Congratulations, mama! You either just welcomed your sweet bundle of joy or are getting ready to. It’s so awesome that you are educating yourself on breastfeeding and what to expect in the early days with your new baby.
Breastfeeding is so rewarding but it doesn’t come naturally to every baby and mom. Knowing what to expect can decrease the learning curve for you both. Your journey should get easier as you go along, and establishing a strong foundation in the first week can help tremendously. Here are my best tips for getting off to a good start that first week:
Tip #1 Utilize a lactation consultant
All of the best athletes have one thing in common: a dedicated and knowledgeable coach. Although you might not be heading off to the Olympics, you’ll benefit from your own kind of coach to get through the marathon of breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants are exactly that. They help parents and babies with common breastfeeding issues and can refer you to a specialized provider if needed. Even if you think everything is going smoothly, it doesn’t hurt to meet with a lactation consultant anyways. They can assess your latch and positioning to ensure you don’t have problems later on, and they can answer any questions you may have.
Reach out to your provider to see if they have any lactation consultants they recommend working with, or schedule a virtual consultation with someone from the Milky Mama team here.
Tip #2 Stay fed and hydrated
Pregnancy and birth is a lot of work! Not only do you have another tiny person to take care of, your body is still working hard to heal and make milk for your baby.
The best way to promote a healthy milk supply is to take care of yourself just as you did during pregnancy. Eat nutritious, well rounded meals to get a variety of nutrients and drink plenty of fluids. Treat yourself to meals your grandma would make if you were sick like soup, oatmeal, and tea. (Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming herbs, as some can be unsafe for babies and/or decrease your milk supply.)
Tip #3 Practice lots of skin to skin
Do you know the benefits of keeping your baby close to you as much as possible? It can decrease stress in both you and your baby, promote bonding, help baby learn to regulate themselves, and encourages a strong breastfeeding relationship.
During the first week, spend as much time skin to skin with your baby as possible. Get baby down to a dry diaper and hold them on to your bare chest with a blanket or robe covering you both to stay warm. It’s a good excuse to keep your baby snuggled up close if you don’t want visitors coming to hold your baby yet!
Tip #4 Feed baby on demand
This tip goes hand-in-hand with skin to skin contact. You should feed your baby on demand, which means feeding them when they’re showing signs of hunger instead of on a schedule. Newborns should be eating in the range of 8-12 times in a 24 hour period, which usually works out to a feed every 1 ½-2 hours. When baby is kept close, feeding often is a lot easier.
Feeding on demand has a lot of benefits for mother and baby. Kellymom.com states that “responding to a baby’s natural cues is a critical step in establishing milk supply and encouraging healthy weight gain and development in babies.” Establishing milk supply is crucial in the first week when baby is losing weight so they can get back to their birth weight.
Tip #5 Heal sore nipples right away
Being uncomfortable while you learn the correct latch and your nipples get used to breastfeeding is normal. Soreness is common in the first few days of breastfeeding. What’s not normal is worsening pain, nipples that are cracked, or bleeding while nursing.
You’ll want to heal sore nipples before they become a bigger problem. Assess your latch, try different positions, keep nipples dry and use nipple cream if necessary. Contact a lactation consultant for advice on remedying sore nipples or a painful latch.
Tip #6 Watch for engorgement
For most moms, milk will come in around 2-5 days after birth. When it does, it can be fast and furious! Normally engorgement goes away with regular feeding or pumping, but don’t let your breasts stay engorged for too long. Engorgement can lead to clogged ducts or mastitis.
Pay attention to signs of engorgement like swollen or firm breasts. They may be painful or sensitive to the touch. The best way to get rid of engorgement is to feed your baby as often as you can. You can also use moist heat, hand express, or use a manual pump such as a Haaka to relieve some of the pressure.
The first week of breastfeeding is filled with so many emotions. You are joyful, tired, happy, sad, and maybe a bit overwhelmed. Learning to breastfeed with your baby can add more complex emotions to the mix. Try the tips above to help you navigate this chapter and set yourself up for success.
If you find yourself needing more support, or just want to get started on the right foot, schedule a consultation with a lactation consultant from the Milky Mama team. We have RN/IBCLC’s and CLC’s ready to help you with whatever you need!