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Many expectant mothers spend their entire pregnancies preparing for labor and delivery, without giving much thought to what comes next. Though many mothers plan to breastfeed, very few are prepared for what’s actually in store. Whether you have a little one on the way or are snuggling your brand new baby, we gathered some of the most common breastfeeding questions new moms have during the first few weeks with baby.
We sat down with Katie McGee, a Registered Nurse and IBCLC, for a Q&A on how to prepare and what to expect during your first month breastfeeding a newborn.
Three breastfeeding questions from new moms
1. What if I can’t get my newborn to latch?
Don’t panic. Newborns often need time to adjust to life outside of the womb. Holding your new baby on your bare chest, skin-to-skin provides a wealth of benefits to both of you. In that position, you can easily spot subtle cues from your newborn and attempt breastfeeding often. Hold your baby close and keep trying!
2. I am nervous my newborn isn’t getting enough milk. How can I be sure that I am producing enough?
The first milk you produce is colostrum, which is so incredible, you’ll want your new baby to receive every drop. It protects your baby through live cells rich with immunities that will help mature the otherwise immature newborn GI tract. These cells appear in colostrum, and never again will the baby be exposed to them in his or her whole life.
Colostrum is produced in tiny amounts, so it is often thought of as a “lesser” milk. On the contrary, it is incredible. It is actually more like the amniotic fluid your baby has been used to swallowing in the womb. Colostrum is the perfect transition from intra to extra uterine life. Your newborn may nurse briefly and frequently in the early days. This is normal because the colostrum is available in tiny amounts.
As your newborn begins to need and want more milk volume, your milk changes over to mature milk. Lots of breastfeeding (or pumping if you’re not breastfeeding) is needed. This transition is often described as the milk “coming in”. Your milk coming in causes a dramatic change in the volume you produce from drops of colostrum to ounces of mature milk. This is usually felt by a noticeable fullness in the breasts. This process is usually slower for first-time moms and there are many factors like a c-section or premature delivery that can delay this process.
3. My baby newborn keeps falling asleep while nursing. How do I keep her awake?
Newborns sleep a lot. When you place them in the most wonderful, warm, peaceful place in their world, it is natural for the baby to be sleepy. As your baby develops, he will become an efficient nurser and will be able to be more alert and active at the breast. Eventually, putting your baby easily to sleep will likely become one of your favorite parts of nursing. Is your baby having adequate diapers and gaining weight adequately? If so, he is getting what he needs despite being sleepy. If not, see an IBCLC.
It is my personal preference to keep everything at the breast pleasant for the baby. I dislike shocking techniques like cold washcloths on the baby or irritating ones like tickling newborn feet. Alternately, if a mother gently compresses her breast with the hand supporting her breast, a little burst of milk comes down and the sleepy baby is reminded she’s still breastfeeding, and usually starts to nurse again. Gentle stroking of the baby’s head with the other hand supporting her shoulders often works as well. These are techniques a new mother can perform while maintaining hand support on the baby and her breast during breastfeeding.
The first month at home with a newborn is a blur for any mom. Remember that you are doing great, and it does get easier. If you are concerned about any issues you are having, we are here for you and want to help. Contact Ashland Women’s Health with any questions you have, and we will get you the answers to ease your mind.