Getting off to a good start from as early as possible after your baby is born is one of the best ways to ensure long term breastfeeding success. Here are my top tips to help you achieve that:
Get yourself in a comfortable position. Usually a semi reclined position is best, such as laying on your back, with pillows behind your head and shoulders. You could try on your couch or on your bed.
Make sure you and your baby are comfortable and safe and you have what you need within reach – a drink of water, extra pillows, burp cloth, your phone etc.
Place your baby on your chest, tummy to tummy, in line with your breast.
Ideally, feed your baby skin-to-skin. In other words, undress your baby down to a nappy and remove your own top. This skin contact stimulates your baby’s feeding reflexes and your milk production and letdown.
Your baby will be most stable if they are lying on their tummy, on top of you, with their legs and arms spread out. Support your baby with your arm so they are stable on top of you.
Start to learn to identify your baby’s early feeding cues – subtle mouthing movements, licking, tongue movements, turning their head are all early hunger cues.
Follow your baby’s lead – be patient and relax and give your baby time to find their target, open wide and latch on.
If your baby is having trouble latching on, offer some shaping of your breast with your free hand. Think of the way you might squeeze a hamburger before taking a big bite. “Sandwiching” the breast, back from the nipple, can help a young baby get a bigger mouthful and make for a deeper latch.
Watch your baby’s sucking action – initially their sucks should be quicker, until your milk lets down, and then their sucks will become a bit slower and you should see and/or hear them swallowing.
If you are not sure if your baby is actively swallowing, ask your lactation consultant or midwife. It’s important to learn to identify active swallowing. This is one way you can be confident your baby is transferring milk.
Your baby may need to take a pause every so often to catch their breath. As your baby gets stronger and more coordinated, they will be able to handle your let down better and will learn to coordinate a steady suck-swallow-breath rhythm.
Babies need to be fed 8-12 times per 24 hours, particularly in the early weeks. This means feeding every 2 to 3 hours around the clock. Some babies want to sleep longer in the day, but it’s best not to let them go longer than 3 hours between feeds in the beginning.
Do wake your baby during the day, if it has been 3 hours since their last feed.
Try to encourage a full feed each time, by keeping your baby from “sleeping on the job”. Sometimes stroking your baby, touching their feet or face or gently blowing on them can help to rouse a sleepy baby.
Allow your baby to fully finish one side before offering the next side.
Massaging your breast gently during a feed may also help your baby take a full feed and also help drain your breast well. Use the flat of your fingers or palm of your hand.
Try to avoid introducing a dummy in the first month, or until advised by your lactation consultant.
If your baby is healthy and you are able to adequately breastfeed from the beginning, it is not usually necessary to express your milk. This can be introduced later if needed or indicated. Your lactation consultant will be able to advise you.
After your milk has come in, (around day 4 or 5) you will know your baby is receiving sufficient milk because they will have 6 or more heavy wet nappies per 24 hours.
You will also see your baby’s stools change from black meconium through to soft mustard-yellow coloured poos.
Your baby should be settled between feeds.
Initially most babies will lose a bit of weight but then should start gaining again and be back to their birth weight by about 2 weeks of age. After that, they should put on an average of 150 grams per week.
If you or your baby are having any difficulty with feeding, get help from a lactation consultant as soon as possible.
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