If you are expecting a new baby, your preparation list probably includes buying onesies, scanning Pinterest for baby announcement ideas, and educating yourself about labor and delivery. But have you prepared for breastfeeding?
You might be wondering, “What is there to learn? Breastfeeding is natural; just give baby your breast and they nurse, right?”
We wish we could say that is always the case. Over the last 20 years, we have certainly seen some struggles getting started with breastfeeding. Some of these problems were quick fixes while others were more challenging. A recent study backs up our observations. It found that 92% of mothers with 3 day old babies had at least one breastfeeding problem. See that study here.
While breastfeeding may be “natural” it does take some time to learn.
Many women have never been around someone who is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding their own baby will be their very first experience. We want to tell you four important things that will make the first week of breastfeeding easier for you.
Breastfeeding in the First Week:
1) Understanding newborn baby talk
Babies are born with reflexes to help them survive. The sucking reflex and the rooting reflex (searching with the mouth) are important for feeding. When you see your baby make sucking motions or opening his mouth and turning to suck on whatever is nearby it is like he is talking. He is telling you, “Hey Mom, feed me now!” If he is already crying, he is likely telling you, “I tried to be nice about it but you missed my signals. Now I am going to be more difficult to latch”.
When mothers recognize baby’s early hunger cues, they feed their baby more often. This helps breastfeeding get off to a great start. Frequent feeding signals the mother’s body to make milk.
2) The “Ravenous Second Night”
As Registered Nurses, we visit families in their homes just one or two days after they leave the hospital with their newborn. Time and time again, parents tell us their baby was up all night feeding!
Baby’s second night can be a tricky time. Baby wants to feed often. Mom’s breasts are soft. Many people assume this means they don’t have enough milk; they are very tempted to feed some formula.
This period of frequent eating is NORMAL. Your baby is doing exactly what he/she should be doing. Frequent feedings tell your body to make more milk. Interfering with this natural process by giving formula now can lead to lower milk supply down the road. If your baby has had a couple of wet diapers and a poop in the last 24 hours, wait it out and continue to feed frequently. Soon you will be hearing more swallowing at the breast and will have a more content baby. Hooray!
3) You do not have to endure nipple pain
We have all heard nipple horror stories. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Nipples tenderness is common in the early weeks of breastfeeding. Nipple cracking or bleeding or pain that makes you curl your toes and bring your shoulders up to your ears is a sign that baby is putting too much pressure on the nipple.
Adjusting your breastfeeding position and getting baby latched deeply (so that your nipple is way back in baby’s mouth) should help. You can learn more about breastfeeding positions and latch here. If these simple tips do not help, please see someone skilled in breastfeeding such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant before you are ready to quit! If the cause is something more complicated (such as a tongue-tie), getting an assessment and early treatment can save breastfeeding.
4) A breastfeeding support team is critical
Having a new baby is one of the biggest changes you will encounter in your lifetime. It is hard to imagine just how dramatically your life will change. You will be learning to breastfeed at the same time as you are recovering from birth and reorganizing your relationship with your partner.
Research shows that a partner’s support is key to ensuring breastfeeding success. If you don’t have a partner, recruit a friend. When you are struggling or have questions in the wee hours of the morning, you will need someone to support you and tell you that you are doing an important job. Try to surround yourself with friends or family who has had positive experiences with breastfeeding. Tell them that you will be relying on them to answer your questions and support you. And, if you can ask these trusted support people to help with some of the household duties, it is a double win!
The first week of breastfeeding is challenging.
Knowing these 4 things will help to make it easier. Soon you’ll be well on your way. Your milk will always be ready for baby at just the right temperature, giving you more time to simply cuddle and enjoy your newborn.
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Related: New Mom Kits: Breastfeeding Station