Five Tips for Breastfeeding Newborns
Childbirth is an exciting and tumultuous time and the last thing you want to worry about is being able to feed your baby. But first attempts at breastfeeding can often be exasperating for both you and your child. We spoke with a variety of breastfeeding experts to compile their top five tips to help you and your baby sail through the first days after birth.
Nurse as soon as possible after birth.
This is not only about nourishing the baby, but also about fulfilling important biological processes. Once a mother pushes out the placenta, her body begins producing colostrum, a highly nourishing form of pre-breast milk. Breastfeeding as soon as possible gets nutrients to the baby immediately and also takes advantage of babies’ natural reflex to suckle. Your baby’s suckling stimulates additional milk production and causes mature milk to come in approximately 48-72 hours after birth. Breastfeeding soon after birth also furthers the bond between mother and child.
Don’t give up in the first few days.
Ideally, mothers should feed their babies eight to ten times in the first 24 hours, and for the next few days after that. Your breasts may initially have only a few drops of colostrum, but it is enough to give the baby the nutrition he or she needs in the first few days (unless the baby’s pediatrician indicates otherwise). Those first few drops of colostrum are packed with so many essential nutrients that supplementing with formula is unnecessary. In any case, newborns’ stomachs are very small and cannot handle more than about 3-5 milliliters per feed. Additionally, glycogen provided to the baby through the placenta prior to birth continues to nourish the baby in the first two or three days outside the womb.
Undress to feed.
Whether because of modesty or because of ease and comfort, many mothers try to cover up when breastfeeding—especially when in public. But the skin-to-skin contact between mother and child is important: it comforts the baby and strengthens the bond between mother and child. Ideally, nursing should be done with a fully bare chest for the mother and no clothes for the infant, maximizing skin-to-skin contact. Look for rooms that lock, if privacy is important to you, and explain that nursing this way is good for the baby to any friend or relative who demurs. Breastfeeding capes can also give you a measure of privacy in public, while still allowing close contact with your child.
Accept that your baby will cry.
Crying is a natural way of communicating for babies. Often, it means the baby is hungry. But just as often, your baby may be crying because it misses your heartbeat—a reassuring sound he or she has heard for nine months. If a baby is not interested in suckling, he may just want to be held against your breast to experience warmth, comfort, and security.
Do what’s right for you and your child.
While breast milk is universally accepted as the best nourishment for newborns, if you are unable or don’t want to breastfeed your baby for whatever reason, this does not mean you’ve failed at caring for your baby. Even though breastfeeding carries a series of benefits for both mother and child, most doctors acknowledge infant formula will provide babies with all the necessary nutrients. If you are using formula instead of breast milk, you can still follow the above advice to a certain extent in order to mimic the natural bonding experience of breastfeeding. Remember, experts agree: a happy mother means a happy baby; you will have to find a balance that works for you and your family.