Pregnancy and delivery can be incredible challenging and yet when your sweet baby is born, your journey as mother takes a new turn. When you make the switch from expectant mother to proud mama, life gets a lot more complicated and what you learn day-to-day and minute-to-minute is incredible.
You think that the hard part, giving birth, was overwhelming, now you have to figure out how to feed this little person while at the same time recovering from birth. You love this baby and you want them to only have the very best, and yet, this is a completely new skill, your baby did not come with an instruction manual and to top it off, you’re exhausted. Yes, you’re elated and happy, but come on, you’re also exhausted.
Even experienced moms may find that breastfeeding is daunting. You’re not alone and the good news is that most moms and babies do manage to figure this out. Sometimes a little help is needed from nurses, lactation consultants, midwives, pediatric care providers and your OB provider.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone and please don’t panic! With this article, I hope to clear up some myths and give some pointers for breastfeeding your amazing newborn during the first days of life.
Wait, This Isn’t Milk
Toward the end of pregnancy and right after, if you look in your bra or squeeze your nipples, you may notice a thick, yellow fluid slowly coming out. You’re leaking, but it isn’t the white milk you might be expecting.
This fluid is known as Colostrum or the first milk. It’s absolutely, positively the best and perfect first milk for your baby. Colostrum is yellow because it’s chock full of protein, fats, minerals and milk sugar. Colostrum makes a rich meal for your newborn and helps your baby clear the meconium stool from their system.
Colostrum also contains antibodies and other immune factors that help protect the baby from potential infections. Your body doesn’t produce very much Colostrum – usually, about 1 ounce per feeding. Don’t worry, your baby’s stomach is only the size of a marble during the first few days. Colostrum is the perfect amount and the perfect meal for your baby.
How Often Should I Nurse?
With a newborn, it’s important to nurse frequently, especially in the first few days. Aim for every 2-3 hours, yes, that is around the clock.
The time interval starts from the beginning of a breastfeeding session to the beginning of the next.
Breastfeeding frequently around the clock, makes your sleeping difficult. I know, I know, but remember your baby’s stomach is the size of a marble, so they need to eat frequently.
When you consider that breastfeeding, burping and changing can take 30 -60 minutes, you’ll probably feel as if all you do is feed the baby. It’s normal to feel as if this chronically sleep deprived stage will never end and you’ll never feel rested again in your life, but babies grow and they won’t need to eat as often in a few days and weeks.
No wonder new moms are so tired! This is the time to:
- Rest whenever your baby rests
- Drink lots of fluids
- Let other people help out, so that you can rest
- Let go of perfectionism, your house will get cleaned eventually
- Forget about looking at other moms on social media, they’re struggling too, just not admitting it.
- The thank you notes can wait
- Did I mention resting?
Why frequent breastfeeding is so important
- Frequent nursing will help stimulate your milk production.
- It also helps to lessen breast engorgement when the milk does come in; it may even prevent engorgement altogether!
- With a steady inflow of food, the baby has an easier time clearing their meconium (the dark, tarry first stool), and has plenty of nourishment to grow and thrive.
- Frequent breastfeeding can also ease the process of nursing.
- Lots of practice for both mom and the baby help both of you figure out what to do.
What’s Happens Next?
As the milk comes in and replaces the colostrum, you may notice that your breasts are changing, your baby is more awake and more hungry.
With a baby, lack of sleep is a part of life. Be sure to accept any and all offers of support from your partner and other family members – they want to make your life easier!
- Engorged Breasts: Swollen, hard, or enlarged breasts are common. This happens as the tiny amount of colostrum is replaced by lots of milk that will help your baby grow and develop.
- Pelvic cramping: Nursing stimulates uterine contractions, which helps your uterus return to normal and your bleeding slow down.
- Tingling Breasts: The let-down reflex of nursing may cause you to feel a slightly painful sensation, tingling or burning. Many moms feel nothing; others feel a range from mild to extreme pain. It may happen either occasionally or with every breastfeeding session.
- Baby’s weight loss: Most babies lose about 10% of their body weight in the first few days. This is no cause for alarm, as they will regain this weight in the next 1-2 weeks.
You can find more information about breastfeeding your baby from my new book, Nurse Barb’s Personal Guide to Breastfeeding.