10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers
There is a gap between the time a mom goes to her last prenatal visit with her OB and her first visit with the pediatrician. Because of this gap in care new mothers are not prepared for the reality of breastfeeding in the first minutes, days, and weeks of their baby’s life. Then we all wonder why breastfeeding is hard. Below are 10 things you can do that will go a long way to help you successfully nurse your baby.
- Prepare your thinking. Most women have not seen their mothers, aunts, and sisters successfully breastfeed. Therefore we often question if it is “going to work”. So the first thing you need to do is sit back and meditate about feeding your baby. Your body is designed to develop and feed your baby while it grows in your womb, and it is perfectly designed to feed your baby once he is born. Think about that. Your baby knows what to do. You do not have to teach your baby to latch. You have to trust his instinctive ability to nurse and allow him to do it.
- We are mammals. Does a mother cat wonder if her kittens will nurse? Does she worry she won’t have enough milk? NO! Mammals instinctively allow their babies access to their nipples and the babies feed. Your baby needs to be allowed access to your nipples and your baby will feed.
- Understand that good latching happens when a baby is allowed to be skin-to-skin with his mother at birth. Your baby should be left on your belly after delivery and be allowed time to self-attach (most hospitals do this but you can request time with your baby if they move to take the baby away ). Babies will do this on average within 1- 2 hrs. after the delivery. Insist the baby be left with you alone, with your partner, until your baby latches and suckles even for just a short time.
- Understand that giving birth is “mind-blowing”! The experience of giving birth for a first-time mom is life-changing on many levels. What sometimes happens is that first-time moms are so overcome by the event that they postpone nursing for a few days. DO NOT POSTPONE NURSING. Focus on you and your baby. Your job during the first 2 days in the hospital is to figure out what a comfortable, pain-free latch feels like.
- Your baby will be patient while you both learn. The beauty of the first 1-2 days is that the baby is not hungry. He/she will be patient if you need to adjust their latch by taking them off and allowing them to try again. Feed every 2 hours if possible. Keep the baby with you and watch for signs of movement. Movement is a sign the baby is in a lighter sleep cycle and it is a good time to put him/her skin-to-skin and allow baby to go to the nipple and to suckle comfortably. He/she will be getting about a tablespoon of colostrum, the substance that helps clean out the baby’s intestines and line it with healthy bacteria which sets your baby up for a healthy intestinal biome some believe for life.
- LIMIT COMPANY during your hospital stay. It is hard to spend the time and energy needed to focus on the baby and nursing with people coming and going. Only allow those in your room that you will be comfortable nursing in front of. All others can see the baby after you both are home and nursing is going well. Send pictures instead.
- Day 3 and “Marathon Nursing” – Understand that by day 3-4 your baby will be getting hungry and will seem to be “marathon nursing”. This means that you will have just nursed him or her and they will seem fine and content and 40 minutes later they will act like they are starving. This is NORMAL. By putting the baby to breast whenever he or she is acting hungry it signals your breasts that the baby is here and needs to be fed. This demand creates milk-receptors in your breasts that will give you a great milk supply. Your milk will come in and the baby will feed really well and sleep contentedly and you will be on your way!
- Newborn babies need to eat 10-12 times in a 24 hour period especially between days 4 – 14. This includes the time you are feeding. This means that if you feed the baby at 7 a.m. he will need to feed at 9 a.m. and again around 11:00 a.m. etc. This is just in the first 2 weeks. The baby needs constant calories and he/she cannot get them in big amounts until he grows a bit.
- Sleep when the baby sleeps. You must not underestimate how much internal work your body is doing. Your body is regulating hormonally, healing from delivery, making milk, and emotionally you will be trying to process the enormity of having a baby. If you physically use energy to do other things – cook, shop, do laundry, take care of your other kids, etc. you will undermine one or more of the above processes. You may find that your body will “yell at you” – either you will cry more, bleed more, nursing will not be going well or you will be unpleasant to your husband/kids/family. YOU ARE HUMAN. By definition it means you have limitations. Honor these. They are temporary and go away sooner the more you respect your body’s need for rest.
- GET/SET-UP postpartum help. Ideally you will do this in advance. Can your mother or mother-in-law or other female family member come and help you? (Only females you feel comfortable to be vulnerable with should come in the first two weeks.) Have friends offered to help? Pin them down. Can they come on certain days? In an evening? Has anyone offered to make you meals? Pin them down. What night would work for them? (Yes, you might feel weird asking for help but this is the one of the legitimate times in your life you really cannot do it all.) People love to feel needed so allow them this joy and let them help you. No one in your life who fits the above? Call MothersCare Doula Services to hire a Professional Postpartum Doula. They will help guide you with newborn care, provide breastfeeding support and provide practical help for the whole family with good food, laundry and other practical, nurturing help.
About Susan Shepard Keeney
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”