Sept 23, 2021
Written By: Katie Frawley
The first latch can be intimidating, and all the reading in the world will still leave you with questions when you’re actually in the moment. Am I doing this right? Is the baby getting any milk? Do I nurse on both sides or just one? Luckily, many hospitals have lactation consultants who will answer every question and point you in the right direction. The nurses are also fantastic resources when you’re nervous and unsure at the start. Don’t be shy about speaking up. Everyone is here to help you succeed!
One essential breastfeeding item you’ll want to pack in your hospital bag is nipple cream. Your nipples are not used to breastfeeding a baby, so you’ll need to give them a little extra care. Applying nipple cream after each feeding can help with soreness, cracking, and bleeding. The prospect of bleeding nipples can definitely feel scary, but finding a good cream will help you in those first few weeks as your body adjusts to this new and important role as milk-maker.
Speaking of milk, when does that come in exactly? You’ll be ready to breastfeed as soon as your baby is born. In the first 2-3 days following your baby’s birth, you’ll produce something called colostrum. Colostrum is basically a super-concentrated kind of breastmilk that provides tons of nutritional value to your new babe. It’s very rich and thicker than the breastmilk that sustains your baby through the rest of their breastfeeding months. On the second or third day after delivery (although it can take a bit longer for some moms), your breasts will start to feel very full. They’ll be visibly larger as well. This means your milk is finally “coming in.” Because this type of breast milk is less rich than colostrum, your baby may spend more time at the breast. But how much time is the right amount of time?
The most important thing to remember is to take your time and have patience with yourself.
The length of time it takes a baby to nurse is extremely variable. Let your baby spend as much time at the breast as they want. When he’s feeling full or is ready to be burped, he will most likely come off on his own. Often, after getting out a good burp, your little one might be ready for a second course on the other breast. If one of your nipples is feeling extra sore, give that breast a rest by starting off the feeding on the other side. Your baby’s sucking reflex will be strongest at the beginning of the meal when they’re hungry.
If you begin to feel frustrated, hand the baby to your partner and take some deep breaths. If you can remain calm, your baby will be too. And a calm baby is much easier to feed than a fussy one! The most important thing to remember is to take your time and have patience with yourself. You and your baby are BOTH learning how to nurse. Many women find breastfeeding to be a joyful experience, deepening the bond between mama and babe, but it’s not always a walk in the park.
If breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you, be confident that there are many ways to supplement and feed your newborn. Formula has come a long way, and there are donor milk options should your baby need it. True happiness lies in the act of feeding your tiny human with love, and knowing you are nourishing them to the best of your ability. Be patient with your newborn, be generous with yourself, and cherish the challenges of motherhood.