Breastfeeding your newborn. What to expect in the first weeks
New mothers get advice on just about every topic imaginable. Breastfeeding is one that can be left out.
As a new mum, you might have some questions about when your milk will come in, how to hold your baby while breastfeeding, night feedings, and what to generally expect in those first days. This article will cover these questions to help put you at ease.
Once your bundle of joy comes into the world, your breastmilk will follow a few days after. Not wanting to share the limelight, breastmilk usually comes in 3-4 days after vaginal delivery. Mums that deliver via c-section will have to wait 5-10 days. Fear not! Don't let the panic sink in. "How will my baby go that many days without getting milk?!" Your breasts are fully prepared for the milk delay. Colostrum is packed with antibodies, protein, and carbohydrates. How could it get any better? It is already in your breasts prior to delivery! You may have noticed the thick yellow/orange type milk throughout your pregnancy.
In the hospital, a lactation consultant will check on you. Play it safe and ask one to visit you as soon as possible. They will help you with getting the baby latched onto your breast and show you some breastfeeding positions. If a hold doesn't feel right, ask for a different position. You need to feel comfortable, too! Being relaxed helps your milk to let down sooner. The "let-down" is the time when your milk is released from the milk ducts. Watching videos online of other mothers nursing is very helpful. As a new mum, I needed more clarification than verbal directions. Some positions to try are: cradle, cross-cradle, football/clutch, side-lying, and laid back. Gravity is your best friend with the laid back position and it taps into your natural breastfeeding intuition. Yes, you have it. Trust it! With any hold for breastfeeding, you will want to lean slightly back and have your baby at nipple height. You and your baby should also be stomach to stomach. In other words, hold your baby so that they do not have to turn their head to reach your nipple. Your baby’s nose and chin will be touching your breast. Encourage your baby to take a wide latch onto your nipple by placing your nipple just above their upper lip.
Your baby will wake up at night. A lot. Babies are biologically programmed to do so. Ignore everyone who says their baby sleeps through the night and the people who keep asking when your baby will sleep through the night. They don't know what they are talking about, and all it does is drive you crazy. Your breasts produce the most DHA during the night. So, babies are hard-wired to wake up to get that sweet brain boosting milk. Newborns need more night feedings than older babies do, which means it will get better!
Your baby will let you know when they are hungry. There are always cues that will progress from beginning stages of hunger to frustration of being hungry. It is more difficult to get your baby to nurse once they have reached the frustration phase. Even more reason to catch those hunger signs early. Don’t beat yourself up if your baby ends up screaming and crying for milk. You are just getting to know them and they are just getting to know the new process of feeding. Licking their lips is an early cue that your baby wants milk. Rooting is a telltale sign that your baby wants food and they are getting impatient having to wait. Crying and fussing is part of the last stage of hunger. Your baby will need to be soothed before you can begin to nurse them.
Some mothers nurse on one side only and then switch to the other breast for the beginning of the next feeding. I found this to be easier once my child was out of the freshly newborn stage. Always offer the other breast so that your baby will get the amount of milk they need. Your breastmilk supply will regulate around 3-4 months based on what your baby needs. During the first 3-4 months, you will encounter a good deal of leaking milk.
Breast pads are useful so that you are not going through seven shirts a day. Be warned that your breasts will leak for any and all reasons.
Some babies will nurse for 45 minutes at a time while others may only nurse for 20 minutes at a time. It all depends on how your body is designed. The nerves in your breast may take longer to be stimulated enough to signal the letdown or it could only take a few seconds. Keep this in mind if your doctor asks how long they are nursing. It may take one baby a very different amount of time to get the same amount of milk. You might also end up with a baby like mine who only wanted to snack. We were breastfeeding all day long because we needed ten minutes here then fifteen minutes there. Babies will also nurse for comfort. All that breastfeeding can lead to sore nipples. After each feeding, I would suggest rubbing in some breastmilk onto your nipple, it will help prevent cracked, sore nipples. There are also products you can buy but breastmilk is free and readily available. Placing a cooling pack or cold washcloth onto your nipple after feeding can provide some comfort as well. Breastfeeding should never be painful. If you are experiencing pain have an IBCLC assess your baby’s latch and rule out any lip/tongue ties.
Breastfeeding your baby is a wonderful journey. With the information above you can begin this journey with a strong foundation of knowledge. The beginning is always the most difficult simply because it is new. Each day will bring you more and more experience. You will fine-tune your process each feeding session and soon this will all be second nature.