What is the difference between Colostrum, Transitional Milk and Mature Milk?
My baby doesn’t nurse for long! Is he missing out on the hind milk?
What colour should my breast milk be?
Should I be worried about my blood stained breast milk?
What triggers my baby’s desire to breastfeed?
What are the signs that my baby is getting enough breast milk?
What should my baby’s steady weight gain be?
How regularly should I breastfeed my baby?
What is the normal bowel movement for a breastfed baby?
When is breastfeeding dangerous to my baby?
Medicines you can take while breastfeeding
Medicines you must not take if breastfeeding
Are there substances and situations which can reduce my breast milk supply?
How can I increase my breast milk supply?
How can I wake up a sleepy baby to feed (or keep a sleepy infant awake while feeding)?
What are the signs that my baby is hungry?
How do I know my baby has had enough?
Can my diet make my breastfed baby fussy (and prone to allergies)?

What is the difference between Colostrum, Transitional Milk and Mature Milk?

Colostrum

Colostrum is the first milk produced during pregnancy and just after birth. It is thick, very easy to digest and rich in nutrients and antibodies. This rich mix will boost your new-born’s immune system and protect his body from a variety of bacterial and viral illnesses.

Colostrum is likely to have a laxative effect on your new-born, helping him pass out his first stool.

Also, though low in volume, colostrum will sufficiently meet the need of your new-born because his tummy is pretty tiny and can only hold a small amount of milk during each feed.

Transitional Milk

By the 2nd to 3rd day after birth, your breast is likely to feel fuller, warmer and heavier as it begins to produce the creamy, transitional milk. This milk comes in much larger quantities than the colostrum. It contains high levels of fat, lactose and water soluble vitamins and has more calories than the colostrum. It lasts till about 2 weeks after birth before transiting into mature milk.

Mature Milk

By about the 3rd week, your breast may appear softer and smaller (when compared to the fullness experienced during the transitional milk stage) as the mature milk begins to appear. This milk, though thinner and more watery than transitional milk, is produced in just about the same quantity as transitional milk. It contains the right amount of water, protein, sugar, fat, nutrients and antibodies for your baby’s healthy growth and development. Water maintains hydration in your baby, protein aids digestion, fat is for brain development and lactose is for energy. Water makes up about 90% of your breast milk.

During every feed, your mature milk is released in 2 stages. The initial milk which comes out at the beginning of every feed is called the fore milk while the latter is called the hind milk.

With the fore milk being more watery and higher in lactose (than the hind milk), it will satisfy your baby’s thirst and provide the energy which he needs for each breastfeeding exercise.

As a feeding session progresses, your baby will keep sucking away and your fore milk will progressively become thicker and creamier as its fat content gradually increases. Increase in fat content is brought about when the fat which was initially stuck to the sides of the milk making cells is squeezed into the milk duct, along with the milk. What your baby is eventually left with is the hind milk which, when compared with its counterpart, is richer in fat and calories. This hind milk will be largely responsible for your baby’s weight gain and actual hunger satisfaction.

Note that both fore and hind milk are one and the same milk which are simply differentiated by the volume of their fat content

My baby doesn’t nurse for long! Is he missing out on the hind milk?

A baby who doesn’t suck for long is likely to feed more regularly than a baby who does. Once the interval between feeding sessions is short (i.e about 2-3 hours or less), the fat content in the fore milk will almost be as high as that normally found in the hind milk. Hence, your baby doesn’t miss out on the higher fat content which defines the hind milk.

However, when it comes to breastfeeding, it will pay you not to over analyse (or impose on) the length of each feed and the supposed nourishment attached to it. Simply ensure your baby is properly latched unto your breast and be sure to trust your body and your baby’s leadings. Also, avoid cutting your baby short in the middle of a feed. Doing all these should keep him well covered, irrespective of his feeding pattern.

What colour should my breast milk be?

Colostrum is typically deep yellow, transitional milk varies between white and yellow while mature milk is bluish white. However note that these colours could vary from hour to hour and day to day and factors such as diet and medication can influence them. Below is a list of these variations. However if you don’t express your milk, you may not notice any of these colour differences.

Breast milk influenced by diet could take on colours such as yellow, pink, orange or green.

Breast milk stained with blood or broken down blood products could be pink, black, red or brown.

Breast milk influenced by medication could be black

Should I be worried about my blood stained breast milk?

Note that blood in your breast milk is not necessarily a cause for concern. Some moms actually have blood in their milk for about 7 days following birth due to the growth of ducts and milk making cells in their breast. Blood could also be caused by harmless factors such as cracked nipples. Nevertheless, whenever blood is noticed, it is advised you see a doctor immediately in order to rule out the more serious causes like cancer.

Other signs that you may have blood in your breast milk could be your baby spitting up blood stained milk or excreting dark stools.

What triggers my baby’s desire to breastfeed?

  • Hunger
  • Need to get and feel close to you
  • Need to ease off into the sleep tugging at his body
  • Growth spurts. These are intervals when infants grow significantly within a short period. It can occur at any time but its most common occurrence is at the 10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months timelines. Your baby is likely to desire and demand more feeding during growth spurts.

What are the signs that my baby is getting enough breast milk?

  • Gentle pulling sensation on your breast as your baby feeds
  • Softer, emptier breast after each feed. However, as your baby grows older, your body will learn to produce the exact amount of milk needed. Hence the changes in breast fullness, before and after feeds, is less obvious
  • Clear or pale yellow pee. In case of dark coloured pee or brick dust residue in the diaper, see the doctor
  • Content demeanour after each feed
  • Rhythmical sucking accompanied with swallowing sounds
  • Milk leaking from the side of your baby’s mouth
  • Steady weight gain
  • Enough bowel movements

What should my baby’s steady weight gain be?

In the first few days, many babies lose 5-7% of their birth weight. This is because babies are born with extra fluid in their tissues, which are excreted within their first 24 hours. However a baby who had an uncomplicated birth and who quickly masters the art of breast feeding, is likely to lose less weight.

By the 5th month, many babies would have doubled their birth weight and by the 1st year, tripled it. Once a baby starts gaining weight, he is unlikely to go on a weight loss spree except there is an underlying health condition.

Worth noting are these specific factors which may influence your baby’s weight gain…

  • If your baby sleeps right next to you on your bed, he will have easier and more regular access to his food. Hence, he is likely to weigh more than if he slept in a crib
  • If your baby feeds on demand, he is likely to weigh more than if put on a feeding timetable
  • If your baby is very active, expect him to burn more calories than if he wasn’t
  • If your baby is long and lean, he is likely to burn more calories and grow faster in height, rather than in weight. The reverse is the case for plumper babies

How regularly should I breastfeed my baby?

You can expect new-borns to breastfeed every 2 – 3 hours (which is about 8 – 12 times per day) since their tummy is too small to take in a lot of milk at once. This frequent feeding is essential so that they get enough calories to sustain their rapid growth rate. With time, the number of feeds decrease.

However, rather than getting tied up in the logistics of when next or how long to feed your baby, it is highly recommended you feed on demand. Also, allow your baby to finish on one breast before switching to the other so that he takes in both the fore and hind milk.

During a growth spurt (i.e the intervals when your baby grows significantly within a short time), you may notice that your baby either takes in more during each feeding session or wants to feed more times. So, if your baby is suddenly interested in eating a whole lot more, it could be because he is experiencing a growth spurt. Hence, indulge him.

What is the normal bowel/bladder movement for a breastfed baby?

Urine output is an indicator of whether or not sufficient milk is taken in by your baby while stool output is an indicator of the quality of breast milk taken. Hence, observing your baby’s stool, you can determine whether your baby is sucking long and well enough to trigger out the creamy, high calorie hind milk

Urine

For the first few days, you may get a wet diaper only once or twice a day due to the small amount of colostrum which your baby takes in. By day 4, wet diapers may increase to 4 – 6 per day. However once the milk transits fully to the more mature type, expect wet diapers about 6 – 8 times a day.

Urine should be pale in colour and odourless. Smelly, dark urine could be a sign of dehydration

*Don’t determine the wetness of a diaper by touch alone because many diapers have been designed to absorb liquids rather well. Instead, a good, easy way of effectively determining wetness is by comparing the weight of a wet diaper with a dry, unused diaper.

Stools

Your new-born’s stool is likely to be dark green or black in colour. This first stool is called meconium. It is sticky and usually excreted within the first 12 hours of birth. However if your baby takes colostrum, he is likely to excrete it faster.

By day 2, your baby may or may not excrete any stool.

Day 3 is likely to meet your baby excreting a single transitional green stool.

By day 4 bowel movements can be expected to have increased to about four times a day. Stools may be either green or yellow.

On day 5 and 6, your baby should be excreting about 3 – 5 stools per day. By now the stools are likely to be yellow, seedish and loose.

From 6 weeks upwards, your baby may be passing out stool with every feed, only once a week or 3 – 5 times per day. Every baby is different. So just note what is normal for your own baby and only be worried if your baby deviates from his own ‘normal’.

*Note that loose stool is normal for a breastfed baby

When is breastfeeding dangerous to my baby?

Note the following scenarios which could potentially turn breastfeeding into a dangerous exercise…

  • Certain infectious diseases such as HIV or respiratory tract infection should ordinarily disqualify you from breastfeeding. However there are ways around them today. In cases of less serious illnesses like the respiratory tract infection, your milk can be expressed out for your baby, while HIV infected moms can take drugs which prevent transfer of the virus from mom to infant
  • If you are undergoing certain therapies like radiation, avoid nursing for a minimum of the period of your therapy
  • As a nursing mom, though many drugs you take will find a way into your breast milk (and probably affect your milk supply), it is often still safe to combine many of these medications with breastfeeding. However, there are other medications, such as some cancer or heart drugs, which are outrightly unsafe. So, here is a semi comprehensive list of common ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ medications:

Medicines you can take while breastfeeding

  • Most antibiotics
  • Most common pain killers
  • Most cough medicines
  • Asthma inhaler
  • Normal vitamin doses
  • Some contraception drugs
  • Some cold remedies

Medicines you must not take if breastfeeding

  • Aspirin
  • Codeine
  • Phenylephrine
  • Guaifenesin

*In any of the above scenarios, it is important to first discuss with your doctor before proceeding with breastfeeding

 

Are there substances and situations which can reduce my breast milk supply?

Beware! The following factors can possibly reduce your breast milk supply…

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Illnesses
  • Pregnancy
  • Caffeine
  • Some herbs and spices
  • Medications
  • Stress
  • Birth control pills

 

How can I increase my breast milk supply?

  • Breastfeed regularly
  • Use your hands or a breast pump to express your milk out. This way your body gets to know you need more milk and releases it appropriately
  • Do away with pacifiers and bottles which will interfere with your baby’s ‘breast sucking’ need and subsequently your milk supply
  • Bend over forward and wobble your breast lightly so that your milk release is stimulated by gravity
  • Massage your breast in a circular motion using the flat of your fingers. Let the massage progress from spot to spot
  • Apply warm water to your breast using a small towel and then use your fingertips to lightly stroke your breast from top to bottom and then over your nipple
  • Avoid lifestyle choices which involve factors (such as stress, fatigue, smoking, birth control pills, etc.) that negatively affect breast milk supply
  • Regularly drink lots of warm or hot liquids. This is because it is commonly said (but not scientifically proven) that a diet which lacks lots of warm or hot fluids will reduce breast milk supply

 

How can I wake up a sleepy baby to feed (or keep a sleepy baby awake while feeding)?

  • Tickle his feet and his back with your finger
  • Unwrap him so that he doesn’t get too comfortable and slip back into the sleepy mode
  • Wipe his face with a wet cloth
  • Hold him upright and burp him. This will not just keep him alert but also create more room for milk as burping releases trapped air bubbles
  • As he feeds, keep talking or singing to him and try maintaining eye contact as well
  • Stroke his cheeks as he feeds
  • Strip him naked because skin to skin contact stimulates sucking
  • When he loses enthusiasm feeding on one breast, switch to the second one in order to prevent him from slipping into comfort feeding that could lead to sleep

 

What are the signs that my baby is hungry?

  • He keeps crying continuously
  • He keeps moving his head from side to side or towards your breast
  • He repeatedly sucks on his hands
  • Wriggling around, he pulls up his leg
  • He keeps making sounds with his mouth
  • He continuously sticks out of his tongue and moves around pursed lips
  • He is suddenly more active and alert than usual
  • He keeps licking his lips

 

How do I know my baby has had enough?

You’ll know your baby has had his fill when…

  • He stops feeding on his own and turns his head away from you and your breast
  • He stops feeding on his own and refuses your attempt at re-initiating the breastfeeding exercise
  • Your breast is less full when your baby stops feeding
  • He sleeps off, leaving your breast less full
  • He looks content

 

Can my diet make my breastfed baby fussy (and prone to allergies)?

Some foods and drinks in your diet may cause your baby to become irritable and subject to allergic reactions. Hence, if soon after nursing, your baby develops a rash, diarrhea, congestion or becomes fussy, see a doctor. Also, if you suspect the culprit to be something in your diet, eliminate ‘it’ for about a week and see if it makes any difference.

Also, avoid allergenic foods and ingredients like cow milk, egg, peanuts, wheat, soy and fish, etc.

(Source: Women’s health, ask dr sears, nhs uk, mayoclinic, kidshealth, breastfeeding-problems, webmd, nursingmothers.org, picture courtesy: pinterest, breastfeedingbasics.org, nursingnurture.com, mochamanual.com, inquisitr.com, thegrio.com, medicalexpo.com, raisehealthyeaters.com, ecvv.com, allenbwest.com, dailymail.co.uk, african-sweetheart.com, huffingtonpost.com, parents.com, hdwallpapersfactory.com, newborns.stanford.edu, gettyimages, zazzle.com)