You've spent 9 months doing an amazing job of preparing for labour and delivery, and you've just given birth to a beautiful new little person you're looking forward to caring for. So now what?
A lot of breastfeeding information focuses on what happens after your milk comes in, which usually occurs at around Day 3 post-birth. But what happens during the first few hours after delivery?
Here are two important rules:
Try to start breastfeeding within 30 minutes after birth. Most babies will begin to root at this time. Sometimes it isn't possible to feed within the first 30 minutes, if you or your baby have had complications or if you had a surgical birth. If that's the case, don't worry; you won't lose anything by waiting for a bit. The two of you will come together as soon as you can.
The first few feedings might not be very long or vigorous since you're both discovering breastfeeding. Although your baby might want to feed almost right away after birth, he might not drink very much, even as little as a few spoonfuls' worth of colostrum in an entire day. That's just fine, but it's important to keep offering him your breast often during the early colostrum days, as the more frequently your baby nurses, the more healthful antibodies and protein he'll take in, and the faster your mature milk will come in. It's important that you don't try to limit the frequency or duration of the early feeding sessions.
And because the first day can be unpredictable, don't panic if your baby doesn't feed regularly. In fact, babies will often sleep for most of their first 24 hours. Even if that's the case, don't let any opportunity pass you by. Either feed him when he's awake and rooting or, if he isn't waking to nurse, gently help him waken by either making the room a bit cooler, undressing him a bit or putting him down in a safe place so he isn't in the warm comfort of your arms. A good time to do this is when you see any signs of stirring or light sleep on his part.
Being together with your baby in the early hours and days after his birth is important for both of you. If your baby is kept near you he'll come to the breast more often, which helps your milk to come in faster. It also makes it easier for you to learn your baby's feeding cues.
If you've had a hospital delivery, you should know that most hospitals feel it's important to keep you and your baby together around the clock. If for some reason you need to be separated from your baby, don't be afraid to speak up. Let the hospital staff know you want to be with your baby as soon and as much as possible.
And although it may be tempting while in the hospital to send your baby to the nursery for the night, it won’t be more restful for you. Being close to each other means your newborn will have quick and easy access to your breast.
Source: Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)