Breastfeeding Getting Started
Nursing is a beautiful gift to both the mom and baby but it is a learned skill. It can take persistence and support. For those who want a quick summary of the process below is keys to getting started and succeeding in breastfeeding.
There is colostrum in your breasts while you are pregnant. This pre-milk is a clear blueish color and is what you will produce for the first 1 to 4 days, until your milk comes in. Colostrum helps to seal the gut and build immunity in the newborn. It contains high amounts of antibodies as well as growth factors. It also acts as a laxative helping to rid your baby’s body of the meconium. It may not feel like the baby is getting much but remember the baby’s stomach is only the size of a small cherry and does not need much at a time. It does need to eat frequently. If you are tandem nursing (nursing another sibling), make sure the newborn gets the first milk which has the most colostrum.
Milk can come in as early as the first day after birth, but more frequently comes in on the second or third day. The less stress and more rest will help milk to come in quicker. Newborn milk appears thin and watery, very much like skim milk. The first part may even look a little bluish, but the fat content increases in the hind milk (the milk at the end of nursing), and it usually appears a little creamier.
When your milk comes in, your breasts may swell and get hard. You need to nurse the baby very frequently to keep the breasts empty. You may run a slight fever and feel slightly flu-like. Rest as much as you can during this time and drink lots of fluids. A warm cloth may take some of the swelling away. Some women think a well fitted nursing bra helps others don’t want to wear a bra at all.
If engorgement becomes enough of a problem that the baby can only grasp the tip of the nipple, they may become frustrated and cry and may even refuse the breast despite being hungry. Enough milk must be removed to allow your baby to nurse easily. Try hand expressing, using a stroking/squeezing motion well behind the nipple. Ask to be shown how if you need help.
A great resource is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It is a must for all new breastfeeding moms.Please consult a lactation consultant or a La Leche League Leader if you are having any issues with breast feeding. La Leche League Leaders have all nursed their own baby and are committed to your success. If one person is not able to help you try someone else. Don’t give up. You can locate a La Leche League here: https://www.lllusa.org
There are a variety of positions you can use while nursing such as lying down, sitting up, etc. The baby’s head should be slightly higher than her stomach. Make sure your nipples are easy to grasp. Express a bit of milk or colostrum and leave it on the nipple. Pinch the area behind the nipple and touch it to the baby’s cheek. This will stimulate the rooting reflex and the baby will turn to the nipple. Keep pinching the nipple and try to get the nipple to touch the roof of the baby’s mouth and have the baby pull into the mouth as much of the aureola as possible. All of this will stimulate the sucking reflex.
Alternate the starting breast with each nursing and offer each breast with each feeding at the beginning, and you can work up to 20 minutes on the second side. A breast is usually emptied of milk in 5 to 8 minutes of concentrated sucking but some babies take longer. Different babies have different nursing personalities. You can learn more about this in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. After the first few days production of milk operates on a supply and demand basis. There will be days when all your baby seems to do is suck. This is his way of letting your body know that his needs for milk have increased because of a growth spurt. Nurse them more on these days.
Nursing frequently is very important in the first week of life. It will help to flush the baby’s intestines of meconium and help to prevent or minimize jaundice, and engorgement. Try to nurse your baby every 2 to 3 hours or so during the daytime. You want the baby to get the idea that day time is for waking and nursing and that nighttime is for sleeping. At night let her/him sleep until they wake, unless you have a special reason for needing to nurse more frequently, such as jaundice or engorgement, or slow weight gain baby. Remember that if you want to use breastfeeding as birth control you need to continue to nurse through the night.
If the baby takes both breasts at each nursing, they will be able to go for longer periods between feedings. You may need to keep the baby awake to nurse some during the first several days. Your baby may get more interested in nursing once the milk is in. Try changing the diaper between breast or rubbing the baby’s head or back or rubbing the soles of the feet briskly to rouse her/him. Babies respond to most stimulation by increasing their sucking.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful season of bonding with your new baby. Please get help if you need it and enjoy the sweetness of the season with your newborn.