Many pregnant mothers envision their first moments with their new baby as a picturesque, tranquil moment providing sustenance for their newborn. Oftentimes, that picture crumbles when we realize that breastfeeding isn’t effortless. Other moms have heard horror stories from friends about their own breastfeeding experiences, and they approach nursing with angst and anxiety.
We’ll say it first, then we’ll say it again so you hear us:
FED. IS. BEST.
However, you are nourishing your child… it’s the right way.
The purpose of this blog post is to share tips and recommendations for the first week of breastfeeding. Here are six areas to help you survive (and thrive) during that first week!
There is nothing that can compare to those first moments of a baby laying on your chest. Those precious minutes spent together are also crucial for breastfeeding, too. Skin-to-skin time calms both you and baby. It releases hormones that reduce stress and stabilize your baby’s body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar. The list goes on and on, but one of the most important facets is the way skin-to-skin helps your colostrum (baby’s first, nutrient-dense milk) flow more easily and supports a strong milk supply.
Oooh, latching – the tricky mistress of breastfeeding. The enigma of a good latch has been depicted in post-partum episodes of both Friends and The Office (both series make great late-night nursing sesh entertainment, by the way). While there’s no way around the fact that the early days of nursing can be painful as your breasts become adapted to a latch, lingering pain should be addressed with a lactation consultant. Here are some at-a-glance ways you can assess or improve your baby’s latch at home (as recommended by the American Pregnancy Association):
– Grasp your breast on the sides and make a “C” or “U” shape around your areola.
– Aim the nipple toward the baby’s upper lip or nose area, not the middle of his or her baby. You might need to rub your nipple along the baby’s top lip to encourage the baby to open his or her mouth.
– Baby should latch with a wide-open mouth, with a dropped chin and his or her tongue down. If the baby doesn’t open wide, refrain from shoving the nipple in or wiggling his mouth open. Instead, move back, tickle the lip again and try again for a wide, open mouth.
– Try to get as much of the lower portion of the areola in the baby’s mouth as possible.
– Baby’s chin should indent the lower portion of your breast.
– Check to see if the baby’s bottom and top lip are flanged like fish lips. If not, use your finger to pull the bottom lip down and open the top one more.
The early days of nursing are often bathed in a sleepless haze. Don’t be discouraged. As the baby learns how to live outside the womb, and you learn what helps comfort your baby most, you might feel like a one-woman milk machine. The more frequently you breastfeed, the more quickly your milk supply will regulate, and the faster you and your baby will feel comfortable in your new routine. Additionally, if you’re struggling with a low milk supply, increasing your frequency of breastfeeding will encourage your additional milk production.
Baby scheduling can cause a lot of controversies (who knew there was so much to disagree about with a 7-pound baby?), but as your baby grows, you’ll begin to anticipate his or her cues better than anyone else. As baby experiences growth spurts, you may experience day-long cluster feeds. A baby may nurse every 2 hours or take stretches over 3 to 4 hours. Expect it to take upwards of 12 weeks to establish your own, true schedule for feeding, but in the earliest weeks, here’s an example of what might go on!
0-2 weeks: Baby will eat 8-12 times a day with lots and lots of naps in between breastfeeding sessions (most newborns only stay awake for 30-45 minute stretches, including their time eating!)
3-6 weeks: Baby will eat 7-10 times a day and be awake for up to one hour at a time.
6-12 weeks: Baby will stay awake up to 90 minutes and begin to establish a routine, as well as eating 6-10 times per day.
There are lots and lots of things that can help your breastfeeding routine, but you may find that artificial nipples from pacifiers, bottles, and nipple shields may discourage your feedings as well. Early on, babies may confuse these types of nipples and not develop a strong latch or suck as a result, so proceed with caution, and follow the recommendations of your lactation consultant or pediatrician.
Breastfeeding is most often depicted with a classic cradle hold, and that may work for many women and babies, and maybe best supported by a nursing pillow, but it certainly isn’t the only position to try! In fact, other positions may feel more natural and comfortable for you and your new baby. Medela has an excellent, comprehensive list of positions to try, including:
Laid-back breastfeeding or reclined positionCradle holdCross-cradle holdRugby ball holdSide-lying positionLaid-back breastfeeding after a c-section Upright breastfeeding or koala hold Dangle feeding Nursing in a slingDouble rugby ball holdDancer hand nursing position
The choice to breastfeed your child is a brave, exciting one, and there are no journeys that don’t include a few bumps and unknowns. As you navigate these priceless days with your little one, remember that no one is better designed to provide for your child than you are. You’re doing a great job!