Breastfeeding - the first days

How to position yourself for breastfeeding success right after baby arrives

There’s so much to think about when your baby first arrives, but nothing is as important as providing nourishment for your little one. The first two weeks with your baby are critical to long-term provision of milk. If your goal is to provide milk for your baby either through pumping or breastfeeding, here are nine ways to get your milk supply established and get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.

#1 Nurse Early and Often

Emerging evidence shows that nursing within the first hour of delivery has a positive impact on milk supply days and weeks after birth. While you’re in the hospital, offer your breast around the clock in order to trigger your milk, and give your baby colostrum.  If the baby is sleepy or disinterested, it isn’t a bad idea to use the hospital-grade pump. Of course, save every drop and give it to your baby fresh. The baby needs the colostrum during this period of time.

#2 Make Sure Baby is Getting Colostrum

Your colostrum contains growth factors that are meant to touch 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. The colostrum is very high in protective proteins and immunities for the baby; it began forming about week 16 of pregnancy. It’s available in small quantities, and this is the perfect amount for your baby’s tiny tummy.

#3 Skin-to-Skin… A LOT

There’s a ton of evidence that the perfect environment for the newborn is your bare chest (no bra or baby’s t-shirt allowed). Between feedings, this should be your default position. It’s amazing. Skin-to-skin contact stabilizes infant temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood sugar. The baby enters a blissful state of being. Dads can skin-to-skin, too!

#4 There’s No Such Thing as Over-Nursing

The first two weeks are critical for establishing milk supply. Nursing isn’t scheduled; it’s unrestricted and follows the baby’s cues — especially in the first two weeks. You can’t really over-nurse your newborn, and if he or she is showing any cues, the default is to nurse.

#5 Avoid Using Pacifiers and Bottles

The first few days of your baby’s life is the time to establish nursing. There’s a lot of research showing that early pacifier use is associated with decreased breastfeeding. All of the baby’s sucking is at the breast. Of course, if the baby needed to go to the NICU or have a painful procedure, a pacifier may an excellent way to soothe him or her.

#6 Exclusivity Matters

The most important time for the baby to receive only your milk is now, within the first several weeks. Some babies end up needing formula, but if your little one can wait until the first weeks and months have passed, he or she will be better able to digest formula thanks to receiving your breast milk first.

#7 You and Baby Are Meant to Be a Unit

You and your baby have been a unit for the past 40 weeks — and that shouldn’t change after delivery; continue to act as a unit. This will get your supply off to a great start. Guests who keep your laundry going, cook for you and encourage you are great. The people who want to take the baby and hold him or her for hours, question the frequency or validity of your choice to provide milk, or make you feel uncomfortable about nursing on demand? Not so great.

#8 Don’t Expect to Get Anything Done

No matter your method of delivery, you need to rest, recover and snuggle in bed with your baby.  Accept all pampering. Have your spouse or support person keep away those you’d be uncomfortable nursing in the presence of. This is a terrible time to have guests that aren’t close friends or family members. Stay in your jammies. Sleep (or at least rest with your feet up and eyes closed) when the baby sleeps.

#9 Get Feedback from an IBCLC

An IBCLC can help with latch and positioning to maximize transfer of colostrum to your baby, avoid sore nipples and stimulate your supply.  Allowing your breast milk to stay on your nipples and air dry after breastfeeding is a great way to keep sore nipples at bay. Ashland Women’s Health’s Lactation Network is a great resource for scheduling an in-home visit from a lactation consultant. Contact us to learn more.