Skin to skin contact with your baby
As long as there are no complications, the focus after birth is for you and baby to enjoy some bonding time. Skin-to-skin with your baby can help regulate their temperature, heartrate and get breastfeeding off to the best start. Skin-to-skin will trigger your body to produce Oxytocin, aka: the love hormone. Oxytocin will promote bonding between you and your baby and stimulate your milk production. This skin-to-skin time is the perfect setting to initiate your baby’s first feed. If you can’t have the golden hour straight away don’t worry, make it clear in your birth preferences that you wish to have this as soon as you can, bonding time is beneficial at any time, it is also lovely for Dad to have skin-to-skin and to help with bonding where possible too.
Watch your baby not the clock
Keep your baby with you as much as possible after birth so you can get to know them and their cues. Newborn babies will typically feed no less than 8 and sometimes more than 12 times each 24 hours for the first several weeks. This may look like feeding every hour, or feeding every 3 hours. Observe your baby for their hunger cues; sticking their tongue out, moving their head from side to side, rooting, opening and closing their mouth and bringing their hands to their mouth, these are all signs that your baby is hungry. Offer them the breast at this stage, it is a lot harder to latch on an upset baby, so try and feed them before they get to this point.
Limit the use of dummies!
Why are we as lactation consultants not big fans? Well, as a general rule, lactation consultants don’t like the use of soothers in the early days as they mean your body is losing precious chances of frequent breast stimulation. Put simply, milk supply works on a ‘supply and demand’ basis. Our bodies respond to baby’s stimulation and when you give a soother or dummy, your breasts and brain are losing the chance to tell the body to make more milk. You can’t put off frequent feeds and expect to make enough milk. Bring baby to breast at every cue, limit pacifiers and bottles in the early days and weeks. I recommend using this technique for somewhere between 5 and 6 weeks – trust your baby and trust the process.
Do not cover your baby’s hands
I get it, you’ve read that list of “must-have items for newborns” by your favourite blogger….. and it says ‘mittens’. Done. In the cart. You don’t question it any further… However, while mittens on a newborn are cute and they prevent scratches, there is a bit more to consider before deciding to use them. When it comes to breastfeeding, babies use their hands as little radars to help them locate and latch onto the breast. Try not to get frustrated and discouraged when baby tries to get his/her hands involved at feeding time. Instead encourage them “what a clever little boy/girl you are”. Another wonderful and little-known fact about babies hands and feeding, is that immediately after delivery, you leave the amniotic fluid on baby’s hands. The smell of the lubricating fluid secreted by the Montgomery Glands on the areola smells like the amniotic fluid baby has on their hands and this helps to guide them to the breast for their first feed!
Avoid supplemental feedings
All your baby needs is you! It is very rare that I see a baby requiring more than just breast in the first 24 hours. Your milk supply works on a supply and demand basis. If you fall into the ‘top up’ trap, your body will miss an opportunity to feed and in so doing, will lower its supply to meet its new reduced demand for the following days.
Positioning and attachment
There is a reason that we call it breastfeeding and not nipple feeding.
Babies should take in a mouthful of breast tissue. This will ensure less pain/nipple damage, better milk transfer and milk drainage, therefore better milk production.
Here are some of my favourite tips for latching your baby on:
- Place baby facing tummy to your tummy
- Your baby should be with their nose at the level of your nipple (using pillows and altering position can help with this)
- Tickle your baby’s nose and top lip with your nipple to trigger the reflex to open wide, like baby’s taking a big bite of a burger!
- As soon as the baby opens wide, swiftly bring baby to your breast. Not the other way round or you will end up with a very sore back/neck
- Your baby should have their chin and cheeks touching the breast
You want to hear your baby swallowing lots. About 1 swallow for every 2-3 sucks. This might take several tries to get that deep latch and that’s okay! Don’t settle for the first one if it doesn’t feel right. You and baby are both learning together.
Know what’s normal
While breastfeeding should not be painful, your nipples may feel tender during the first 2 weeks. This is very normal. Just as your body might be achy and sore when you first take up a new sport. Here are a few things you can do to ease this discomfort:
- Follow my previous tips to ensure your baby is latching on deeply at the breast. You want your nipple to be at the point of baby’s soft palate not chomping down on your nipple with the hard palate of their mouth. OWeee!
- Ensure you practice good hygiene. By simply washing your breasts with warm water and soap you may avoid minor infection very easily, and as a result reduce your risk of developing mastitis.
- Our skin repairs best in a moist wound healing environment. Allowing your nipples to “dry out” can actually cause a lot more damage than good. Multi-Mam breastfeeding compresses are lovely for this, as well as providing immediate relief, their combination of ingredients have been proven to support the natural flora of the nipple. I loved keeping mine in the fridge for that extra soothing, cooling effect.
Build up your support system
Research has found a strong link between breastfeeding success and a strong support system. In a hospital-based study 24 hours postpartum it showed how;
“Strong approval of breastfeeding by the partner was associated with a high incidence of breastfeeding (98.1%), compared to only 26.9% breastfeeding when the partner was indifferent to feeding choice.”
This goes for you entire support system. Sister, cousin, friend, fellow mama, partner or mother in law – all in all, support matters! Check out your local breastfeeding group before baby arrives. Borrow a good breastfeeding book from your local library, invite your partner to your breastfeeding preparation class, ask your mother or mother in law about their feeding experiences and open the conversation.
If things don’t seem to be going well, or feeding is painful seek out help. A lactation consultant can watch you feeding and give you tips and tricks to help improve your baby’s latch and encourage deeper attachment at the breast, encouraging more efficient milk transfer and a more comfortable mum.
Happy breastfeeding! x