Ultimately breastfeeding, much like childbirth, is a beautiful and messy picture of sacrifice.
I would like to put into perspective what is actually needed to fill a newborn tummy over the first few days of life.
A newborn is not thirsty or hungry at birth; the placenta has hydrated the baby for the immediate postpartum hours. The newborn’s golden hour immediately after birth is for bonding, learning how to eat out of the womb, and to start consuming that fabulous colostrum which is excellent medicinally and nutritionally.
How much is too much? Stomach sizes can vary with each baby. Their milk capacity can differ by the gestational age and size of the baby. The average stomach capacity of a newborn is about 7 mL, keeping in mind that 30 mL is 1 ounce. In the first two days of life, 2-15 mL feedings are sufficient for the baby’s well-being.
When babies are given 30-60 mL of artificial milk and are expected to consume this excessive amount, it is an unnatural and unrealistic proportion for their stomachs.
Just to give you a visual of a baby’s tummy…
Age: 1 day Amount Stomach Can Hold: 5-7 mL Comparable Object: hazelnut, thimble, glass marble, thumb nail
Age: 3 days Amount Stomach Can Hold: 22-27 mL (about an ounce) Comparable Object: teaspoon, milk ball, large glass marble
Age: 10 days Amount Stomach Can Hold: 45-60 mL (1.5-2 ounces) Comparable Object: walnut, golf ball, coffee measuring scoop
High volume feeds in the first few days of life can actually stress a newborn’s immature kidneys. That is why colostrum is a low volume, perfectly measured milk. Our bodies know what our babies need. Trust them! --------------- Disclaimer: Anticipation and Beyond uses all reasonable effort to provide accurate, up-to-date and evidence-based information for teaching and counseling purposes. All information that is written for blogs, social media posts, and websites is to be used for education and informational purposes only. All data and instruction from Anticipation and Beyond should not be intended to replace or substitute professional or medical advice from your health care provider. Direct all of your family’s concerns, questions, and health issues to your health care provider. The information provided is not and may not be applicable to every situation. The purpose of Anticipation and Beyond providing guidance and education to new families is two-fold. The ﬁrst purpose is for the intention of teaching parents about the many choices and alternatives that are available to them. The second motivation is to encourage families to dig down deep and research themselves from reliable resources that will help to enlighten their new journey.
I want to talk about my five-month-old, and pee, and the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Nine years — almost my entire adult life — I have worked as an educator. My husband is a college professor too. Education, facts and research are a big part of our lives, and we were willing suckers for every baby book and doodad that claims to be somehow educational. Black and white brain stimulating mobile? Check. Baby sign language? Alphabet sheets to somehow ooze literacy into his wispy baby head? Check check. But even after just a few months with our little boy, I feel like, cliché or not, really it's I who have most to learn.
Most people are familiar with the paradoxical phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect, even if they’ve never heard of it before. Basically two Cornell researchers did a bunch of observations indicating that in general, the more you actually know about a topic, the more you worry that you don’t know enough. And, not coincidentally, the less you truly know, the more likely you are to overestimate your own expertise! Now, if you're like me, you can instantly, snarkily think of one or two people in your life who this just perfectly applies to. But maybe it’s more useful if we each were first to try applying it to ourselves.
Raising my hand right here: I was a classic Dunning-Kruger parenting “expert” before my baby was born. Reading and note-taking are kind of my favorite thing ever, so I researched the very soul out of every single newborn issue I could imagine. Nine glorious months of page-turning and highlighting! I knew that parts of my pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey would be out of my hands, and parts I could do my best to control. Statistics and anecdotal evidence alike were ready and confident on the tip of my tongue. I spent time reading birth stories of every possible variation of experience. And I don't regret any of that reading, or thinking, or planning. It helped me do pregnancy my way, and made so much of the unknown feel safer to me. Yet within a few weeks of my actual son’s actual arrival? Even though in fact I suddenly had much more experience, I felt so much less of an expert.
Despite having great support, I found there were so many things that felt harder than I had anticipated. It isn't that nobody warned me; on the contrary I had several honest mama friends who shared their hearts and tried to prepare me for the changes newborn life would bring. But nothing really could. So many of the shortcuts, tips, and tricks that had been “lifesavers” for my mama friends didn’t work for me, or for my baby, at all. Even some of the issues I thought I would feel most passionate about, in my prenatal fits of highlighting, ended up falling away as I found myself with a new, smaller set of certainties. Here are just a few of the things I held on to in those early days:
And even any of these, I know, might not ring true for any one reader in particular. My point is: Not one of them would have seemed like an important idea to me back when I was an expert. And it's this change, from the researched knowledge to the experienced, that no one could really prepare me for.
I still read a lot, when I can fit it in. I still care about doing the best I can to make reasonable decisions on issues that come up. But as my little boy grows, I continue to realize how much is probably out there that I still really don’t know. There are times when I imagine all the questions ahead of us, all the things I don't even know I don't know yet, and within me anxiety starts to rise. But when it does, I try my best to remember good old Dunning-Kruger, take a deep breath, and remind myself that maybe, just maybe, the less I feel like I confidently know “for sure” as a parent, the more I’ve actually learned.