Although breastfeeding is very natural in concept it can be a learned skill for both moms and babies. A a new mother, breastfeeding your own baby may be your first exposure to breastfeeding at all. Here are the top 10 tips I can offer you as a new breastfeeding mom.
#1 Breastfeed Early
Immediately after your baby is born, if both mom and baby are healthy, your baby should be placed skin to skin on mom’s chest. Interventions such as weighing and measuring your baby can wait until after the first breastfeed. Erythromycin eye ointment as well as the Vitamin K injection can either happen while baby is on moms chest or wait until after the first breastfeed. Allowing your baby to transition to life outside, having these first bonding moments and waiting for the first breastfeed are more important (unless medical intervention is required).
#2 Skin to Skin
Babies should be kept skin to skin with their mom as much as possible. This gives your baby easy access to the breast, allows you to notice their hunger cues early, stabilizes their body temperature as well as blood sugar levels and keeps them in a familiar place of hearing your voice, your heartbeat and the comfort of being close to mom. If mom and baby are separated for medical reasons or if mom is exhausted after a long labor, baby can be placed skin to skin with their other parent or close family member.
#3 Breastfeed Often
The first 24hrs are all about rest and recovery for both mom and baby. Baby should be kept skin to skin and allowed to breastfeed as much as they want to but they should also be allowed to rest. It is very normal for babies to be alert for the first few hours after birth, have a good feed or two, and then go into a recovery sleep (this is also a good opportunity to mom to rest). The goal in the first 24hrs is at least 4-6 good breastfeeds. After the first 24hrs, baby needs to have 8-12 breastfeeds within a 24hr period from now on. Breastfeeding frequently stimulates the body to produce more milk, it reduces the risk of becoming engorged and it helps to contract the uterus to slow bleeding.
#4 Limit Your Visitors
Everyone is going to want to see the new family and cuddle the new baby but it is important to allow your new family time to rest. The first 24hrs are all about rest, recovery and transitioning, both for the baby to life outside the womb but also for transitioning into being a new family. There will be lots of time for family to see the new baby but this will be your only chance to have this new little one all to yourselves for these first few hours of their life. Once you are home it can be a good idea to have Visiting Hours so you don’t have a constant stream of people all day but rather a few at once and then honouring your need for rest.
#5 Watch Your Baby, Not the Clock
Your baby does not know how to tell time and doesn’t know that it may have only been 30mins since they last fed, all they know is that they are hungry! Watch your baby’s feeding cues and let go of all preconceived ideas that your baby should be on a schedule now or ever, you will be a much happier parent for it.
#6 Learn Breast Compression
Breast compression stimulates your baby to drink at the breast rather than sleep, it stimulates your milk production because babies will feed more effectively and often take in more milk during a feed. Compression is different than massage and I recommend watching this video by Dr. Jack Newman on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-EI51e1sns
#7 Don’t Skip Night Feeds
As difficult as it can be to be awake at night when you’re already exhausted when your baby is a newborn the night feeds are really important. Breastfeeding mothers are biologically designed to make more milk at night. Your prolactin levels are at their highest between 2-3am and your milk supply receives a boost so as difficult as it is to get up and feed at night, the night feeds are often the best feeds of the day where you baby will take in the most milk. If you skip a night time feed you should be pumping, which means that you are awake anyways. If you skip the feed and don’t pump, you will wake up engorged and uncomfortable and making a habit of this can absolutely affect your long term milk supply.
#8 Skip the Bottles and Pacifiers
Avoid giving your baby a bottle or pacifier until breastfeeding is well established which can sometimes take up to 6 weeks. As tempting as it can be to pump and allow someone to bottle feed to get some rest, it doesn’t do you any breastfeeding favors. Some babies do well going back and forth between bottle and breast but some do not and until you give your baby a bottle, you just don’t know how they will do. Once your baby is consistently able to latch well to the breast, feed well and is gaining weight, then you can think about whether you want to introduce a bottle or pacifier. Pacifiers should never be used to replace breastfeeding. Breastfeed first and then offer the pacifier.
#9 Find One or Two Good Breastfeeding Books
When you are shopping for books on breastfeeding look for something written by a knowledgable source. Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding is an excellent resource as well as Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Websites can also be helpful but again make sure the advice is coming from a reputable source. Don’t overwhelm yourself with information. Find one or two books from trusted sources and stick with them.
#10 Ask for Help Early!
There is help available so please don’t struggle in silence! Ask for help! Recruit family members to help out with household tasks and older children. Accept meals from neighbours and friends and all offers to help. New moms should be able to focus solely on recovering and breastfeeding. If you are struggling with breastfeeding ask for help right away. I am always available to my clients and I would much rather receive 100 phone calls than one phone call in tears days later when breastfeeding hasn’t been going well. I am here to help and support in any way that you need.