5 Things Nobody Tells You About Breastfeeding in the First Few Days
If you’re pregnant right now, you probably are starting to freak out about breastfeeding. Everyone says you should do it, but will you be able to? Will you hate it? Love it? Will it come naturally or will it play out like all of those horror stories you've heard about?
Girl, I can’t answer any of those questions for you.
Breastfeeding experiences are as varied as the boobs involved: every one is unique. And here’s the thing- it doesn’t matter if you’re on your first breastfeeding journey or your sixth because every birth and every baby are different.
So here’s the thing: you have choices when it comes to breastfeeding. You can exclusively breastfeed, exclusively NOT breastfeed or even use a combo: some breastfeeding, some formula.
Is breastfeeding your baby the absolute best nutrition you can offer them? Yes. We can’t deny the science of breasts creating milk based on your baby’s DNA. We just can’t.
Will your baby thrive if you decide not to breastfeed or even feed a combination of formula and breastmilk? If you live in a developed country, yes of course!
When it comes to feeding your baby, I want you to remember this Mama: that relationship is between you and your baby. It doesn’t include your mother, neighbour or stranger on the internet. In fact, it doesn’t even really include your partner because it’s your body that's involved. (But let's fact it- your partner’s opinions about it will definitely play a role in your decisions!)
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to rent out your boobs to a very cute but very, very demanding little tenant, I certainly don’t judge you. Like most things in life, you don’t know what you like until you try it so here’s some tips to making your first tries at breastfeeding better.
Hand Express Colostrum While You're Pregnant.
If your breasts are leaking while you’re still pregnant, you have an opportunity to catch that liquid gold and freeze it. Whether you're going to breast or formula feed, colostrum is like the baby's personal shot of immunity against so many things. If your leaking boobs seem like an inconvenience, turn it into an opportunity to give your baby the best start! It doesn’t take a lot of time and the only cost to you is the freezer bags, but it could mean a lot if your baby is born early, sick or unable to breastfeed.
Here’s a quick guide to refrigerating and freezing your breastmilk:
8-12 hours at room temperature
8-11 days in the refrigerator
A few months in the back of your freezer
A few more months if it’s stored in a deep freezer
Not too complicated, right?
Here's how to do it:
I drew these myself just for you!
Latch Your Baby in the First Hour.
We’ve all heard of the “Golden Hour”-it's the first hour after a baby is born and it's THE time to do skin-to-skin and attempt your very first breastfeed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed the magic of this hour! What you need to do is prepare for it- PROTECT this time by telling your healthcare team that you want minimal interruptions for vital checks, weights, needles and other things that can wait an hour.
Take this time to get to know your baby a bit, give her some time to smell your skin and hear your heartbeat from the outside. Don’t be in a rush to offer her the breast, but do it for the first time at some point in that hour.
Zzzzz...Babies Can be Sleepy For the First 24 Hours.
Many new parents think they’ve hit the baby jackpot in the first 24 hours because their baby is sleeping so much.
There are no hard and fast rules about newborns, but after working with them for years and years I can safely say this: the newborns who received medications while a mom was in labour are generally sleepier in the first 24 hours. So, if you’ve had an epidural or a caesarean or narcotics while you were in labour, don’t be surprised to find your baby sleeping a lot.
If your baby latched well in the first hour but isn’t waking to feed a few hours later, you can try to offer the breast to her. If she isn’t interested it’s OK. The best thing you can do is start to hand express some colostrum about 6 hours after the initial feed, to start establishing your milk supply. In the meantime, get some sleep!
Your Baby is Going to Wake Up Hungry.
It’s a bit of a slap in the face for some new parents when the baby fully wakes up after birth. For the first day it seems like you’ve got the sweetest, quietest baby ever- then they are awake and hungry. Expect to breastfeed a lot on the second day. Get all the help that you can with latching because this is a very common time to damage your nipples. Any you won’t want to breastfeed with damaged nips, trust me!
Say NO to the Bath.
A lot of people can’t wrap their heads around this, but all of that white gunk (called vernix) that was on your baby’s body when she was born is protective. It protected her skin in utero and it continues to be protective when she comes earthside. It’s a great idea to just rub it all and spot clean any blood that’s bothering you.
So why is this important to early breastfeeding?
The first bath takes a lot out of a new baby- she shivers, cries, poops, pees…and then sleeps. Many babies sleep through at least one feeding after all of the excitement of a bath. For your best chance at breastfeeding success, skip it and do it in a few days.
Are all of these tips going to make you love breastfeeding? I have no idea. But at least it's giving you a chance to find out. There's nothing worse than really, really wanting to breastfeed but not getting a great start. Or breastfeeding well but hating every second of it.
With some information and support you can make the decison that works for you, empowers you and makes you feel like the kick-ass mama you've always wanted to be.
If you've been wondering about other breastfeeding topics, check out these:
Joanne Ilaqua - CEO of MamaSoup
Hey there, I’m Joanne.
I’ve spent about 20 years serving women as a nurse, doula and Lamaze educator. I have 4 kids and I know firsthand how lonely and isolating motherhood can be, so I created MamaSoup. I'm mostly known for my love of red wine, spontaneously singing and my confidence in being my true self on social media. When I’m not busy building women up, you can catch me taking Instagram stories of my bulldog Ruby, watching The Handmaid’s Tale, playing MUber (Mom Uber) to my kids or vacationing in my favourite town: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I love serving the world by providing a space for moms to connect and support each other. In my opinion, moms are the backbone of communities because they are (literally) raising the future!
As the founder and CEO of MamaSoup, I’ve been featured on CHEX TV Morning Show, KawarthaNOW, Economic Development- The City of Kawartha Lakes and MyKawartha.
Still with me? Join me over at MamaSoup to keep the conversation going!