The first forty days

 In many cultures, the postpartum period is a time to care for mothers as they recover from childbirth. In North America, the expectation is that mothers are back to normal “quickly”.  However, this can compromise your success with breastfeeding.  Caring and learning about your new baby takes far more time than you think.  Combine this with hormonal changes, lack of sleep, discomfort from the delivery, and body changes, and it can be overwhelming.   Once you and baby are past the first 40 days, things usually get easier and you will reap the benefits of breastfeeding: convenient, portable, always available and ready to feed.  
This section is intended to provide you with basic breastfeeding information. Each breastfeeding experience is unique and if you are experiencing any challenges, we encourage you to seek additional support and information from one of our community lactation consultants. See the resources pages for more information on how to connect with breastfeeding supports in Kamloops.​ 

The first 24 hours

 The First Feeding:
Skin to skin is the safest and healthiest place for your baby to start the process of breastfeeding. Your baby is warmed by your body, he/she can hear your heartbeat, and smell your skin. Skin to skin helps your baby relax, regulate his/her breathing and temperature, helps keep the blood sugar levels normal and helps him/ her recover from birth. 
Skin to skin in the first few hours after birth helps your baby colonize with mother’s bacteria (not the hospital bacteria) and start his/her immune system developing and his gut to start working. Delaying the first bath is also a way for the baby to adapt to your body’s healthy bacteria. 
Within the first hour, your baby will start to make motions of wanting to feed. He/she will begin to move towards the breast and open his/her mouth wide.  When this happens, help position the baby to latch on.
Babies are often quite alert for a few hours after birth and this is the perfect time to feed as often as the baby wants to.  After these first feedings, the baby will go into a recovery sleep. First latch video  

The first day

 After a sleep period, your baby will wake and want to feed often - every few hours of more. The thick colostrum (the first milk) is another boost for your baby’s immune system to protect against infections. Colostrum contains all the nutrients your baby will need in the first few days.

Frequent feedings will tell your breasts to make more milk.  Most first time mothers notice a difference in their breasts on about day 3, while second time mothers may notice things earlier (as early as 30 hours). The average feeding on the first day is about 5 ml or ½ teaspoon of colostrum per feeding. Just remember that the more often you feed, the more milk you make.  

What if I can't nurse right away?

 Start expressing your colostrum as soon as possible or within 6 hours after the delivery. This will tell your breasts to start to make milk. Continue to express very 2-3 hours until your baby is breastfeeding. Hand expression is most effective in the first 24 hours, so get some help on how to hand express.   Baby’s Best Chance has more information of expressing breastmilk and storage on page 115-117.

If your baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), tell the nurses that you want to breastfeed as soon as possible. Take all your expressed milk to the NICU so they can give it to your baby. If it will be a while before your baby can breastfeed, hand express or pump every 3 hours (day and night) to develop a good milk supply.“Hands-on”pumping will help to make a good milk supply. 

Learning to Breastfeed

 Although breastfeeding is a natural biological process, it is a learned skill for both mother and baby. This skill may take some time for both you and baby to go from beginner to expert. So take some time to learn about breastfeeding during your pregnancy. Go to a class, buy a book or do some online research.  Look for a certified lactation consultant in your community to answer any questions before your baby’s arrival. Go to the resource section for suggestions on recommendations of reputable resources. 

Before you begin


  • Make sure you are comfortable. Use the restroom. Grab a drink or a snack to have beside you. Some women prefer privacy during the first few weeks of learning how to breastfeed.
  • Find a comfortable position: this can be sitting, lying down, or reclining. You may want extra pillows or a step stool to provide extra positional support.
  • Massaging your breasts and hand expressing a few drops of breastmilk before you feed will help soften a full breast and help baby latch better.