Preparing for Breastfeeding: How much milk will my newborn need?

Did you know at birth your baby’s stomach is the size of a chickpea? By day three, it’s about the size of a walnut, and not until day 10 is it as big as a golf ball. This small stomach size equals small stomach capacity – tiny tummies can’t hold much at once. The good news is that if you’re breastfeeding, your body has made your milk in just the right quantity for a growing baby’s stomach size.

Think of colostrum – your first milk – in teaspoons rather than ounces. It’s just the right amount for baby’s little belly. The nutrients in colostrum are perfect for a newborn, too. Colostrum is low in fat, and high in carbohydrates and protein. The antibodies in colostrum act as your baby’s first vaccine – they keep your baby healthy as his immune system is developing. Colostrum is easy for your baby to digest, and has a laxative effect to help prevent jaundice.

Because breastmilk so easy to digest, babies need to nurse often. Newborn babies typically nurse every 1 ½ to 2 hours. Most of the time, though, the feedings aren’t so evenly spaced. Sometimes baby will want to nurse every hour, and sometimes he will sleep for a longer stretch without waking to feed. Eight to twelve feedings every 24 hours is what you should aim for.

If your baby is having trouble latching in the early days, it’s important to get some nourishment into him. But using a breast pump for colostrum isn’t always effective. Because it is thicker than mature milk, and is produced in smaller quantities, colostrum is more easily hand expressed than pumped. Consider hand expressing colostrum onto a teaspoon, and then dribbling this into your baby’s mouth a little at a time. These calories will help sustain your baby as you work on getting him to latch.

With all of this in mind, here are some tips for successfully starting to breastfeed in the early days after the birth:

  • Plan your birth for breastfeeding success: Pain medications in labor can result in sleepy baby in the early hours and days after birth. A sleepy baby may not nurse very often. This would be a good time to hand express colostrum and spoon feed it to your baby.
  • Spend time skin-to-skin: As soon as your baby is born, ask that they place him skin to skin with you. Stay this way until the first feeding has taken place. Skin-to-skin contact helps baby adjust to life outside the womb and awakens breastfeeding reflexes.
  • Nurse early and often: Most babies are ready to nurse about an hour after birth. Ask for help if you need it. Then continue nursing your baby on cue afterwards in order to bring in a strong milk supply.
  • Room in: Keep your baby with you as much as possible after the birth. You will get to know your baby’s rhythms and hunger cues, which will help get breastfeeding off to a strong start.
  • No supplements or pacifiers (dummies): Unless medically necessary, limit any formula or other supplements. If you do need to supplement, use a spoon, syringe or cup rather than a bottle. Also, try to limit using a pacifier or dummy until breastfeeding is well established. Your baby doesn’t need anything other than your milk at first!

Following some simple steps as you are preparing for breastfeeding will help you set the stage for a strong milk supply and a satisfied and healthy baby. You can also watch some educational breastfeeding videos in our Baby+ App. Click Baby+ iOS or Baby+ Android to install the App, and prepare for the arrival of your little one(s).

What concerns do you have about getting breastfeeding off to a strong start?

Written by Michelle: writer, editor, childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.

MichellePreparing for Breastfeeding: How much milk will my newborn need?

Comments 22

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  6. Natasha

    Hello,everyone. My name is Natasha and I’m currently 36 weeks pregnant with my second child. My oldest is 7 years old,and when he was born he didn’t latch on to my breast, at that time I had no skin to skin with my baby when he was born,and by the time I came out of the recovery room and saw my little bundle of joy he wasn’t taking my breast. I had lactation class,but it didn’t help and a few days after I came home my breast was so swollen I cried from the pain as well as pumping was horrible for me. Now that I know better i will ensure that I do skin to skin with my love bug,because I am excited to breast feed my baby. By the way;
    this is the best approach ever, it has really educate me about my pregnancy!

  7. Sunshine Ruth

    Through out pregnancy my concern has really been on breastfeeding after birth. This is our first baby and everything is very new to us. I do hope that I will be able to get past the pain and frustration and give my baby the best. I feel encouraged by this article and comments from other mothers.

  8. Lauren

    I’m due in 27 days (very excited and nervous) with my second little boy. I struggled to breastfeed with my first and the ‘help’ I got was so rubbish, I ended up bottle feeding. At 18, I felt horrible for not being able to breastfeed my son. The hospital just handled me very poorly and did not help at all. I even tried when I got home 3 days later but I still didn’t manage anything.
    Knowing how bad the hospital were with helping me, and what my possible ‘problem’ was, I have had a lot of advice from people on how to hopefully breastfeed this little one. Fingers crossed!

  9. Jennie

    Have loved this app all through my first pregnancy, have recommended to everyone I know who subsequently fell pregnant. I don’t always take time to read the comments but there is often some good tips from experienced mums to help on the topics. Thank u for being an amazing source of information!

    I hope to breastfeed and now at 36 weeks so not long to go now. Good luck to everyone xx

  10. holly

    I breastfed my first child 16 years ago i formula fed the last two my youngest is 11 im currently 7 weeks and 1 day and plan to try the breastfeeding thing 1 more time since im absolutely sure this is the last of the mohicans.

  11. katie

    Good information. The fact is, in my circumstances I will wind up formula feeding after a week or so. I have minimal lactation tissue leading to our joke, my breasts are really just for looks. it’s good to read some suggestions on the best start though ad we will get in as much colostrum as we can before I start starving my baby due to lack of supply. (i have been tested and don’t produce more than 3 MLS per side between feeding). I do wish to reassure those that can’t breastfeed. what we are never told is that 3% of women can’t feed. fear not. your are not failing, you are not a bad mother and your baby will be fine if you have to suppliment feed or bottle feed completely.

  12. tahira

    Thank you very much for helping me through the journey of my pregnancy!!!
    Knowledge is power……

  13. Michelle

    Check out The website is dedicated to information for moms who have had breast reduction surgery in the past, as well as moms who experience low milk supply. The book Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Breast Reduction Surgery by Diane West is a great resource.

  14. Amber

    About 9 years ago, I had a breast reduction. I felt I was never going to have kids therefore the risk associated with having the reduction was not important at the time. Then, 3 years ago I met my husband and we’re expecting our first child, I am currently 36 weeks. I am very concerned that due to my breast reduction,I will not be able to produce milk or produce enough milk. I am very reluctant on the use of supplements for feeding but hopefully someone could shed some of the expertise on my situation. Any suggestions or information will be greatly appreciated. :’)

  15. Michelle

    Yikes! Thanks so much for catching this! We will see if we can make changes to the image.

  16. Louisa

    Great article! I just wanted to point out that in the ‘size of a newborn’s stomach’ picture at the top, 5-7ml is 1-1.4 TEAspoons, not tablespoons…a bit pedantic of me perhaps but the correct spoon size shows just how tiny a newborn’s stomach is at birth 🙂 no wonder they need to eat so often!

  17. Lynica

    The 2 secrets to successful breastfeeding is using a good nipple cream before the birth to make your nipples soft and supple and continue with it after birth of baby. And the most important part… Push through the first few weeks of breatfeeding. It will be painful and not always easy, but just keep going with it and it really does become painless and easy. Get some help if needed, espesially within the first few days when your breasts might become hard and sore. Some phisio’s have lasers to help you break down the clots that form and block your milk ducts when you start breastfeeding and it soothes cracked and sore nipples. It’s the most wonderful experiece after giving birth to be able to breastfeed your baby. I’m 36 weeks now and I can’t wait to meet our second little bundle of joy!

  18. Shawn

    This information was very helpful to me. Thanks alot cause I worry about having enough milk supply for my baby, which is due any day now.

  19. Lrs

    I thought this was the most helpful post I’ve read on this app. This isn’t information being repeated on every app and pregnancy website. Everything else focuses on all the miserable symptoms you should be feeling this week – which is counter productive in encouraging a positive pregnancy experience. Thanks for posting.

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