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Prepare to welcome your baby with our guide to breastfeeding a newborn during those first few days
There’s so much to think about when your baby first arrives, but nothing is as important as providing nourishment to your little one. In the first few days of breastfeeding, you may have questions like: How often should a newborn nurse? How long should my baby breastfeed? If you’re planning to feed your baby by breastfeeding or pumping, here are nine ways to establish your milk supply from day one and get breastfeeding off to the best possible start.
#1 Embrace the Golden Hour
Evidence shows that the ideal first time to breastfeed a newborn is within the first hour of delivery. This is called the Golden Hour. Doing so will positively impact your milk supply in the days and weeks after birth. Thankfully, your baby should help you out with this. Because breast milk is so easy to digest, newborns should typically feel hungry often and breastfeed anywhere from eight to 12 times a day. To keep up with the production, give your baby access to breastfeeding around the clock as soon as you can after delivery. This will trigger your supply and give your baby much-needed colostrum—that nutrient-rich liquid gold that starts off your milk supply. If your little one is sleepy or disinterested, just keep trying to breastfeed. Remember that it’s not unusual for it to take several days for milk to come in. But if your baby is unavailable for nursing for medical reasons, try using a hospital-grade rental breast pump to start milk production.
#2 Make Sure Your Baby Gets Colostrum
As mentioned above, colostrum supplies the nutrients your newborn needs at this early stage. Your colostrum, which began forming around week 16 of pregnancy, contains growth factors that are meant to reach the baby’s immature gastrointestinal tract in a certain order. These specialized cells “finish” what swallowing the amniotic fluid was beginning to do—help the gut grow and mature. Colostrum is very high in protective proteins and immunities, and since it comes in small quantities, it’s the ideal nutrition for your baby’s tiny tummy. When they are born, a baby’s stomach is about the size of a thimble and can only hold about a teaspoon, so even a few milliliters of colostrum is plenty. As long as your baby is peeing and pooping, you should be in good shape.
#3 Do Skin to Skin
There’s a ton of evidence that the perfect environment for the newborn is your bare chest—no bra or t-shirt allowed. Between feedings, this should be your default position in those early days. The amazing benefits of skin-to-skin contact include stabilizing an infant’s temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood sugar. Your baby will enter a blissful state of being and you’ll be pretty happy, too. Plus, great news—partners can (and should) participate in the skin-to-skin love, too.
#4 Don’t Set a Breastfeeding Schedule
Although you may be tempted to try to regulate your baby’s feeding routine, remember that the first two weeks are critical for establishing your breast milk supply. Unfortunately, this means that nursing can’t be scheduled because the cadence should simply follow your baby’s hunger cues—especially during those essential first two weeks. Don’t worry about over-nursing your baby; if your little one is showing any signs of hunger, such as sucking on their hands or actively looking for your breast, go ahead and nurse. Your baby’s body language will also help let you know when they’re full.
#5 Don’t Satisfy Hunger Cues with a Pacifier
It’s important to establish breastfeeding in the first few days of your baby’s life. Research shows that early pacifier use is associated with decreased breastfeeding. That’s why it’s important not to satisfy early hunger cues with sucking on a pacifier. Stick to pacifier use mostly after feedings if you feel comfortable. Of course, babies who needed to go to the NICU or have a painful procedure done immediately after birth may be soothed by sucking on a pacifier.
#6 Give the Benefits of Breast Milk
Breastfeeding in the first days provides your baby with valuable benefits during this critical developmental stage, such as building their immune system with your antibodies and helping develop their digestive system. So keep breastfeeding even when it’s tough. Of course, many moms need a little extra support from trained lactation experts to meet their breastfeeding goals. If you have questions or experience challenges, engage with a lactation consultant for any extra support you need. Most insurance plans will cover a 90-minute in-person or virtual visit—and many even cover follow-up visits, as well.
#7 Soak Up Baby Time
For the past 40 weeks or so, you and your baby have been a unit—this shouldn’t change in the days and weeks following delivery. Staying as close as possible to your baby during this time will help get your breast milk supply off to a great start. Accept help with laundry or cooking and surround yourself with encouraging people—whether by phone or safely in person. But anyone who wants to take your newborn and hold them for hours, or questions the frequency or validity of your choice to provide milk—however you plan to do so—or makes you feel uncomfortable about nursing on demand should be kept far away, especially during this critical time.
#8 Ask For Support
No matter your method of delivery, you’ll need time afterward to rest, recover and snuggle in bed with your baby. Accept all pampering. Don’t feel pressure to invite over any guests you don’t want to and make sure those who do see you and your new baby follow all safety precautions. Your partner or support person can help keep away anyone you wouldn’t want to nurse in front of. Otherwise, stay in your jammies. Sleep when the baby does—or at least rest with your feet up and eyes closed if sleep isn’t possible. The moments where your little one isn’t nursing will be few and far between especially in the first days of breastfeeding, so take advantage of them when you can.
#9 Connect with a Lactation Expert
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) can help you figure out everything about breastfeeding a newborn, from the best techniques to get a great latch to how to position your baby while nursing to troubleshooting common breast milk supply issues and more. Remember that it takes time to get the hang of breastfeeding, and you may be sore at first. Although breastfeeding is a natural process, it doesn’t necessarily come naturally for all moms. That’s why lactation consultants exist—to help make sure moms feel ready and good about breastfeeding and to guide them through any rough patches. Our sister company, the Lactation Network, is a great resource to use when finding an IBCLC. Request a consultation to be connected with an expert in your area for an in-person or virtual insurance-covered lactation consultation.
Another great way to help to establish and maintain breast milk supply to nourish your newborn? A breast pump. We have options that can work for your lifestyle—and they’re covered by insurance. Take our quiz to discover the right breast pump for you.