeds in a 24-hour period. You should be able to hear baby swallowing after each suck. Feeds may not take as long now. Allow unrestricted time at the first breast, then, when baby finishes one breast and is feeling comfortable, offer the second breast. Sometimes baby will take it and sometimes he/she won’t. If a feed lasts longer than an hour, ask for help.

Your Nipples: Any tenderness or sensitivity of the previous days should be reduced. If nipples are tender or painful throughout the feed take baby off the breast and reattach, and/or ask for help.

Baby’s Nappy: Expect more frequent wet nappies (4-6 in 24 hours) and paler coloured urine. Stools usually become a yellow/mustard colour, often quite loose with small lumps.

Advice For Mum: Each breastfeed has a three stage sucking pattern as follows.

First stage: A burst of short sucking to draw the nipple back to the soft palate and to release the milk. This shallow non-nutritive sucking may last for a few seconds or a few minutes, until milk is released or ‘let-down’.

Second stage: A pause in sucking then long, strong deep sucking with short pauses. Swallowing can be heard. Mostly one suck per swallow ratio.

Third stage: Dreamy phase with long pauses and shorter bursts of deep sucking before coming off the breast.

Days 4-6 After Birth

Your Breasts: You will still be full before feed, but noticeably less full after feeds. You may notice your other breast leaking while you are feeding. You may need to express a little milk before a feed (only if your breasts are very full) to make attachment easier. It is important that you are shown how to do this before going home.

Your Milk: White in colour and flowing well.

Your Baby: Your baby needs at least six feeds in 24 hours. Some feeds will be clustered close together and others will be further apart. Baby is generally more settled between feeds, looks content after feeds, settles better but will have some unsettles wakeful periods. He or she may be lonely, uncomfortable or insecure and may need extra cuddles. You may have been told that picking your baby up too often will ‘spoil’ him or her.

This is absolutely not true. Your baby has recently been removed from a place that is dark, warm and relatively quiet to a world that is noisy, cold and with harsh bright lights. Your baby wants comfort and reassurance, and what better way to get this than snuggling up close to mama. It can be really helpful to learn baby cues.

Baby’s Nappy: Stools remain loose with curds and yellow to yellow-green in colour. Can have several in one day.

NOTE: After about six weeks of age, some fully breastfed babies may not have a bowel action every day — in fact they may go for several days without a motion. This is normal for breastfed babies providing that, the stools are not constipated but still soft and loose.

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