Getting off to a good start with breastfeeding can be critical to your long-term success. Breastfeeding in the first few days following delivery is very important for priming the milk making cells which will continue to produce breast milk throughout your nursing journey. Additionally, newborns benefit from learning how to breastfed while milk volume is still low, as it is in the first 3-5 days after birth.
During the first few hours after birth (often referred to as the ‘Golden Hour’), babies are most alert and eager to breastfeed. It is a very magical time for mothers and babies, as they embrace one another and gaze into each others eyes for the very first time. Babies feel “at home” when they are near their mothers and prefer to be naked (other than a diaper), while nuzzled between their mother’s breasts. It is here that a baby can smell the familiar scent of his mother being secreted from her breasts, directing him to the nipple. He can also hear the rhythmic sounds of her heart that have been surrounding him since conception. Here, the baby feels safe and has every thing he needs: warmth, protection, and food. In his mothers arms, he is at peace. And soon, if allowed, he will begin to make his way to her breasts for the first feeding without any help. As if he had watched videos on how to nurse in the womb, the newborn baby will crawl and scoot up his mother abdomen and onto her breasts. He will use his hands to direct the nipple to his mouth and he will lean his neck back with an open gape and self-attach! Videos of this miraculous event can be found all over YouTube and are quite a sight to see.
Here are some ways you can get off to a good start with breastfeeding your new baby:
- Plan to breastfeed in the hospital and be sure to tell your healthcare team as well as the hospital staff about your decision to breastfeed
- Ask that your baby be placed skin-to-skin immediately following delivery
- Ask that your baby be allowed to remain skin-to-skin until the first nursing session has been completed (usually 1-2 hours)
- Ask that your baby not be given any artificial nipples (pacifiers or bottles) without your express permission
- Ask that your baby not be given any artificial milk supplements (formula) without your express permission and only if medically necessary
- Ask that your baby be allowed to room-in with you in your hospital room and remain with you throughout your hospital stay
- Ask that all of your baby’s tests and procedures be performed in your presence so that you can nurse immediately following any painful needle pricks
- Ask to see the hospital’s Lactation Consultant (if available) as soon after delivery as possible. Also ask that she return to your room for a follow-up assessment before you are discharged.
- Plan to nurse your baby on-demand – at least 10-12 times per day
- Wear a comfortable nursing bra and do not compress or restrict your breasts with tight fitting bras
- Watch for your baby’s feeding cues and nurse your baby before he/she begins to cry
- Offer both breasts at each feeding (but know that it is OK if your baby only takes one breast occasionally)
- Do not limit your baby’s time at the breast. Remember that suckling is very important to establishing your milk supply and is a fantastic way to calm and soothe your new baby
- Do not introduce bottles to your baby until breastfeeding is well established (usually 2-4 weeks)
Most importantly, if you find you are struggling with breastfeeding or are experiencing pain while nursing, seek help immediately. Breastfeeding should not be painful. Proper positioning and help with the latch can almost always reduce any discomfort you may be experiencing while breastfeeding.