What To Expect The First 24 Hours Of Life

During the first 24 hours of life, the newborn baby undergoes a typical pattern of adjustment indicating normal adaptation to life outside of the uterus. During the first 30 minutes of life, the healthy, full-term baby is alert, cries spontaneously, roots, and licks. This is the ideal time to begin breastfeeding. It is expected newborn behavior to feed only one or two good breastfeeding (feeding between 5-20 minutes), one wet diaper, and one dirty diaper within 24 hours of life. 

Babies are sleepy and often do not have much interest in breastfeeding during the first 24 hours. This is because:

  • The baby may have swallowed high protein amniotic fluid during delivery which causes the stomach to feel "full" and they may "spit-up" during this time. It typically takes 24-48 hours for this high protein fluid to absorb and and feel hungry. 
  • Infant stomach is only the size of a glass marble or cherry and therefore, do not need a large volume of milk during this time. Their stomach is designed to tolerate a small volume of high protein colostrum. 

To do:

  1. After a couple of hours of birth, babies fall into deep sleep due to physiological changes, so it is reasonable to expect to wake your baby for feedings.
  2. Try skin to skin for at least 30 minutes before each feed to stimulate infants breastfeeding interest and avoid losing calories. 
  3. Attempt to feed every 2-3 hours or "on demand" by observing baby's feeding cues. At the time of the feeding, if the baby is sleepy, or has difficulty waking up, do not spend too much time attempting to latch- perhaps only 5-10 minutes to avoid baby's aversion to breastfeeding. If your baby will not latch, place him/her skin-to-skin for 30-40 minutes and then try again. 
  4. After baby latches on, try to keep baby on the breast for 15 minutes on both sides and start the next feeding in about 3 hours. Your baby will begin to start feeding more frequently during the second and third days of life.

No need for a large amount of formula during this time unless medically indicated.  

This is a training and resting time for mother and baby, so try to rest in between feeding and get some energy to adjust with the next couple of days of frequent feeding patterns. 

Retrieved from Breastfeeding and Human Lactation- 3rd Ed.