The first few weeks can be difficult for a new mom. Let us help you ease into motherhood and your breastfeeding journey with the following tips.
First, feed your baby whenever they are showing any hunger cues such as rooting, putting their hands to their mouth or smacking their lips. Remember, crying is a late sign of hunger. This may feel like you are constantly bringing your baby to your breast. It helps to set up a comfortable place to breastfeed your baby. Your baby’s stomach is still small so it needs to be filled frequently. Newborns need to be fed every 2-3 hours including at night.
If your baby does not wake up to feed, you may have to wake them up if it has been 3 hours since they last fed. In order for them to be efficient at the breast, you need to wake them up before you even begin the breastfeeding session. Changing your baby’s diaper is one way to wake them up. Most newborns may also need to be kept undressed while they feed to keep them awake. This means no clothes except for a diaper. Your baby should be skin to skin with you while breastfeeding so make sure you also do not have a shirt on. If your baby becomes chilled or starts shivering while wearing just a diaper place a blanket over the baby but still maintain skin-to-skin contact.
Make sure your baby stays active at the breast. If they doze off while breastfeeding it will prolong the breastfeeding session, they may slip off your nipple causing nipple damage and pain, and they will not be taking in as much milk as they need. You can keep them active by tickling their toes, rubbing their back/forehead/arms/legs, or stroking underneath their chin. About 10-15 minutes of active sucking at each breast should provide adequate nutrition for your baby. Babies have a reflex called rooting where if you stroke their cheek they will turn their head towards your finger. This is one thing to avoid while trying to keep your baby active since they will be turning away from the breast and towards your finger.
Your breasts may feel very full during the first few weeks. The best way to stay comfortable is by feeding your baby often. Your baby will remove your milk softening your breasts to a more comfortable level. If your breasts are too full for your baby to latch on, you may use a breast pump or hand express just enough milk to allow your baby to latch. If you still feel uncomfortably full after your baby is done nursing, you may use the pump or hand express again just to get to a comfortable level (usually 5-10 minutes max). Avoid completing a full pumping session, which may remove all of the milk in your breasts. Removing only the amount of milk that your baby consumes from your breasts will better help your body to know exactly how much milk to produce.
During the first week many mothers may experience nipple tenderness. This can be from normal postpartum skin changes or from an ineffective latch. Using lanolin ointment or applying expressed breast milk to the nipple can help remedy soreness. However, if nipple pain persists, occurs between feedings, or continues during an entire feeding contact a lactation consultant for an evaluation. If you experience any cracking, blistering, or bleeding to your nipples seek breastfeeding assistance.
Count wet and stool diapers. To ensure that your baby is getting enough milk, make sure they maintain the minimum amount of dirty diapers. On day 1 they need one wet and one stool diaper, day two they need two wet and two stool diapers. This trend continues until your baby is 5 days when they need 5 wet diapers and at least 4 stool diapers a day. Starting at day 6 to about 6 weeks old, your baby needs 6 wet diapers and least 4 stool diapers a day. You may find it easier to track your baby’s diapers by writing it down on a diaper log or an app on your phone. You can pick up a copy of The Baby Log Book the next time you are at The Care Connection. If your baby is not meeting these diaper needs, contact your pediatrician to discuss.
Take care of yourself. Sleep when your baby does. Ask friends and family to help with diaper changes, laundry, and cooking meals. Household cleaning does not need to be done during this time. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and eating a balanced diet.
Be patient and flexible with your baby. Your baby will tell you what they want and when they want it. You and your baby will eventually find your pattern but it make take a couple of weeks. Good support is crucial at this time so call The Care Connection at 716.725.6370 if you have any questions or concerns while starting out your breastfeeding journey.
Written By: Christie Davis, RN, IBCLC