Breastfeeding a newborn – what can you do in the first 24 hours to get things started out well?
If so, kudos to you for looking ahead to learn what to expect!
You’re going to be far more prepared for breastfeeding a newborn than many moms (including me!)
Because although breastfeeding is the biological norm, it isn’t necessarily easy. There are some hurdles you might have to overcome, and a lot of it comes down to a good strong start in the first 24 hours after your baby is born.
Oh, and if you don’t manage to follow these tips to the letter, don’t worry! It is definitely still possible to succeed with nursing.
Here are 8 tips to handling those first hours after birth so that you can successfully get started breastfeeding your newborn:
1. Try to have a natural, unmedicated birth
As you approach the end of the third trimester it’s only natural to start thinking and worrying about labor. Let’s face it. Labor isn’t exactly the most pleasant experience. But, there are ways to manage through labor.
Have you been considering your options? There are quite a few pain relief options you’ve got to choose from – some are natural, and some involve medication.
Some natural methods include:
- using pain management techniques like vocalisation, stress balls, or movement.
- using a bath, shower, or heat packs.
- using a TENS machine (sort of natural)
Medical options include:
- Morphine/Pethidine injection
I don’t want to get on a soapbox about natural unmedicated birthing – I didn’t have one! – but interventions like medication, induction, and epidurals interfere with the normal birthing hormones. Those natural birthing hormones help with the initiation of breastfeeding and bonding with baby.
2. Breastfeed within the first hour
Whether your birth is medicated or not (or if you deliver by c-section), try to breastfeed within the first hour. Babies instinctively seek the breast and will even do a ‘breast crawl’ to reach and latch on the nipple. Feeding within the first hour is good for both mom and baby:
For mom – it helps promote lactation and can decrease blood loss.
For baby – it helps baby get off to a good start with healthy colostrum, the thick yellow ‘pre-milk’ that’s rich in antibodies.
3. Demand feed
While you may have heard well meaning advice from family and friends about getting your newborn on a schedule from day one… or read a book that tells you to restrict feed length and frequency… this is a bad idea and can impact on your milk supply.
Newborns often cluster feed to help bring your milk in (usually your milk comes in around day 3) and as your baby gets older they’ll probably do it around growth spurt times. It’s not exactly fun and can be painful, but it’s necessary for ensuring your supply gets off to a good start.
If you’re worried about soreness, invest in a nipple cream like this one and cool packs like these and pack them into your hospital bag right now. It’s worth it. (You’ll probably get told that using your own breastmilk is just as good… but it’s just not the same.)
4. Lots of Skin to Skin
Skin to skin contact is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. It helps to calm and regulate baby’s temperature, heart rate and breathing.
Skin to skin also helps with breastfeeding as baby has easy access.
When my little one was born, all I wanted to do was hang out skin to skin with him in the hospital. I guess I was kind of in shock that he was here (he was a bit early) and I could relax when I was holding him (whereas when he was in the crib, I felt like I couldn’t even leave him to shower!)
5. Rooming in
Many hospitals have a rooming in policy where babies stay with their mom in their hospital room. Other hospitals have a nursery where the babies are taken to and moms are left to recover alone.
There are pros and cons to both sides…
- PROS – helps with bonding, you’re able to meet you baby’s needs immediately, and helps get breastfeeding off to a great start.
- CONS – you’re not able to rest as well, and after being in labor you really need rest.
- PROS – you can rest up, ready to go home and face life as a new mom.
- CONS – you’re separated from your baby and in some hospitals this may mean your baby is given formula.
6. Find a comfortable position that works for you
When you first start breastfeeding, it’s not uncommon to feel really awkward. I felt all elbows and knees.
It’s important to breastfeed in a comfortable, relaxed and supported position as you can strain your muscles from holding yourself in a strange position! Yes. I know that from experience.
Here are some positions that worked well for me:
- Koala position – you sit reclining on the bed/chair and baby ‘straddles’ your leg facing you.
- Side lying – I couldn’t get the hang of this one with a newborn but as my little one got older it became my go-to position.
You might find it easier to breastfeed with a nursing pillow like a boppy. If you’re planning to use one, take it with you in your hospital bag.
7. Talk to a lactation consultant
When you first start breastfeeding you’ll probably wonder on more than one occasion if you’re actually doing this right… that’s why it’s great to be able to talk to an expert.
Your hospital might offer breastfeeding classes, so make sure to check them out. Or, there might be a lactation consultant on shift who you can talk to. You really want to feel confident your baby is feeding successfully before you go home, but if you need to you can arrange an appointment after you leave.
This is extremely important if you’re having difficulties with breastfeeding, like:
- Breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples
- Baby seems to have difficulty latching
- Baby isn’t achieving a proper seal with the latch
8. Take care of yourself
Most importantly, make sure you take care of yourself. You probably haven’t been sleeping well (third trimester life) and you could’ve been in labor for a while. Labor and birth is exhausting (understatement of the century).
Make sure you get something to eat. Drink lots of water (it helps your breastmilk production). And be kind to yourself, postpartum can be decidedly uncomfortable! Do what you can to make things easier. If you have offers of help from family and friends, take them up on it!
There’s definitely a learning curve to breastfeeding a newborn. Those first few days are some of the hardest, but most rewarding. You’ve got a wonderful journey to look forward to and nursing definitely gets easier as baby gets older!