Feeding your baby: the first few days

The first few days of feeding your baby can be very tiring as you're recovering from childbirth. This will get easier over time.

Your milk will have a yellow colour in the first few days. This is called colostrum.

A newborn can feed 10 to 12 times in 24 hours, during the day and night. They have very small tummies.

Right after the birth

Most babies are keen to feed right away but every baby is different.

Some may be sleepy and slow to feed.

This can happen if your baby:

Your baby will be with you in the hospital in a cot beside your bed. This is called ‘rooming in’ and helps build confidence in caring for your baby.

Read more about your baby's first feed

Skin-to-skin contact

Right after birth you will be encouraged to have skin-to-skin contact. This lets your baby smell you and hear your heartbeat, and can help you both feel calm.

Skin-to-skin contact also helps your baby:

  • receive immune-boosting bacteria from their parents
  • send signals to produce breast milk
  • move towards your breast and attach (latch)

If you bottle feed, do it while having skin-to-skin contact:

  • Hold your baby close and make eye contact - this helps you bond.
  • Learn to recognise cues that they're hungry or had enough.

You can continue doing skin-to-skin contact at any time. This will help calm and comfort you both.

Signs of hunger

Responding to signs of hunger (cues) will help your baby feel secure.

This is part of responsive parenting. It means responding to your baby’s needs on time.

It includes:

How to get support

Your midwife or nurse will be there to support you. Ask for help as often as you need.

They can help your baby attach (latch) and show you how to express breast milk.

If you are bottle feeding they will show you how to prepare and feed your baby with bottles.

Making sure your baby is feeding enough

Follow guidance to tell if your baby is getting enough breast milk or to find out how much formula your baby needs.

Breastfed babies cannot be overfed. You can use breastfeeding to soothe your baby or have some quiet time for yourself.

When your 'milk comes in'

Your supply of breast milk is established in the early days and weeks. It will usually increase around days 3 to 5, though it can take up to 6 weeks to fully come in.

During this time your breasts may become fuller and firmer. This is known as 'your milk coming in'.

This works by supply and demand. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces. Giving your baby a bottle of formula milk can reduce your supply.

Try not to give your baby a soother, dummy or dodie until breastfeeding is established, usually around 1 month. It may interfere with your baby attaching to your breast.

When you leave the hospital

You will be given advice about feeding before you leave hospital. You may get extra help if your baby has tongue tie or is born prematurely.

Your public health nurse (PHN) will visit you during your first 3 days at home with your baby. They will ask you how feeding is going and weigh your baby.

It's normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their birth weight in the first few days. They are often back to their birth weight by 10 to 15 days old.

Read more about breastfeeding your newborn baby

Feeding in the first few days and weeks

As the weeks pass you might notice your day is falling into a routine.

It's normal for babies to feed more at certain times of the day, often in the evening. Afternoon naps and eating extra healthy snacks can help at this time.

Every baby’s pattern will differ and it can change with growth spurts. If you are breastfeeding, you might notice your baby cluster feeds during growth spurts.

Read about what to eat when you’re breastfeeding

Night feeds

It is normal for babies to wake up for night feeds. These provide a large part of their calorie intake.

As your baby grows, they may settle and sleep for longer periods at night.

Read about where to get help with feeding your baby

Read more about how newborn babies sleep

Vitamin D3 supplements

Give your baby 5 micrograms of vitamin D3 every day for the first 12 months if they're:

  • breastfed
  • taking less than 300ml or 10 fluid ounces of infant formula a day

Read more about vitamin D supplements for babies

How support persons can help

Looking after a newborn baby is demanding, especially if you're having challenges with feeding.

Get help from your partner, support person, family and friends.

Ask them to:

  • find out what you need
  • help to position the baby to get ready for feeding
  • manage visits from family and friends to keep them short
  • make healthy meals and snacks
  • do the housework, shopping and other chores
  • make plans to occupy older children

Related topics

Read more about responding to your baby’s hunger cues

Learn about how much sleep newborns need

Read about adjusting to life with a new baby

Learn more about milk supply concerns

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.

Page last reviewed: 10 November 2021
Next review due: 10 November 2024