Babies do, in fact, swallow in the womb, and ingest large amounts of amniotic fluid. This is not, however, important in helping growth, because all a baby’s nutritional needs are met from the mother’s blood stream. At birth, when the umbilical cord is cut, this important source of nutrition is also severed. A baby then becomes totally dependent on his mother to feed him.
Breast milk takes a few days to come in but, during this time, a baby is not concerned with feeding. He is much more interested in sucking and sleeping. Nearly all babies lose weight during the first few days of life, and do not regain their birth weight until the second week. Nature usually arranges things according to a well thought-out plan, and feeding is a really good example of this. At birth, a baby’s gastrointestinal tract, for example is already equipped to digest and absorb the foodstuffs that are present in human milk, but when hefrom time to time before the breast milk has come in, it is not because he is hungry- he is simply showing an instinctive and overwhelming desire to suck.
Baby’s First Feeds
When you put him to the breast at these times, you not only relieve his natural urge, but also stimulate the production of milk. At first, only a small amount of fluid called ‘colostrum’ is formed in the breast. This, however, contains substances that help to protect a baby against infection. Gradually, as you allow your baby to suckle, more milk accumulates until he realizes that sucking can also provide him with a tasty drink.
Babies vary greatly in their sucking antics during the first few days of life. Some like to suck for a minute or two and then fall asleep, only to cry an hour or so later, when a further brief period at the breast relieves them. Others enjoy sucking for a longer time. Unfortunately, some mothers stop breastfeeding their baby after a few days because they think that they cannot produce enough milk. This is sad because it is sucking time not milk that a baby is after.