Breastfeeding the three-week-old

What should I expect when my baby is three weeks old?

At three weeks of age, the baby will be taking in larger amounts of milk and growing quickly. Feeds will take 10-20 minutes and babies tend to take both breasts at each feed. The baby should feed every 2 or 3 hours and 7 – 10 times in 24 hours. Mothers with a large milk supply may find that their babies breastfeed a little more often, faster, and are less likely to take the second side. The baby may choke at the beginning of some or all feeds and have tummy pain. The baby will not like being put down, will be more awake after feeds, and will occasionally need to be breastfed to sleep. There are usually four to eight poops each day and they can be yellow or green with the texture of runny mustard.

A) Breastfeeding the three-week-old baby

Mothers should ensure that their baby is taking in enough milk.

Table: Typical Breastfeeding Patterns at Three Weeks of Age

(Links to more information about the topics in the above table: large milk supply; length of time on the breast; amount of time from the start of one feed to the start of the next; one or both breasts)

1) Breastfeeding patterns

The feeds occur in three stages.

Most babies need the second breast some of the time. If the mother has a large milk supply, babies tend to just want one breast at each feed and will feed more often.  With a more average milk supply, babies are more likely to need both breasts and will feed a little less often. Both are normal behaviours.

 2) Nutrition and growth

The breasts are producing significant amounts of mature breast milk.  

Babies grow quickly and their stomach is now the size of an egg. The baby’s tummy is quite round and bulges over the sides. The thighs and neck are full and there is no loose skin.

 3) Behaviour at the breast 

Babies are now more awake after feeds.

While breastfeeding, the baby may choke, gulp, click, and pant at the start of the breastfeed.

B) Behaviour patterns

1) Gut symptoms

There will be lots of tummy pain from bowel cramps (the gastrocolic reflex) and the baby may need to be burped.

Spitting may be starting now or within the next few weeks.

2) Fussy behaviour 

The baby will not like being put down. The baby is starting to be more awake and will need to be breastfed to sleep.

Babies may have the evening fussies. If so, they happen most evenings, after which the baby may sleep for up to sleep for up to five hours. Premature babies will tend to fuss after midnight. 

C) Output

There are four to eight stools (poops) per day. These can be yellow or green with the texture of runny mustard. They may contain a white cheesy material sometimes called seeds or curds

There are six to eight pees each day.

D) Changes in the mother

1) Breast changes

The breasts are full before feeds but not as full all the time. They are less tender.

2) Milk changes

The milk will tend to look a little less yellow and is whiter as it has changed from transitional to mature milk.