When breastfeeding baby, the three day grace period refers to a remarkable system designed to guarantee your newborn has all the food and water he or she will need in the first three days of life, even though there is nothing really to eat or drink for those first three days.
Three facts define what we call the three day grace period when breastfeeding baby:
1. There is no breast milk for the first three days of life.
2. Every healthy baby born has three days worth of food and water in their body at birth.
3. Every healthy baby born loses about 10% of their birth weight in the first three days of life as they consume their extra food and water.
Each of these facts are truly remarkable. It is odd, but very true, that nearly every mother has to wait 3 days for breast milk to appear. There is colostrum, but this is simply the bit of mucus in the breast ducts present before breast milk begins to be produced. There might be an ounce a day or so made, not much. I think if most of us were designing the system, we would have breast milk ready to go right after birth, but that’s not how human breast milk production works.
Equally remarkable is the fact that when breastfeeding baby mothers give an extra 3 days worth of food and water into every newborn they deliver. That means the first 3 days of your life are the only 3 days you can go without any food or water and be perfectly fine. Just try even thinking about not eating or drinking for 3 full days, it would be awful and dangerous. But all of our very tender and fragile appearing newborns do just that, and do it fine.
How much of our newborn is this extra food and water? About 10%. So, for a 5 pound baby, 8 ounces is the three day supply. For a ten pound baby, the extra food and water weighs about 16 ounces.
So go into delivery knowing that when the cord is cut, there is no sudden urgency to give your baby food and water, you have 3 days. Which is good, because now you know you have 3 days of worry free practice breastfeeding baby available.
BOTTOM LINES WHEN BREASTFEEDING BABY
1. All babies born come with extra food and water to meet all their needs for the 3 days it takes breast milk to be created.
2. This makes sense because there is no breast milk, not much to eat besides a few teaspoons of colostrum, for 3 days after birth.
3. This explains why nearly every healthy baby “loses” about 10% of their birth weight in the first 3 days of life.
4. This also means, there is no way one can go wrong in the first 3 days!
About Dr. Arthur Lavin:
Arthur Lavin, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician in private practice and an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. Lavin has special interests in neuroscience. He sits on the national committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics charged with developing policy for the Academy on matters relating to psychological functioning. Dr. Lavin was the first doctor in the United States to make neuroscience proven working memory training available in the United States
He is the co-author of two books on parenting: Who’s the Boss? Moving Families from Conflict to Collaboration (2nd Ed., Collaboration Press, 2010) and Babies and Toddlers Sleep Solutions for Dummies (Kindle Edition, Wiley, 2007).
Dr. Lavin was trained and taught at Harvard and MIT, including training by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton. He has served on a number of national committees of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and published original research in such journals as Science.
Dr. Lavin is married and has three children, one married and two identical twins.
Dr. Arthur Lavin
Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
3733 Park East Drive- Suite 102
Beachwood, OH 44122