Friday, March 4, 2011

More Mommy Science: Days 4 and 5

By Taryn Barrette, RD

Today, we continue our posts about the “Mommy Science” behind the events surrounding Jen B’s postpartum experience with her daughter Charlotte.

In her last post, Jen described her struggles with sleeplessness and breastfeeding during days 4 and 5. Keeping in mind that not all of Jen’s experiences are typical, we’ll share some of the biology lurking in the background.

The Tiredness Continues
In our last mommy science post, we talked about the emotional and physical demands of recovering from a C-section and the onslaught of hormones that induce the “stress response.” Stress causes forgetfulness, irritability, and for Jen B and many other women like her, an alert and awake state – leading to a frustrating inability to sleep. Though these hormones are decreasing on days 4 and 5, the resulting lack of sleep persists through the next few days.

Milk Onset
About 85% of moms ‘feel’ changes in their bodies between 24-72 hours postpartum signalling that their milk supply is increasing (otherwise known as "milk coming in" or "milk onset"). The other 15% feel those changes later (and may need some assistance from the doctor or lactation consultant to get things going). Typically, first time moms feel the increase in milk supply near the end of day 3. Mothers who have already had children often feel the changes at the end of day 2, give or take a few hours. Jen B noted that she felt the changes on day three – which is well within the normal range. Though colostrum (the very important early milk) is already being produced during pregnancy, mothers notice fullness and tightness in their breasts as the milk supply rapidly increases (more than 10 fold) during the first week after the baby has been born. For some mothers, the milk comes in well after the third day (this may happen to some but not all of moms who have had c-sections). In this situation, it is important that both mom and baby are seen by a health care provider. The good news is that for most moms, a delay in milk onset can be addressed with help from the lactation consultant and/or health care provider.

Hungry Babies on Days 4 and 5!
Newborns tend to have the highest number of feeds on days 4 and 5 (we’ll talk more about the science behind this in our next post) and if moms do not expect this increase in feeding, they may think there is something wrong or they may worry that the frequent feeds will go on forever. This added stress combined with fears “doing it wrong” can be very discouraging for new moms, But, this peak in feeding helps mom and baby to get plenty of practice breastfeeding and keeps the mom from being engorged by too much milk when the milk supply is increasing so rapidly. All babies will feed frequently on days 4 and 5 as they become more alert and active. New families need a lot of help during that first week.

Newborn Challenges
Despite the fact that bringing home her newborn was a new experience, Jen B was confident that her training and experience would make breastfeeding and understanding her baby’s needs easy. Unfortunately, Charlotte didn’t get that memorandum. Charlotte’s early cues were confusing and her attempts to latch resulted in fussy frustration or sleep when she should have been eating. As Jen B became more overwhelmed, the hospital staff was able to step in at the right time and support her efforts to keep breastfeeding.

Next time: We’ll get back to the Baby Science of that tough first week!

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing to me that there is so much detailed information on the topic.

    Our baby is now almost 8 months old and I can barely remember last week. He's changed so much and so constantly, that I couldn't barely tell you what day 3 versus day 7 was like.

    Very interesting though, and brought me back to that wonderful first week at home with our boy. Good times!