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BREASTFEEDING YOUR NEWBORN THE FIRST DAY
Your brand-new baby has arrived. You have been waiting nine months for this moment.
Breastfeeding is so important to you, and you want to make sure you do everything you can to get it right. You are so excited to start breastfeeding your newborn.
The most important piece of advice to getting it right is to not worry about doing it right.
Take this most important moment when your little one has arrived and enjoy it. Look into her eyes and welcome her. Feel the power of this moment. You will always remember it.
There are things about breastfeeding your newborn on the first day that are important to do. Just as important, there are things you want to avoid doing.
When my first baby was born, I remember thinking I should do skin to skin. But I’d had a C-section, and I didn’t even get to hold him until I was in the recovery room. By then, baby Nicholas was bundled up in a couple of blankets, and he was in his sleepy phase.
I offered him my breast. He just kept right on snoozing. I remember worrying that if he didn’t breastfeed right away, he might never do it.
He eventually woke up and nursed before he went back to the nursery. We never did skin to skin. Even though I was a labor and delivery nurse, it never occurred to me to do it so many hours after he was born.
I have learned so much in the 32 years since then. I want to share with you what I have learned over the years.
These are the things that will make a difference when breastfeeding your baby in the first 24 hours. These are the things that will help you get breastfeeding off to a good start.
I want you to know what not to worry about also.
“Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.” (Glenn Turner).
BIRTH AND BREASTFEEDING
But you can’t always control what happens during labor and birth.
Do as much planning as you can.
- Take a breastfeeding class
- Write a birth plan
- Write a breastfeeding plan
- Give birth in a Baby Friendly hospital if possible
- Do skin to skin with your baby as soon as possible after he is born
- Keep him skin to skin until he breastfeeds
- Watch for signs that he is ready to feed
- Get help with positioning and latch
- “Laid-back breastfeeding” is one of the latest trends in breastfeeding. Just lean back and let your baby self-attach. It’s fantastic when it works. Not so awesome when it doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to give you little one some help and guidance. Listen to your instincts.
SKIN TO SKIN IS VERY IMPORTANT
- Stabilization of baby’s temperature
- Blood sugar regulation
- Encourages breastfeeding initiation
- Longer breastfeeding duration
- Babies cry less
- Encourages bonding
- Pain relief
- Supports neurobehavioral development
- Better cardio-respiratory function
- Stimulates maternal hormones that can decrease bleeding
- Less maternal postpartum depression
You can do skin-to-skin even if you have a C-section. Ask at your hospital if they do skin-to-skin in the OR. If they say no, ask if they will do it for you. It all starts somewhere!
If a medical reason prevents you from doing skin-to-skin right after birth, insist upon it as soon as you and your baby are stable.
A lot of books and articles talk about skin-to-skin in the first hour or until your baby breastfeeds. I really encourage it for the first several days.
- You baby will breastfeed more often
- He will cry less
- Your baby will stay more alert during feedings
- It continues to have all the benefits mentioned above
- Do skin-to-skin should if your baby has a low temperature
- It is more effective than putting him under a warmer (Source).
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BREASTFEEDING NEWBORN TIPs
- Watch for cues showing that your baby is interested in eating.
- Babies often look for the breast when they are skin-to-skin.
- There are videos on YouTube that show babies doing the “breast crawl.”
- The breast-crawl is where they wriggle and squirm their way to the breast and latch themselves on.
- Your baby may take breaks and even fall asleep as he makes his way to your breast. This is normal.
NEWBORN STAGES OF ALERTNESS
In the first couple of hours after birth, a baby is usually very alert and interested in eating.
After that alert period, a newborn will usually take a nice long nap. That isn’t surprising when you think about it. He just went through a pretty eventful experience!
This first nap can last from a couple of hours to the rest of his first 24 hours of life.
You, on the other hand, are probably riding an adrenaline wave. Don’t worry too much about trying to nap. Go ahead and bask in the awesomeness of what you just did.
COLOSTRUM – BABY’S FIRST MILK
A lot of mamas think that they have no “milk” when their baby is firstborn.
Colostrum is milk. It is the early milk that is in your breasts when your baby is first born. Your body starts making it in the last trimester of your pregnancy.
It is a special, wonderful kind of milk. There is so much that is so good about it.
- Colostrum is a laxative and aids in the passing of the meconium.
- It helps close the gut lining, which helps prevent allergies and diseases.
- It is chock full of antibodies. Some people call it baby’s first vaccination.
Colostrum is made in small amounts. This is perfect because your baby’s tummy is tiny in the first few days. It is about the size of a cherry.
BEST BREASTFEEDING TECHNIQUES FOR YOUR NEWBORN
NEWBORN BREASTFEEDING POSITIONS
- The best position is one that helps your baby get a deep latch.
- It is a breastfeeding position that is comfortable for you.
This may be the cross-cradle hold, or football hold or even the side-lying position.
HOW TO LATCH YOUR BABY ON
- Your baby is facing you.
- His nose is opposite your nipple
- When he opens wide, pull him in quickly and closely.
HOW TO TELL IF BABY IS LATCHED ON PROPERLY
- His chin should be pressed into your breast.
- His nose should not be pressed against your breast.
- It doesn’t hurt! It will feel like a strong tug, but it should not be painful.
Get help from a nurse, lactation consultant, or your midwife. Keep asking for help until you feel comfortable doing it without assistance.
GOOD LATCH VS BAD LATCH
This is a picture of a baby that has a good latch.
This is a picture of a baby that is not positioned correctly. He is on his back and has to turn his head to latch on to the breast. That makes it hard to swallow. He should be tummy to tummy with his mom.
Try turning your head like that and then swallow.
It doesn’t feel great for you and doesn’t feel good for your baby either.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU EXPECT YOUR BABY TO BREASTFEED ON THE FIRST DAY?
Have you heard that a baby should eat at least eight times in a 24 hour period? That may not happen on her first day of life.
Depending on what the birth was like, your baby may not be interested at all in breastfeeding the first day. She may only eat a few times, or she may eat as many as eight or more times.
WHEN A BABY DOESN’T WANT TO EAT AT ALL THE FIRST DAY
You probably read that and thought, wait, what???
A brand-new baby has never had to think about eating before. After she is born, it make take her some time to figure out what hunger is.
Things that can make a baby not interested in breastfeeding the first day:
- A long labor or a difficult birth
- Medications during labor (Source)
- Being premature (born earlier than 38 weeks)
- A tummy full of amniotic fluid
- Being “spitty” (although that is not a medical term, we use it a lot).
- This may be from a tummy full of amniotic fluid
- Spittiness usually doesn’t start until 12-18 hours after birth
- I have a theory that it is the tummy getting used to functioning and figuring out what it is supposed to do.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR NEWBORN IS NOT INTERESTED IN FEEDING THE FIRST 24 HOURS
- Skin-to-skin (you can’t do too much)
- Massage his back, rub his cheeks, lips, and gums
- Try hand-expressing some colostrum and rubbing it on your baby’s tongue or gums
- Hands-down, the most effective way I have found to get a sleepy baby to breastfeed is the side-lying position with skin-to-skin.
- Side-lying can be tricky with a newborn, so get another set of hands to help you.
- A nurse, lactation consultant, or midwife can help. She can show your partner how they can help with this position.
5 THINGS TO AVOID BABY’S FIRST DAY
1 – VISITORS
- Don’t have a lot of visitors.
- Don’t play “pass the baby.” This can cause over-stimulation.
- Your baby may appear to be sleeping. Babies often “shut down “because the stimulation is too much for them.
2 – SUPPLEMENTING WITH FORMULA WHEN NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY
- Most babies do fine if they don’t eat in the first day.
- Newborns have glucose stores to get them through that first day.
- Being fed formula from a bottle can make a baby want that fast flow. This can result in him being fussy at the breast.
- Formula changes the pH and the bacterial colonization of a baby’s gut.
- If the nurse is concerned, she may decide to check his blood sugar.
- If the blood sugar is in the normal range, then there is no need to supplement.
- If the blood sugar is low, that is a medical reason that you should supplement.
3 – PACIFIERS
Avoid pacifiers in the first month of breastfeeding.
If your baby wants to suck, offer him your breast.
4 – TRYING TOO LONG TO GET A SLEEPY BABY TO LATCH ON
- Don’t actively try to get your baby to breastfeed for longer than 15-20 minutes at a time.
- If she’s not responding, let her sleep and try again in an hour.
- You can express drops of your colostrum onto her lips and tongue.
Long sessions of trying will just wear her out and are usually very frustrating for you.
5 – HAND MITTENS
A baby’s hands are a vital part of their feeding behaviors. She needs to be able to get to them.
The baby who is very sleepy in the first 24 hours will often make up for it the second 24 hours by feeding very frequently.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BREASTFEEDING YOUR NEWBORN THE FIRST DAY
The three essential things to remember about breastfeeding your newborn the first day:
- Do lots of skin to skin.
- Watch for feeding cues.
- Enjoy your baby!
Do you feel ready for your first day of breastfeeding? What questions do you have after reading this? Leave a comment below, and I will respond.
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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.