So, You're About to Deliver: 8 Tips on Getting Started with Breastfeeding from Birth
So, you're just days away from delivering your LO, and you're curious about how to get started with breastfeeding from birth. Below are a few tips and recommendations to help calm down any anxiety you might be feeling.
Leverage (and bask in) that first "Golden Hour"
The first hour after birth is a beautiful and important time to help establish a great breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby. As part of your birth plan, make sure to include (and share with every professional and support person on your team) that you would like to breastfeed your baby.
A newborn will want to feed soon after they are born. To facilitate that first feeding session, be firm with your team about how much time is spent away from your baby initially – you want that timeframe to be as short as possible.
Here's an overview of baby’s first hour:
6 minutes: Baby opens eyes
11 minutes: Baby massages the breast
12 minutes: Baby places their hand to their mouth
21 minutes: Baby begins to root (search for the breast
27 minutes: Baby's tongue stretches
80 minutes: Breastfeeding begins
(Source: Lactation Education Resources)
Personal Note: When my baby girl was born, I asked that she be placed on my belly straight out of the womb with minimal wiping down (the vernix coat helps protect a new baby from the new atmospheric elements), and to let me hold her for her first hour of life.
Once she was born, my midwife placed her on my belly initially while we waited for the last few pulses from the umbilical cord. After the cord was cut, they quickly weighed her, gave her a vitamin K shot, and then returned her to me for Golden Hour.
Rooming-in and Skin-to-Skin time is crucial
Try to hold your baby with no material between your bodies as often as possible. Skin-to-skin time helps to not only balance a new baby's blood sugar and body temperature, but it also comforts the baby (they can hear your heartbeat, see your face and smell your unique scent). If you are not up to it, or if you want to share all the goodness with your support person, know that anyone can hold the baby skin-to-skin for similar results.
- Watch for feeding cues
Once your baby begins to cry from hunger, it means you might have missed their feeding cues. Here is a list of cues to watch out for in the order they generally occur:
- Opening mouth, making sucking noises
- Sucking on fists
- Rooting: rubbing head into your chest and opening mouth
- Wiggling to get into a breastfeeding position; turning head side-to-side
- Attend the group breastfeeding class while in the hospital
Most “Baby Friendly” hospitals will offer a consultation with a lactation consultant and/or an opportunity to attend a group breastfeeding class. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about breastfeeding your baby and to fellowship with other new moms. I learned a lot from the group breastfeeding session by watching other mothers’ techniques and asking the instructor questions. I also got an idea of the type of breastfeeding pillow and glider/rocking chair were the most comfortable.
- Breastfeeding Holds
- Cross-cradle – great position from birth
- Cradle – most popular position
Football – great for moms who’ve had C-sections.
Laid-back – best researched position that uses gravity and your body to support the baby naturally.
Side-lying – Great position for when you are exhausted or uncomfortable. Make sure to place a rolled up blanket or pillow behind baby for support.
Pro Tip: Do not swaddle your baby before breastfeeding! It is best to be skin-to-skin in the first weeks of breastfeeding, and for the baby to have full range of motion of their arms and hands. You can also watch your baby’s hands for cues – tight fists means hunger, relaxed hands mean they are satisfied. (Source: CDC)
- Make sure your latch is right
The best latch is a latch that is comfortable and does not hurt. If this is your first time breastfeeding, you may feel a tug, but you should not feel any pinching.
For the best latch, offer the breast to the baby. First, sandwich the breast, by squishing it like you would a sandwich or sub you’re ready to take a big bite out of. Use your nipple to stroke your baby’s nose and lips. Once the baby opens their mouth, bring the baby to the breast (do not lunge toward the baby). An asymmetrical latch – one where more of the bottom of the areola vs. the top of the areola is in the baby’s mouth. The baby should have a more than 140˚ wide mouth angle.
(Source: Lactation Education Resources)
Pro Tip: If you need to break the baby’s latch, place your finger between their gums to break the seal and then scoop your nipple out.
- Leave the pacifiers at home
To ensure that you are establishing your milk supply, and creating a great breastfeeding relationship with your baby, it is recommended that a pacifier not be used for 3-6 weeks after your baby is born.
- Track feeds and diapers
Keep a daily log of the number of breastfeeds and diapers. Your pediatrician will ask you about these things, and they will be hard to remember in your new mom fog – I mean – glow. So, to track it all (including naps and any future bottles) I recommend using an app like Ovia Parenting or Baby Tracker-Newborn Log.
Pro Tip: Use a hair tie to remember which side you breastfed on last. If you start on the left breast (meal), and then finish on the right (dessert) you should start your next breastfeeding session on the right breast to make sure it’s getting fully drained. Many women will make more milk on one side (usually the right side) but it’s important to try and express from each breast equally to guard against engorgement that can lead to mastitis.
Other things to know:
- Newborns nurse a minimum of 8-12 times every 24 hours. That can translate to feeding every 2-3 hours. You can time this by noting the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.
- Breastfed babies don't have to burp (like bottle-fed babies). Some moms will massage baby's back in gentle circles between switching sides to comfort baby and ensure they are in a receptive state.
- Once you move to bottle-feeding, make sure to use a slow flow nipple and the pace feeding method to replicate the breastfeeding experience. This will help switching between bottles and feeding at the breast a little more seamless.
- Although implied, feeding by bottle does not always mean formula feeding. This fact did not click for me until I pumped breastmilk and then fed it to my baby girl by bottle. Seems like a no-brainer, but wanted to make it clear here!
My favorite products to make breastfeeding easier–
- My Brest Friend pillow
- Nursing Bra
- Nursing Tank
- Organic Nipple Balm
- Soothing Gel Pads
- Link to my products recommendations list on Amazon
Apps and Books
- Wonder Weeks App
- Ovia Parenting App
- Lactivate! A User's Guide to Breastfeeding
- From our friends at Oat Mama, Eat to Feed
The burning question that every mom has: When Will My Milk Come In??
You first will express colostrum for about 3-5 days. Your transitional milk supply (a combination of colostrum and milk) will come in after that. About 3 weeks later, you will have mature milk. At this point, you will make milk on demand. Remember, the more you breastfeed (the more milk you express), the more milk you will make. It’s important to make sure your baby is at your breast as often as possible. The proximity of your baby and their tendency to suckle at your breast helps your body to produce the hormones that signal further milk production.
Do you have any more tips to share? Please comment below.
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