Experts agree: Breast milk is the best food for babies. It contains all the nutrients they need and antibodies to protect them from illness. Breast milk is also least likely to cause an allergic reaction, and it may protect your newborn from diarrhea, which can be dangerous for very young babies.
If you’re concerned about your ability to produce enough milk for your baby, don’t worry. Throughout your pregnancy, your body was hard at work getting ready to produce milk, and with time and regular feedings, your flow of milk grows to meet your baby’s demand for food. Relax and enjoy this time with your baby; she was born knowing how to breastfeed and with a little help from your nurse or a lactation consultant, if needed, you should successfully be able to begin to nurse your baby shortly after her birth.
Nursing your baby
Each time you nurse, your baby will start the flow of milk from your nipple by sucking on it. If you’re just beginning to nurse your baby, you’ll see your breast milk change over the next few weeks. Your breasts will not produce mature, white-colored milk right away. At first, thick yellow colostrum will flow, and it may even ooze from your nipples between feedings. Start nursing your infant with colostrums because it’s rich in antibodies that will help protect her from many diseases – this protection sometimes lasts throughout her life!
During the second week of nursing, your milk will grow whiter and thinner into what’s called transitional milk. This is a sign that your body is preparing for the letdown of mature milk.
Leaky breasts, oh my!
Around the end of the second week, you’ll start producing mature milk. During this time you may experience leaky breasts that drip milk. Wear a supportive nursing bra, and add nursing pads to protect your bra and clothes.
You may notice that your milk changes in appearance slightly as your baby nurses. When she begins to suck, your milk is thin and watery. After a few minutes, your milk may seem to become thicker. This is normal for breast milk.
If you feel your uterus cramping or tingling during these first few weeks, that’s totally normal and usually signals what’s called the letdown reflex. The letdown reflex happens when your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin that causes the milk glands in your breasts to release milk. It’s also the same response that began to tighten your uterus after your baby’s birth.