It’s not unusual to be anxious about breastfeeding in your first 24 hours as a new mother
Do you remember your very first day, of your very first job? Remember that awkward feeling of not knowing exactly what to do? Maybe you wondered if you’d ever get the hang of it? Well, your first day of motherhood and breastfeeding may feel like that too. But, knowing what to expect can help alleviate some of those first-day-fears. So here are a few things to know about the first day of your baby’s life. Keep in mind that each mother, each baby, and each birth is different. So while these are common experiences, you will have your own unique and special day.
The birth of your baby
If this is your first baby, you have probably spent many months thinking about what it will be like to give birth. You’ve thought about how you will know if you are in labor, how it will feel, and what it will be like to hold your baby for the first time. If you’ve been reading about breastfeeding, you’ve probably learned that the very best place for your baby to be, following birth, is with you! In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy newborns be placed and remain in direct “skin-to-skin” contact with their mothers immediately after birth and remain there until the after the first feeding. So in most cases, when your baby is born, the nurse will place him right on your chest, quickly dry, assess, and diaper your baby, then allow him to remain with you for at least the first hour.
Skin-to-Skin Contact (SSC)
Skin-to-skin contact refers to times when your baby, wearing a diaper only, is placed on your bare chest, and both you and your baby are covered with a blanket. It typically occurs immediately after birth. While you might think that this is a fun & cozy thing to do (which it is) – it is actually so much more! Skin-to–skin contact is the best way to help your baby transition to her new environment. Babies that are held in skin-to-skin contact after birth have been shown to have more stable temperatures and blood sugars. They also cry less and breastfeed better. So plan to spend at least the first hour following birth, holding your baby in skin-to-skin contact.
The first feedings
Most babies have a very alert period following birth. This allows the baby to seek out the breast, latch on and suck, usually within the first 60-90 minutes. While the first feeding is important – it’s not a race. There is no need to rush the baby to breastfeed. It’s best to let the baby lead the way and many times, the baby will move towards the breast on his very own. You can help him, of course, but don’t feel you have to push him to feed. Healthy term infants have plenty of reserves, and the first effective feeding can happen any time in the first day. The first time your baby actually latches on to your breast, you will feel a strong tugging sensation as he begins to suckle. Some mothers find this completely comfortable, and for some it may feel slightly uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. If you are experiencing pain, or if your baby seems to be having a hard time latching, the hospital staff will be there to help you, so be sure to ask. After the first feeding, babies tend to be quite sleepy for several hours. You’ll be sleepy too! This is a perfect time for you to rest, and for your partner to have some one-on-one time with baby. Take advantage of this time and avoid the temptation to entertain visitors. There will be plenty of time for friends and family later.
Your first milk
The first milk your body makes is called colostrum. Most mothers do not feel any breast changes in the first day, and after an initial sleepy period, most babies become very interested in feeding. This combination sometimes leads mom to think they have “no milk.” But colostrum is milk, so don’t worry! Colostrum is exactly what your baby needs right now. It has protective qualities that help your baby fight infection. As your baby takes in the colostrum with feeding, your body will respond by making more colostrum, which will eventually lead to a full and mature milk supply. The more frequently your baby breastfeeds, the better.
When to feed
Your baby will signal you when he needs to breastfeed, by sucking on his hands, turning his head and opening his mouth, or by crying. It’s important for you to respond to his cues as soon as possible, by bringing him to your breast, preferably in skin-to-skin contact. This closeness to you will stimulate him to latch on and breastfeed. Most babies will want to feed about eight or more times in the first 24 hours. If you feel that your baby is not nursing often enough, be sure to let the hospital staff know, so that they can help you. As for the length of the feedings, this too, will vary. Some babies will have feedings as short as five minutes, and others may breastfeed for 45 minutes or longer. This is very common in the first day, and your baby will likely have a combination of short and long feedings. The best way to assure good feeding in the first day, is to allow your baby plenty of skin-to-skin time with you. After all, this is where he needs to be, in order to learn to breastfeed!
Why exclusive breastfeeding is important
Exclusive breastfeeding means that your baby receives breast milk only. This is important not only for your baby’s health, but for the establishment of a full milk supply. As you allow your baby to nurse frequently, this sends the proper signals to your brain, which will stimulate milk production. Introduction of formula, artificial nipples and pacifiers is associated with lower milk production. So plan to avoid these things in the early days and weeks.
Occasionally mothers will experience complications with birth or feeding. Maybe your baby was born early, or you’ve had an unexpected cesarean birth. Or perhaps your baby is having difficulty with latch. Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff, who will help you get started with breastfeeding. Be sure to ask for the lactation consultant if you are experiencing any difficulties. Even in difficult circumstances, it’s important to remember that with a little help, you can overcome most challenges, and go on to successfully breastfeed.
Enjoy your day
There are not a lot of days you will remember for a lifetime, but this is going to be one of them. Most moms remember experiencing a mix of emotions including pride, awe, fear and exhaustion. Some moms report feeling an immediate bond with their baby, and others say it took a little time. Don’t put a lot of expectations on yourself – just remember to keep your baby close, rest when your baby is resting, and breastfeed early and often. This will get you off to a great start with breastfeeding- right from day one.