Breastfeeding is a beautiful journey for mothers and it is unique for each mom (and different for every child). It is one of my favorite parts of motherhood so far. I know, for some, that is not how the story goes. It is important going into breastfeeding that you are educated. This is not something you should jump in blind to. I am sure there are many moms who do, but to help you get through your journey with minimal bumps, it is important to know what to expect and how to handle the unexpected.
One of the coolest things (in my opinion) in pregnancy, is how your nipples get dark. They do this so your newborn can find your nipple to feed. Babies are born with not so great eyesight and nature takes it course so mom and baby can work as a team! Breastfeeding does not always come naturally. You have to learn to read each other, find a rhythm, and work together. We have natural instincts that assist but it’s okay to not get it right away.
While you are in the hospital, you will learn that you are going to be nursing a lot. Even though your milk doesn't come in closer to a week after birth, your body is producing colostrum for your baby. Their stomachs are tiny and they don't truly consume a ton while nursing, but they are learning how to nurse and effectively remove the milk.
Nursing sessions can last 30 to 45 minutes and your baby can nurse every two to three hours. It seems like a lot but it is great bonding time and it helps you to heal. You can expect for breastfeeding to cause some slight contractions after birth too. You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby but you can under feed them. In those first weeks, the more that they nurse, the better. Give your baby all the time they need to nurse. If they quit nursing on one side, burp them, and give them a chance to nurse on the other.
Even with a newborn, it is pretty easy to tell if they are hungry. Your baby will give you plenty of cues before they get to the point of crying. Easy signs to look for are stirring, rooting, and hands in the mouth.
Newborns are sleepy. You may have to wake them up to feed or even wake them up while they are nursing. You can wake your baby by taking their onesie off so they get a little cold or even just change positions for them. If you undress them, skin to skin is a wonderful way of bonding, increasing your milk supply, and even healing. Cover them up with the Mommy Wrap or a blanket to help keep them comfortable. If they fall asleep while nursing, simply unlatch them and uncover them to wake them up.
You can never overfeed a baby by breastfeeding but you can not feed them enough. It is totally normal for your baby to lose a little weight after birth but it should bounce back quickly. You can have them weighed at your Pediatricians office or with your Lactation Consultant to watch this. Make sure you or Pediatrician is educated on breastfeeding as well, you’d be surprised at how many are not.
You will want to watch their wet and dirty diapers. For dirty diapers, you’ll expect one dirty for each day of life (up to 3 or 4) and then you’ll want them to have 3-4 stools daily that are yellowish and curly. For wet diapers, at least one wet per day of life until your milk comes in. Then you should expect at least 5 wets a day. If your baby is not meeting these milestones, contact your healthcare provider.
You can expect a growth spurt around 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks. With growth spurts, not only are frequent and long nursing sessions still normal but you can also expect cluster feeding. Cluster Feeding is very frequent to constant nursing sessions which help the body to produce more milk so baby can have enough nutrients to grow!
You will want to make sure that you are eating enough and drinking enough to feed your baby. Limit your caffeine and sugary drinks. A good rule of thumb is to drink your weight in ounces (i.e. 125lbs = 125 ounces of water). Check any tea labels, as certain herbs will dry up your supply. Eat nutrient-dense food and add in some extra calories. You won't know hungry until you start breastfeeding. I keep a box of snacks with granola, fruit, and nuts by my nursing areas.
Frequent nursing helps to quickly teach your baby days from nights. During the day nurse every two hours or on-demand once your Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant has said it is okay. At night, you can slowly extend those two-hour stretches to 3-4 hours (do not go past 4 hours though). Newborn babies should not sleep through the night and those night feeds can help reduce the risk of SIDS. I know it can be hard at night but cherish the fact that you are nourishing your baby and helping them thrive.
Your milk will come in closer to a week after birth. You will find that your breasts are more firm (and even uncomfortable). Unless your Lactation Consultant or Doctor has advised you to do so, do not pump now. It is important to let your supply regulate to your baby. Your body learns that when your breasts are not emptied, that there is too much milk being produced. Your supply won’t regulate until closer to 6 weeks.
If you are going back to work and need a stash, consult a Lactation Consultant and have them guide you in the best way to go about this. This will help to prevent under/over-supply and even mastitis. If you need to release pressure from engorgement, take a hot shower as you will trigger expression, put warm rags on your breasts, nurse your baby, or even hand express just enough to take the edge off.
Throughout the first few weeks of breastfeeding, be sure to find a Lactation Consultant. Many Hospitals and Pediatrician office have free lactation services. You can also check the Le Leche League for local resources. With a Lactation Consultant, you will get to weigh your baby and make sure they are gaining appropriately, answer any concerns or questions you may have, and have support and community in this new part of your life. Having a Lactation Consultant is crucial in the success of your breastfeeding journey.
The Mommy Wrap was created by a Mom of three colic babies! She designed it with soothing colic babies in mind. The Mommy Wrap is a breastfeeding must have! It promotes skin to skin, serves as a nursing cover, and makes mom life easier!The Mommy Wrap keeps the baby upright, which is great for reflux and aiding digestion in babies, it keeps them close to you, and it even frees up a hand! We know how hard it can be to have a colic baby and having a free hand helps you get everything else done too!
There is a lot to know about breastfeeding, especially in the beginning when we are not only adjusting to a major life change but to reading our body and our baby’s. By having the proper education, support, and community, breastfeeding will be a little more natural and hopefully an empowering experience.
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Guest Post provided by Brenna Dean