Beginning Breastfeeding: From Hospital to Home
Breastfeeding is very natural, but as many moms can tell you, it’s not necessarily instinctive or easy. The first days and weeks of breastfeeding are a time for both you and your baby to learn how to make breastfeeding work. Here are some suggestions for a smooth beginning to breastfeeding.
Attend a prenatal breastfeeding class, with your partner.
Prenatal breastfeeding classes help both you and your partner understand the process of breastfeeding and prevent typical challenges. It is very helpful for your partner to hear this same information and remind you of key points when you are sleep deprived!
Enjoy your baby skin to skin in the first few hours after birth.
Research has shown most newborns are alert and interested in breastfeeding in the first two hours after birth. Your doctor and nurses will most likely place your baby on your chest, skin to skin, with a warm blanket over both of you. Skin to skin helps regulate your baby’s temperature, heart rate and blood sugar and feels wonderful to both of you. Try to maximize your opportunity to breastfeed during those first two hours after birth.
Feed your baby at least every 2.5-3 hours or 8-12 times a day.
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. The more frequently your baby demands milk by nursing at the breast, the more she helps empty it, which signals your breasts to increase the supply of milk to be made. When in doubt, breastfeed! There’s no such thing as breastfeeding too often or too much, especially in the first few weeks.
Be prepared for your baby’s second night.
Most newborns cluster feed on their second night of life. As soon as you finish a feeding, your baby may show signals she is ready to feed again. This is not a sign that you don’t have enough milk. Your baby’s tummy is very small in the first days (the size of a cherry on day one and the size of a walnut on day two) and the quantity of colostrum (first milk) in your breasts is exactly what she needs.
Watch your baby not the clock in terms of how long to feed your baby.
Follow your baby’s lead in terms of how long to nurse, rather than limiting feeding time. Offer the first breast and allow your baby to finish. Next, burp your baby and offer the second breast. Some babies need two breasts at most feeds and other babies are absolutely fine with nursing on only one breast per feed. This is part of what you and your baby are figuring out in the first few weeks.
Avoid pacifiers and bottles in the first 3 weeks.
Whenever your baby demonstrates feeding cues (sucking, licking, opening her mouth, sticking her tongue out), it is important to respond by putting your baby to your breast. If you offer a pacifier instead, your breasts will not be stimulated to make more milk, which impacts your milk supply.
Babies suck very differently on bottles than on breasts. This means your baby may have challenges going back to the breast if she is offered a bottle in the early days. Once breastfeeding is well established, at about 3-4 weeks, pacifiers and bottles don’t usually present a problem.
Ask for help early if you are experiencing breastfeeding challenges.
Most hospitals have lactation consultants who will visit you in the hospital to see how breastfeeding is going. If soreness is increasing or you experience other challenges once you leave the hospital, consider booking an appointment with a lactation consultant.
Make yourself comfortable.
Once home, many women create a “nursing nest” to help with breastfeeding. Your nursing nest could include a comfortable chair, glider or couch, a feeding pillow, a foot stool (to help hold baby up closer to your breasts and avoid shoulder strain), a large container of water, and your phone with a breastfeeding app that helps time and track feeds.
Surround yourself with people supportive of breastfeeding.
Consider attending a breastfeeding support group to learn from other breastfeeding mothers and lactation consultants. If relatives are not supportive of breastfeeding, ask your partner to help by keeping them at a distance in the early days.
Find products that help you.
Organic nipple cream (such as Motherlove or Honest Company’s nipple cream) and gels pads (such as Lansinoh Soothie gel pads) can help heal sore nipples. A well fitting nursing bra can provide support and comfort as your breasts undergo many changes in the first weeks.
If you have additional questions about breastfeeding, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, register for a class, or visit our store today so our friendly staff can assist you.