To say the first 24 hours after giving birth are a whirlwind would be an understatement. It’s a time full of overwhelming emotions, including love, joy, and even stress. As much as you have prepared for those first moments, it can be hard to know if you are doing everything right when it comes to taking care of your new baby.
One of the most frequent concerns for new moms is how to begin breastfeeding and how to ensure you are providing your baby with enough milk. Those first hours with your new baby are crucial to setting up a positive breastfeeding experience. So, keep these tips in mind as you begin your journey.
Start early. There’s no better time to start breastfeeding than the first time you’re able to hold your baby, usually within the first hour after birth. When baby is placed on your chest they will typically find your breast and start suckling in the first hour following birth. Try not to get discouraged if your baby is struggling with latching. Breastfeeding can be challenging, and often takes a lot of patience and practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Nurses and midwives can help you find a position that works, and hospitals may even have Lactation Consultants available to ensure moms have a resource for breastfeeding challenges. Don’t have a Lactation Consultant readily available to you? Ask your questions directly to our Lactation Consultant or follow us on Facebook for immediate help and guidance from professionals and other new moms like you.
Don’t stress about supply. At 16-20 weeks pregnant, your body will start producing colostrum, a special type of breast milk – referred to as “first milk” – packed with healthy nutrients to support a strong immune system. Understand that a newborn’s stomach is incredibly small. So, when you’re getting started breastfeeding, your body will produce a small, yet adequate, amount of colostrum to ensure your baby gets all the powerful nutrients needed to support healthy development. As you continue to breastfeed and your baby grows, your milk will change and your supply will increase to benefit your baby’s needs.
Nurse often. By breastfeeding frequently immediately following birth, your body is already beginning to accommodate your baby’s needs. As you cuddle and feed on demand in those first 24 hours, your body will further adjust to the appetite of your little one. Most experts believe you should aim for about eight to 12 nursing sessions each day for the first several weeks in order to establish and maintain a plentiful milk supply.
When you can’t nurse. In cases where your baby has breastfeeding challenges following birth or is separated from you due to health issues, you may not be able nurse right away. However, this time following birth is critical for setting you up for a successful breastfeeding journey, and you should still take this time to begin pumping your milk right away. Plan to pump as much as your baby would nurse if they were with you. That means at least eight sessions in a day (about every two-to-three hours). Your baby will be fed your pumped breast milk through a tube or bottle until they are able to nurse at your breast.
Breastfeeding can be challenging, especially when combined with all of the new things that come with a baby. But it’s also a beautiful opportunity to connect and bond with your baby. It’s also normal to feel overwhelmed by your baby’s frequent nursing and exhausted from lack of sleep. Remember to ask for help when you need it, and that you are doing an amazing thing for your baby.
Veteran moms – what tips do you have for establishing a breastfeeding routine in the first 24 hours? Share in the comments below.