Breastfeeding the newborn

What should I expect when my baby is a few hours old?

The baby will probably feed every 2 to 3 hours in the first 24 hours. Feeds last about 15-20 minutes on each side and the baby will likely take both breasts at each feed. The breasts produce colostrum and the baby should be able to latch and suck normally and not act hungry between feeds. The baby’s bowels will start to work causing cramps. The baby may also experience a two to three-hour fussy period in the evening or night. The baby should have at least one green-black poop and one pee. Mothers should prevent or treat nipple pain or damage.

A) Breastfeeding during the first 24 hours

Ideally the baby’s breastfeed is within one hour of birth. Mothers should ensure that the baby is taking in enough milk, has not lost too much weight, and is not too sleepy.

Some babies are given non-medically necessary milk supplements by hospital staff or by the mother because of concern about the quality and quantity of colostrum or the mother’s health. Such supplements have many risks.

Table: Typical Breastfeeding Patterns at One Day of Age


Typical baby

Length of time on each breast (minutes)


Amount of time from start of one feed to the start of the next (hours)


Number of breastfeeds in 24 hours


One or both breasts

Usually both

1) Breastfeeding patterns

Mothers should breastfeed the baby whenever the baby shows hunger signs. If mothers have had a Caesarean birth , they can breastfeed as soon as they and the baby are ready. The baby’s first breastfeed is ideally within the first hour after birth.

Normal breastfeeding at this age occurs in three stages:

  1. “I’m starving.”
  2. “I really like this.”
  3. “I’m done.”

The “I’m starving” phase is short until the milk comes in. At this age, babies spend most of their time in the “I really like this” phase instead.

 2) Nutrition

Babies take in a small amount of colostrum in the first 24 hours as the baby’s stomach adjusts to feeding. 

 3) Behaviour at the breast

The baby should be able to latch and suck to satisfy hunger. The baby should only let go of the breast for normal reasons.

Some babies won’t let go of the breast at the end of the breastfeeding session. Mothers should take the baby off the breast if the baby is not actively sucking or if more than 20 minutes have passed since the start of the feed.

Offer the other breast once the baby shows hunger signs; this is usually within 10 minutes.

They are often asleep after breastfeeding.

B) Behaviour patterns

 1) Gut symptoms

After the first feed, the baby’s digestive system starts to work. Mothers may hear the baby’s tummy making gurgling sounds during or after feeds.

2) Fussy behaviour

Babies benefit from being skin-to-skin with their mothers. They are also more content when in this position. Some normal newborns will have a two to three-hour fussy period in the evening or during the night.

D) Changes in the mother

The breasts will not have changed from before delivery. This is normal.

The nipples may become painful or even damaged. This should be treated and further damage prevented.