Unfortunately, mom guilt can start really early. Even from the first day, many new parents wonder if their babies are getting enough food because their little ones are eating around the clock. Maybe they start to wonder if it's supposed to be this hard. Maybe they feel as if their bodies are failing them and unable to keep up.
If you're caught in a similarly overwhelming spiral of guilt and anxiety, a lactation consultant has a powerful visual to help new parents understand why their babies are nursing so much. It's important information that many moms don't know about and hospitals don't often think to tell.
Lactation specialist Kaci Dean, of Heart & Bloom Birth and Lactation Services in Mississippi, shared a photo of a bead last year that went viral, and now it's making the rounds again.
"See that tiny pink bead on the lanyard?" the mom of two wrote. "That is the size of a newborn's tiny tummy."
Next to the small marble is a standard 2-ounce bottle of formula that is given to newborns.
"So, if baby's belly is only the size of a marble, what happens when baby is fed 2 ounces? Well, baby will usually spit up all the extra, which then can be spinned into baby having reflux, when really, baby is just being overfed. This leads to interventions like formula changes, antacid medications, etc.," Dean wrote.
The lactation specialist isn't trying to formula-shame here. Instead she wants to drive home the message that 2 ounces of anything is way more than babies can handle in the first few days of their lives.
When the baby is born, moms begin to produce colostrum, which is rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect babies from illnesses, before the mature milk comes in. The liquid gold should be enough nourishment for the newborn, whose stomach can be as small as a shooter marble and doesn't yet stretch.
Because their stomachs are small, babies require little to eat but also eat more frequently, which is why newborns tend to eat every two to three hours. This frequent breastfeeding also stimulates milk production as moms' bodies adjust.
According to an graphic from Ameda baby products, by Day 3, the baby's stomach grows to the size of a ping-pong ball (which is also when milk volume starts to increase for many moms). By Day 10, the baby's stomach is the size of a large chicken egg. (In comparison, an adult stomach is about the size of a softball!)
So, rest easy, Mama—it's not you! How often your baby is feeding isn't necessarily an indication of poor supply, Dean said, though she also understands that it can be hard to feel at ease when you can't see how much your baby is actually eating.
Remember, it takes time to establish a steady supply and schedule. Be kind to yourself during this tricky period. Trust your body and pay attention to your baby's cues. And if you're ever concerned, talk to your doctor.