What to Expect During the First 3 Days of Breastfeeding

New born baby sleeping
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After giving birth at the hospital, breastfeeding can seem wonderful. You have just delivered a beautiful, perfect baby. Your baby sleeps like an angel in the nursery, in your room. You gloat to friends and family about your wonderful feeder and sleeper. A few days later, you are discharged and take your baby home.

That's when the honeymoon is over...Your baby is feeding frequently and for long periods of time. Their sleep patterns have miraculously changed and the baby is awake all night, crying more often. You feel, "What have I done wrong? You were so perfect in the hospital!" The answer is, "Absolutely nothing!" This is, fortunately, or unfortunately, normal.

Feeding at Home Vs. In the Hospital

Whether babies are exhausted from the long journey into this world, sleeping heavily because of the hum of activity in the nursery, or because they are being held against your warm body, babies generally sleep well in the hospital.

Moms who have had C-sections are often more realistic in their expectations once they go home because they are in the hospital a bit longer, which means that their babies "wake up" while they're in the hospital.

Once they come home, everything changes: Feedings are much more frequent and last longer, and sleep patterns adjust because of the new schedule. Some babies feed for what may seem like hours and then sleep for many hours. Once the milk comes in, patterns change yet again!

Common Breastfeeding Issues

Aside from physical exhaustion kicking in, sore nipples continue to be the most common issue in the first days and even weeks postpartum. At this stage, even with a properly latched baby, nipple sensitivity is still prevalent because of postpartum hormonal changes. However, if nipples are cracked, bleeding, or blistering, the latch-on needs help. Contact a lactation consultant immediately.

Around this time, milk starts to transition from colostrum to transitional milk. Breastfeeding mothers often feel a heaviness in their breasts, which indicates that their milk is starting to come in. Feeding frequently will combat any discomfort.

Jaundice is common in breastfed babies. However, by breastfeeding frequently (at least eight to 10 times a day) in the first three days of life, you can greatly reduce the chances that your baby will require higher intervention, such as phototherapy (going under bilirubin lights.)

Sleepiness may also prevail...

Waking a Sleeping Baby

Your body is in the process of building a milk supply that will fully sustain your baby and your baby needs frequent feedings for her growth and development. It is essential for both the establishment of your milk supply and the baby's nutrition to continue to wake the baby if he is not waking himself.

Some people or books may tell you that you should never wake a sleeping baby. While that may be true later, after your milk supply is established and the baby is showing all signs of feeding well, at this stage it is very important to feed frequently, and that may mean waking your baby.

Establishing a Milk Supply

At this stage, you will notice your breasts becoming fuller and heavier. Your milk is coming in! Your milk is changing from colostrum to transitional milk and you will notice the color changing from a clear, yellowish fluid (colostrum) to a thicker white (transitional milk). Continue to breastfeed (or, if necessary, pump) every 2 to 3 hours to stimulate supply.

If you haven't seen any physical changes in supply at this point, don't stress. Monitor the baby's output and continue to feed frequently and stimulate every two to three hours. You should see changes in the next few days. If not, you should be seen by a lactation consultant to assess the situation.

Mothers who have had a breast reduction or other nipple surgery should be aware that they may never establish a full milk supply. There are methods to maximize what they can make (a lactation consultant can help), but there is no guarantee of a full supply.

Early-Stage Breastfeeding Tips

Keep plugging away! Sore nipples, sleepy babies -- it will all subside within the next week if you're consistent about proper latch-on and frequent feedings.

Some breast discomfort will probably make its appearance as your milk comes in. However, with frequent feedings, you can avoid severe engorgement. So try your best to be persistent and consistent to avoid the problem.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nemours KidsHealth. Breastfeeding FAQs: How much and how often.

  2. Buck ML, Amir LH, Cullinane M, Donath SM. Nipple pain, damage, and vasospasm in the first 8 weeks postpartumBreastfeed Med. 2014;9(2):56–62. doi:10.1089/bfm.2013.0106

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Overcoming breastfeeding problems.

  4. Wong RJ, Bhutani VK. Patient education: jaundice in newborn infants (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate.

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Feeding patterns and diet - babies and infants.

  6. Kraut RY, Brown E, Korownyk C, et al. The impact of breast reduction surgery on breastfeeding: systematic review of observational studiesPLoS One. 2017;12(10):e0186591. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186591

By Melissa Kotlen
Melissa Kotlen is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and Registered Lactation Consultant.