Colostrum: Your first milk

For three or four days after your baby is born, your breasts produce colostrum. Thicker than typical breast milk, it is packed with nutrients your newborn needs. The flow of colostrum is slow, which encourages your newborn to practice sucking, swallowing, and breathing at the same time.

Around day five, your baby will most likely master the rhythm of feeding, and your milk supply will increase to match his increasing appetite. If by then you still feel like you’re not in the groove just yet, that’s okay. You can always ask a lactation consultant for additional guidance to help you settle into your rhythm at your pace.

How do you know when your baby is hungry?

Crying is a late sign of hunger, but not the only one. When your baby makes sucking movements or puts her fingers to her mouth— even while sleeping — she might be telling you she is ready to eat. It is best to feed her when she is fully awake. You can help wake her by gently playing with her, changing her diaper, or talking to her before she eats.

Breastfeeding intervals

During the daytime, if three hours have passed since your baby’s last feeding, or if your breasts are full, you might want to wake her to feed. Talking, rubbing, patting, unwrapping, or undressing her will help. It could take up to five to 10 minutes to wake her completely, but it usually will result in a better feeding.

If she shows signs of hunger—even if she just ate an hour ago—it’s OK to feed her again. Sometimes infants "cluster feed" before taking a nap. It does not mean your milk supply is low. This is normal breastfeeding behavior.

On the other hand, if one or both breasts become engorged between feedings, use a breast pump or hand express to help relieve them.

Some signs that mean it’s working:
  • He is sleeping for a couple of hours after feeding.
  • He breastfeeds every two to three hours, at least eight times in a 24-hour period.
  • He usually breastfeeds for 10 or more minutes, and for no longer than an hour (but let your baby—not the clock—decide how long a feeding lasts).
  • You can hear a rhythm of suck/pause/suck during feedings.
  • Your baby usually breastfeeds at both breasts.
  • Your breasts feel full before a feeding and softer afterward.
  • He appears settled and no longer hungry after feedings.

More questions about breastfeeding? See our Frequently Asked Questions.