Breastfeeding And Your Newborn: How To Cope With The First Weeks

Breastfeeding can be very challenging during the first few weeks, but planning can make a difference

Frequent nursing encourages good milk supply and reduces engorgement. Aim for nursing at least  8– 12 times per day (24 hours). You CAN’T nurse too often–you CAN nurse too little. Remember the more you nurse the more milk

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Nurse at the first signs of hunger (stirring, rooting, hands in mouth)–don’t wait until baby is crying. Allow baby unlimited time at the breast when sucking actively, then offer the second breast. Some newborns are excessively sleepy at first–wake baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing.

Breast changes

Your milk should start to “come in” (increase in quantity and change from colostrum to mature milk) between days 2 and 5. To minimize engorgement: nurse often, don’t skip feedings (even at night), ensure good latch/positioning, and let baby finish the first breast before offering the other side. To decrease discomfort from engorgement, use cold and/or cabbage leaf compresses between feedings. If baby is having trouble latching due to engorgement, use reverse pressure softening or express milk until the nipple is soft, then try latching again. Breastfeed every 2-3 hours and pump immediately afterwards. Always keep in mind the more you breastfeed the more milk you make.

How often should baby be nursing?

After giving birth life can seem pretty bewildering – you’re getting to know your newborn while recovering from the delivery. Your emotions might be all over the place (especially between days two and five when many women get the double whammy of their milk ‘coming in’1 and the ‘baby blues’.2 Plus, there’s often expectation – and pressure – to be up and about quickly and generally be a supermom. But one of the most super things you can do this week is just be with your baby and get breastfeeding on track. Some newborns are excessively sleepy—wake baby to nurse if 2 hours (during the day) or 4 hours (at night) have passed without nursing. Once baby has established a good weight gain pattern, you can stop waking baby and nurse on baby’s cues alone.

Is baby getting enough milk?

See your healthcare provider for any weight loss issues you may have

Weight gain: Normal newborns may lose up to 7% of birth weight in the first few days. After mom’s milk comes in, the average breastfed baby gains 6 oz/week (170 g/week). Take baby for a weight check at the end of the first week or beginning of the second week. Consult with baby’s doctor and your lactation consultant if baby is not gaining as expected.

Dirty diapers: In the early days, baby typically has one dirty diaper for each day of life (1 on day one, 2 on day two…). After day 4, stools should be yellow and baby should have at least 3-4 stools daily that are the size of a US quarter (2.5 cm) or larger. Some babies stool every time they nurse, or even more often–this is normal, too. The normal stool of a breastfed baby is loose (soft to runny) and may be seedy or curdy.

Wet diapers: In the early days, baby typically has one wet diaper for each day of life (1 on day one, 2 on day two…). Once mom’s milk comes in, expect 5-6+ wet diapers every 24 hours. To feel what a sufficiently wet diaper is like, pour 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of water into a clean diaper. A piece of tissue in a disposable diaper will help you determine if the diaper is wet.

“Ideally, your baby will be put on your chest as soon as he’s born to give him access to the breast. He might feed, he might not; but give him the opportunity to do so,” says Cathy Garbin, an internationally renowned lactation consultant.

“Support his body and let him attempt to find his way to your breast and self-attach (you can watch videos of this process, called the ‘breast crawl’, online). However, if your baby doesn’t attach, healthcare professionals are usually very skilled at helping mums with positioning. Baby-led attachment, with mum in a semi-reclined breastfeeding position, is a good way to start.”

So forget about weighing and dressing your baby in that special first hour, or at least until after the first breastfeed. Enjoy relaxed cuddles and plenty of naked skin-to-skin contact with him. This will get oxytocin – ‘the love hormone’ – flowing in both of you, which is essential for the release of your first milk, colostrum.3

What If I have A Caesarean Section?

Having a C-section does not mean you cannot be successful in breastfeeding

If you have a c-section or there are other complications, you may still be able to have skin-to-skin time with your baby and breastfeed in the first few hours.

“If you aren’t able to hold your baby, the next best thing is for him to have skin-to-skin contact with your partner instead. This will help keep your baby feeling safe, loved and warm until you’re ready,” says Cathy.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed, then it’s a good idea to start expressing your milk early and frequently until he is able. “While breastfeeding directly as soon as possible gives mum and baby a good start, it’s not essential,” reassures Cathy. “What’s more important is to initiate your milk supply so you can work towards breastfeeding later if needed.”

You can hand express and use the hospital breast pump to help initiate your milk supply in the beginning.5 The precious colostrum you collect can then be given to your baby. This is especially important if he is premature or poorly, because your breast milk has so many wonderful health benefits.

Don’t feel like breastfeeding is unachievable if your baby arrives early or has medical complications that stop him feeding at the start, either. “I’ve worked with many, many mums where their baby hasn’t breastfed directly from the breast at all in the first six weeks due to a premature arrival or other difficulties.

A Good Latch Is A Set Up For Successful Breastfeeding

If you are having issues with your baby latch,seek professional help

Good attachment is crucial for getting breastfeeding off to a good start,6 as your baby’s latch affects how well he drinks the milk and consequently how he grows and develops. A poor latch can cause sore or damaged nipples, so never worry about asking a healthcare professional to check your attachment, even if you’ve been told the latch is fine and you don’t notice an obvious problem – especially while you’re still at your birth facility.

“Every time I fed in hospital, I buzzed a midwife to check the latch,” says Emma, mum of two, Australia. “There were a few times I thought I had it right but it was painful and the midwife helped take my baby off and do it properly. It meant I had the confidence to do that at home.”

When your baby is latching on, aim your nipple towards the roof of his mouth. This way he will latch on to the nipple, as well as some of the areola beneath it. This means he can draw both the nipple and some breast tissue into his mouth and feed well.6

“The latch should feel pretty comfortable and like a tugging sensation rather than a pain,” says Cathy. “Your baby will have his mouth wide open. His bottom lip may be flanged outwards, but his top lip will rest comfortably on your breast. His body language will show he is comfortable. There’s not going to be a large volume of milk at this early stage, so you won’t see much swallowing, although your baby will be sucking a lot and feeding lots of times.”

Mamas The following Things Are Normal: Do Not Give Baby Formula If You Intend To Breastfeed Exclusively

Never swap formula for exclusive breastfeeding

Many mothers shorten their breastfeeding journey by thinking baby is hungry during the early 2 weeks. I have counselled many mothers who succumbed to formula exposure. Mamas all you have to do is continue to breastfeed as long as baby is sucking. Lets look at the following events that most babies go through: Remember these events are only temporary.

  • Frequent and/or long feedings.
  • Varying nursing pattern from day to day.
  • Cluster nursing (very frequent to constant nursing) for several hours—usually evenings—each day. This may coincide with the normal “fussy time” that most babies have in the early months.
  • Growth spurts, where baby nurses more often than usual for several days and may act very fussy. Common growth spurt times in the early weeks are the first few days at home, 7 – 10 days, 2 – 3 weeks and 4 – 6 weeks.

Sleep When Baby Sleeps

When they say to sleep while baby is sleeping, it is definitely true that you should! This is NOT just a friendly piece of advice to pamper the new mom – it is a necessity. Your endorphins/adrenaline will carry you for about a week before you crash – hard. Don’t let that happen – get help from family and friends, and focus on recovering from childbirth and on breastfeeding.

Preparation Is Key: (PAID LINKS ARE HERE) at least 2 good supportive nursing bras, nursing pads, 100% purified lanolin for sore nipples, pajamas with easy access for nursing (not necessarily expensive nursing pajamas, even pajamas with button up or pull up tops will do), and frozen peas/gel packs and cabbage to ease any breast engorgement/soreness/inflammation. This is the bare minimum equipment; some moms also find it helpful to have a rocker, a sling, a pump, breastmilk storage bottles or bags, a nursing pillow, or other items, but you can do fine without these, too.

GET IT ON: Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after you deliver. Babies who are breastfed within the first hour generally have more successful breastfeeding experiences than those who aren’t. Any medical procedures that aren’t urgent may be delayed to accommodate this important first step, and many procedures can be done while the baby is breastfeeding.

Bottom Line:

Bringing your baby home is simply wonderful. Choosing to breastfeed is indeed one of the best decisions you can make for your family. Breast changes will occur. I encourage you to breastfeed for 2-3 hours and aim for 8times ensuring a good latch. Determine that your baby is getting enough by paying attention to those soiled nappies. Your baby will have growth spurts that call for more breastfeeding; not the need for formula. Sleep when your baby is sleeping and know that the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make and the less you breastfeed, the less milk you will make. Even if you had a C-section you can still breastfeed. Thank you for stopping by today and do visit again. Let me know in the comments how you are doing with this journey.

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