Tips for Starting Breastfeeding Strong
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 beginning breastfeeding – when to start 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, and the more you know ahead of time, the better prepared you will be. So, keep these tips for breastfeeding a newborn in mind as you begin your journey.
There’s no better time to start breastfeeding than the first time you’re able to hold your baby. Studies have shown better breastfeeding outcomes when babies are held skin to skin on your chest immediately and for at least an hour after birth. Your newborn will typically find your nipple and start suckling out of instinct when placed on your chest, but try not to get discouraged if your baby is struggling with latching – it may take a bit of practice and help before your little one gets it right. If your baby is in the NICU or unable to breastfeed right after birth, it’s important to use a breast pump as soon as possible. Research indicates that pumping within an hour after birth brings in larger milk volumes sooner than if pumping is started even a few hours later.
Don’t stress about supply
Even while you’re still pregnant, your body starts producing colostrum, a special type of breast milk – referred to as “first milk” – packed with healthy nutrients to support a strong immune system. This colostrum is the first step in beginning breastfeeding and will be ready for baby as soon as they start nursing. It’s important to remember that newborns’ stomachs are incredibly small. Research shows that babies only consume around a teaspoon per feeding in the first 24 hours after birth, so don’t be discouraged about not producing large volumes of milk on your first day. As you continue to breastfeed and your baby grows, your milk will change and your supply will increase to meet your baby’s needs.
Nurse or pump often
Breast milk is produced on a supply=demand basis, so frequent nursing and/or pumping in the first few days after birth is one of the most important breastfeeding newborn tips. This tells the breasts and the brain that baby is hungry and bigger volumes of milk need to be produced. Most experts recommend feeding at least 8 to 10 times per day in the first week after birth to set the stage for a plentiful milk supply later. Watch for hunger cues, and don’t be concerned if baby feeds more than 8 to 10 times a day – focus on your newborn’s health and weight gain to gauge their wellbeing, and ask your doctor, nursing team, or Lactation Consultant if you have any questions or concerns.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
It’s human nature to view our experiences from the lens of what those around us have done. We can’t tell new moms enough, “Every woman’s body is different, and every breastfeeding journey is different.” The experiences of your friends or family, or even your past breastfeeding experiences, may not reflect what's right for you now, and comparing those to your current journey opens yourself up to unnecessary stress and takes you out of the moment you’re in – the incredible adventure of welcoming a new family member to the world. Keep in mind, too, that occasionally a mother may have factors during pregnancy or birth, like diabetes, delivering via C-section, or certain medications, that can cause a delay in the onset of “big” milk volumes. Work with your healthcare team both before and after birth to prepare for any predictable challenges you may face when beginning breastfeeding.
While breastfeeding is natural, it does not always come naturally. Our advice to any new mom who hopes to breastfeed is to follow the tips above, and give yourself and your baby time to practice and learn together to figure out what works best for you. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask your doctor, nurses, or a Lactation Consultant to teach and support you where you feel less confident. They are there to help you and your baby thrive – both when beginning breastfeeding and adjusting to life together.