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5 Easy to Remember Tips for Breastfeeding the First Week
The classes pack a lot of information into a couple of hours. The books often don’t seem relevant when you’re still pregnant.
When you are pregnant you are just trying to figure out how that baby is going to get out, and when that is going to happen.
If you Google “breastfeeding tips for the first week” you will get many, many hits. Most of those lists are long. Too long to remember. You have pregnancy brain as it is. And who wants to be looking up lists on their phone in the early days after they give birth?
If what you are looking for are some easy to remember tips for that first week then you have come to the right place.
The Five Tips
1 – Do skin to skin
- Do it early. Like, immediately after your baby is born.
- If you can’t do it immediately because of a medical problem with you or your baby, then do it as soon as you can
- If you are giving birth in a hospital and they don’t do skin to skin immediately, ask why.
- Babies cry less (Source).
- They have more stable blood sugar levels (Source).
- Their temperature is more stable (Source).
- It promotes brain development (Source).
Skin to skin is often promoted during the first hour after birth. However, we know that after that it continues to have those same benefits.
I was a lactation consultant for over 24 years in the hospital. My personal observation was that prolonged skin to skin results in more frequent breastfeeding.
2 – Breastfeed early and often
Watch for your baby’s cues. These are the signs that your baby wants to eat.
Frequent breastfeeding in the early days results in:
- less weight loss in your baby
- less problems with jaundice
- helps your milk come in sooner
- helps stimulate an abundant milk supply long term
If allowed frequent skin to skin, most babies will breastfeed often. I call it “keeping them in the kitchen.” I can’t take credit for that quote, but I can’t remember who I heard it from.
It’s also important to understand that breastfeeding is not just about eating for babies.
Your baby was enjoying that All Inclusive resort in your womb. He was in the hot tub with the 24-hour room service.
Then his world was rocked.
He started getting this intense massage. All of a sudden the air hits his body for the first time ever. He’s being dried off with towels and blankets. I wonder what THAT feels like?
He is probably getting poke and prodded with thermometers and cold stethoscopes. He may have the cool breeze of an oxygen masked shoved in his face.
Is it any surprise that he finds refuge at his mama’s breast? It is safe and comforting and quickly becomes familiar.
This is where he weans from the womb. (Which is another awesome saying I heard from someone else).
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A lot! Take good care of yourself.
You will be excited. You will want to share the joy of this miraculous new life with your family and friends.
However, caring for your baby and for yourself must always come first.
Babies eat a lot in the early days. Your baby may want to “eat all the time,” this is normal, healthy behavior. This is a good thing!
Babies also like to eat more frequently at night. When I say more, I mean a lot more. We call this cluster-feeding.
Your baby may want to eat constantly for hours.
Your baby may suck for a few minutes and then fall asleep. When you try to put him down, he’ll wake up and want to eat some more/
What’s a mother to do?
An afternoon nap is your best friend.
If you give birth in a hospital there may be a “quiet time” when no visitors are allowed. (Mom’s partner is never considered a visitor). If your hospital doesn’t have quiet time then you can always make your own.
Put a sign on your hospital door that says, “Mom resting, DO NOT DISTURB!” If you give birth at home, or go home soon after birth, you can put that sign on your front door.
Create a greeting on your phone with the important details. Sex, weight, date of birth. Then put your phone on Do Not Disturb.
When people come to visit you at home, make them pay admission. People usually bring gifts for the new baby. Ask them to also bring a meal or do a something around the house.
- They can throw in a load of laundry, or fold some. You will be amazed at how much laundry the little person creates.
- They can put dishes in the dishwasher.
- If they are a really good friend, they can clean the toilet.
- Ask them to stop by the grocery store and pick up some groceries for you.
If you are not good enough friends to ask them to do these things, they shouldn’t be visiting you this early!
You can also put a list of the things you need done on your front door. Make it cute and clever if you want to. Direct is fine too.
Under no circumstances should visitors expect you to serve them drinks or food!
If you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of them then you need to feel comfortable enough to ask them to leave.
Taking care of yourself and your baby always needs to come first. I know I said that before, but I think it needs repeating.
If you don’t take out time to rest during the day, you will pay for it later.
Trust me on this. Not only will your baby be crying in the middle of the night, but you might also be as well.
If you hit the wall in the middle of the night, or during the day, you may need to take a break from everything.
Sleep if your baby is sleeping. If your baby is awake, have your partner wrap the baby up and go for a walk. They should go out in the hall or outside or anywhere away from you.
Often an hour of interrupted sleep can make all the difference in the world.
Whoever is taking care of the baby while you take a break should bring him to you if he is showing any feeding cues. Babies should not have feedings put off.
It is also important that you eat regularly and drink lots of fluids. Water, non-caffeinated tea, whatever you like. Just make sure it doesn’t have caffeine or a lot of sugar.
Avoid peppermint tea. It can decrease supply.
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4 – Get a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding. (Substitute family doctor, nurse practitioner, PA, or whoever is going to be providing care for your baby).
Choose someone before your baby is born. Interview them. Don’t just get recommendations and choose the one all your friends go to.
Don’t just ask what they think of breastfeeding. I can assure you that no health care provider is going to say they don’t support breastfeeding.
What you want to ask is how they will support your decision to breastfeed.
If they answer, “Yes, I support breastfeeding, but…” then they are not supportive of breastfeeding. It doesn’t matter what comes after the “but.” There is no “but.”
Breastfeeding is important. What you want to know is what they are going to do to support you with breastfeeding.
- What do they suggest you do if you experience problems?
- Would they refer you to a lactation consultant?
- Do they have a lactation consultant in their office. If so, find out what her reputation is in your community.
- Find out how long they spend with moms doing lactation consults.
- Under what circumstances would they tell you to supplement with formula?
- There are valid reasons to supplement. However, some of the reasons I have heard have left me shaking my head.
- For what reasons would they tell you to stop breastfeeding?
- Unless there is a medical reason, the decision to stop breastfeeding should always be your and yours alone.
Red flags that a doctor is not supportive of breastfeeding:
- Formula in their waiting room.
- Breastfeeding literature published by a formula company.
- If they give you formula “just in case” or say that it is always good to have some formula on hand.
- If they say “breastfeeding isn’t for everyone.”
Medical schools only spend 1-2 hours on breastfeeding. Ask if they have taken any continuing education related to breastfeeding. Do they read articles to keep up to date on research and best practices?
Ask when they will want to see your baby in the office after you have gone home from the hospital
Breastfed babies should be seen at 3-5 days of age. Most people go home from the hospital before this.
One reason for this first visit is to see how breastfeeding is going. How is the baby’s weight. Is there any jaundice. Has your milk come in? Is the baby having enough wet and dirty diapers.
5 – Get help sooner rather than later – And know how to get it.
If you have lactation consultants in your community, have a couple of names lined up. The first person recommended might not be available when you need her. My advice is to get at lest two name, preferable three.
- Is it important to you to have someone who can come to your home?
- How long have they been in practice?
- What are their credentials
- What was their training?
- How much do they charge?
- What kind of follow-up is included?
Is it important that your insurance cover the cost of a lactation consultant? Check with your insurer to see what kind of consults they cover and if there are any restrictions.
When I wrote this (January 2019) the Affordable Care Act in the USA states that lactation consults are to be covered without a deductible or co-pay. Not all insurance companies have been compliant. Some have so many restrictions it can be difficult to get a consult covered.
One thing I often hear is that the insurance company will cover it if it is preventative, but not if there is a problem. I know, that makes no sense. But we’re talking about insurance companies.
If you don’t have lactation consultants in your community, get a virtual lactation consult.
This isn’t a complete list of breastfeeding tips. It should get you through the first week though.
One Last Thought
Preparation is important. Keep it simple though.
Take a class. Buy a book or two. It’s ok if you don’t read them until after your baby has arrived.
You will probably hear and read conflicting information. If the advice you are getting is very rigid, maybe it should be questioned.
Listen first and foremost to your inner voice.
Breastfeeding the First Week – 5 Easy to Remember Tips
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.