Your Newborn Feeding Schedule Week by Week: Days 0 - 14
Welcome to parenthood, mama! As you prepare for or begin your breastfeeding journey, here's what to expect and how often you'll want to ensure your newborn is eating.
Welcome to your little one! Did you know that your body was already working hard during pregnancy to prepare breast milk for your baby? Here’s everything you need to know about navigating the oftentimes tumultuous first two weeks of your breastfeeding journey. Though it may feel overwhelming at times, rest assured: You can do this – just be patient with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
Early Initiation: Why the First Two Weeks of Breastfeeding Matter
The first two weeks are action-packed, as you and your baby recover from birth and get to know each other. Feedings will be most frequent in this window, until your baby’s tummy gets bigger. It can feel like a marathon at first, so it’s helpful to have realistic expectations and pace yourself accordingly.
We checked in with Jenny Murray, a clinical NICU specialist at Medela, for tips on how to navigate those first two weeks and build an ample milk supply for your baby:
“Breastfeeding is a natural process but also a learned skill that grows with practice. During the initiation phase, new moms need supportive care and education to get off to a strong start,” said Murray. “Encouraging early stimulation increases a mom’s chances of building a healthy milk supply. Even in the first hour after birth, which is an ideal time to begin feeding, there are important hormonal changes that occur when a baby suckles at the breast.”
Murray explains that early and effective stimulation through latching, nursing or even skin-to-skin contact activates a hormone called prolactin. The more prolactin, the better the milk flow. Another key hormone is oxytocin, which is produced during suckling or even just from thinking about or being near your baby, which is why it’s so beneficial for you and your baby to spend as much time as possible together after delivery.
What to Expect: Sample Newborn Feeding Schedule Week by Week
- Frequency: Plan to feed on demand. Newborns may want to breastfeed every 1 - 3 hours, or about 8 - 12 times daily. Tiny tummies can only hold so much and these frequent feedings in the early days are a great way to stimulate your milk production. Early feedings can vary greatly, from about 10 - 45 minutes, as babies learn to latch and develop the muscles and coordination to suck efficiently.
- Diapers: You can expect to change only a couple of soiled diapers during the first 24 hours. Baby’s first stool, called meconium, is sticky and blackish green.
- Rest up and snuggle with your newborn – You are both likely tired and looking forward to getting acquainted with one another! Babies benefit greatly from skin-to-skin contact in the first hours after birth, along with gentle encouragement to suckle for the first time.
- Understand the magic of colostrum – it’s often referred to as liquid gold in the earliest days of breastfeeding, and for good reason! Your first milk for baby is thick, concentrated and packed with nutrients and antibodies to protect against infections.
- Work with your healthcare provider on building the skill of proper latching. While it’s normal for nipples to feel tender at first, the discomfort should subside if it’s a good latch. Ask early and often for help to ensure your baby is getting your colostrum and to ensure he or she is latching properly.
- Frequency: Similar to Day 1, newborns will typically breastfeed about 8 - 12 times daily.
- Diapers: Expect about 2 wet diapers and 1 - 3 meconium poops.
- Your baby will be more alert. Pay attention to hunger cues by looking for early signs, such as sucking on fingers or fists, lip smacking or moving toward your breast. Try to avoid waiting for the later signs, such as fussing or crying, because it becomes more challenging to get a proper latch.
- Some babies will cluster feed. This is normal and another way of building up your milk supply.
- You may be heading home from the hospital today. Be sure to have your support system in place to help alleviate other duties so that you can focus on resting, breastfeeding and bonding with your baby. See below for some helpful breastfeeding tips for when you get home from the hospital:
Breastfeeding: Surviving the First Week at Home
Days 3 - 4
- Frequency: Feed on demand for about 8 - 12 feeds daily. Your sessions may become shorter as your baby becomes more efficient at suckling.
- Diapers: Expect about 3 - 4 wet diapers and around 3 poops. Stools will transition from meconium to a greenish-brown color. Stools may also appear “seedy” and mustard-yellow in color, which is common for exclusively breastfed newborns.
- You’ve reached the stage where colostrum will begin transitioning to your mature milk and you may notice that your breasts are now tender and engorged.
- Frequent feeding can help alleviate engorgement. If you’re having trouble getting a good latch because of engorgement, you can hand express some milk to soften the area first. You may also notice uterine cramping during these first few days of breastfeeding.
- Keep in mind that if your baby was born full term, weight can actually decrease slightly in this window. This is common and typically normal, but be sure to reach out to your baby’s pediatrician if you’re concerned or have any questions.
Days 5 to 9
- Frequency: Feed on demand for about 8 - 12 feeds daily. You may see some longer stretches between feedings, but continue to aim for 8 – 12 feedings (or even more!) throughout the day and night to stimulate breast milk production, help your little one regain weight lost after birth and get your breastfeeding journey off to the strongest start possible.
- Diapers: Expect about 5 - 6 wet diapers and 3 - 5 poops. Now that your milk has come in, stool color will fully transition to that seedy mustard-yellow, which is a sign of your mature milk.
- Now that you and your baby have established some good habits, you can start paying more attention to your baby’s eat-sleep-wake patterns and begin establishing a consistent routine.
- Monitor your baby’s weight gain and keep an eye out for any early warning signs of breastfeeding problems. With early intervention, you can easily get back on track. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a helpful guide or you can even reach out to a certified lactation consultant via e-mail for answers to any questions or challenges.
Days 10 to 14
- Frequency: Your baby will continue requiring about 8 - 12 feeds daily. Some babies may even want to feed more if they’re experiencing a growth spurt.
- Diapers: Expect about 6 or more wet diapers and 3 - 5 poops.
- You’ll notice that your breasts may feel softer and less full as your breastfeeding patterns become more established.
- Keep monitoring your baby’s growth. Breastfeeding babies will start gaining about 5 - 7 ounces weekly.
- Congratulations on completing your first two weeks of nursing! Every drop was worth it and now you’re well on your way to achieving your breastfeeding goals.
More Tips for a Healthy Newborn Feeding Schedule
Expect the unexpected. As you settle into a routine, your baby will begin to have one longer stretch in the middle of the night. Work toward a schedule, but stay flexible. In the coming weeks, expect more growth spurts when your baby may want to eat more often. Typical growth spurts occur around 2 - 3 weeks, 4 - 6 weeks and again at the 3-month mark.
Aim for breast milk only. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be fed only breast milk for their first 6 months and recently revised their policy to recommend continued breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age and beyond. Breastfeeding is the most nutritious, economical and convenient way to feed your baby. Even better, your breast milk adapts to meet the nutritional needs of your little one as they grow.
Use a pump only for special circumstances in the first 2 weeks. Expressing breast milk with a pump should only be used once a solid breastfeeding relationship is established. In this early stage, there may be special circumstances where pumping is helpful to maintain your milk production, including latching difficulties, health issues for mom or baby, and/or if you and your newborn must be separated for any reason. Otherwise, you can work with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to determine when and how you should introduce pumping.
Take care of yourself. It’s a chaotic time, but don’t forget to prioritize your own wellness too. Lean on your support system and don’t forget to take care of your baby’s food source! If your nipples are sore or cracked, you can try using a nipple cream like Purelan or cooling hydrogel pads for fast relief.
Above all else, be patient. You will have a ton of questions in those early days of breastfeeding. Always reach out rather than struggling alone. Yes, you may have that one friend or family member who seemed to glide effortlessly through those first few weeks – but that’s the exception and not the rule! Your journey may have its ups and downs, and that’s okay. Remember, you’ve got this and Medela is here for you every step of the way.