The first 24 hours of breastfeeding can be exhausting and challenging for a lot of parents. Even if you have breastfed before or it’s your first time, how you birthed and how your baby is adjusting to life in the world can all impact how breastfeeding starts off. So here are my top tips on getting your breastfeeding journey with your newborn off to a great start:
Relax. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done when you’re recovering from labor, but stress hormones are the main competitors of oxytocin and other hormones you need to be on your way to having a steady milk supply. Try to create as calm of an environment as possible, be alone with your baby or with people who make you feel supported, and ask for help immediately if breastfeeding feels painful or you feel unsure so you can get the help that will ease your mind and make nursing comfortable for you and your baby.
Skin to Skin. Remember what I said about stress? Well, a natural way of creating a rhythm between you and your baby is by putting your child skin to skin on your chest. Skin to Skin contact can help your baby calm down and relax before trying to latch and also send signals to your brain to start producing milk. Skin to skin can also be done with your partner or another family member if you are recovering from a cesarean birth and need some breaks. It is also an amazing way to bond with your baby and help you with milk expression if your child is in the NICU.
Breastfeed or remove milk early and often. The number one question any lactation professional gets is how do I make enough milk. Breastfeeding is regulated by the amount of milk you remove from your breast at each feeding so it’s important within the first 24 hours to start milk removal from your body. That can look like nursing the baby on your breast whenever your baby is hungry (at least 10-12 times in 24 hours) or manually removing milk as often as your newborn eats.
Hand Expression. Colostrum is your yellow-colored first milk that is full of antibodies and vitamins for your newborn baby. Hand expression is a term to describe using your hands to express milk from your breasts instead of or in addition to using a breast pump. Because of colostrum’s thicker consistency, some parents find using a breast pump in the first couple of days doesn’t always empty their breasts which can cause milk supply issues. This is why learning to do hand expression is a skill that you can use immediately to ensure your baby is receiving human milk even if you are having trouble or don’t want to nurse. Here is a video I love that can help you visualize and learn how to do hand expression and you can always ask for help if you forget or save the video to watch after delivery.
Use a Spoon or Medicine Cup. If you are expressing milk manually with your hands, it may be easier to collect your expressed milk in a spoon or medicine cup until your milk changes to transitional milk about 2-5 days after delivery and your milk flows out easier. It can also be more encouraging to quickly fill a small spoon or cup than an empty baby bottle. If you’re delivering at a hospital, you can ask the Nurse to give you them so you don’t have to worry about supplying your own, and you can also use the spoon or cup to feed the baby the milk right away or to fill a milk bag or bottle to store away for later.
Over the years I have taught so many clients how to breastfeed just hours after they gave birth and an extra tip I have to give you is this: you are a great parent because you love your child, and that is true no matter how your breastfeeding journey starts. Remember, breastfeeding your child is something both you and your baby are learning how to do together and often it takes time to get into a groove. So if it’s something you want to do, know that there are many ways you can get off to the right start, even if you break a few rules, to have a successful breastfeeding relationship!
Disclaimer: Although I am a lactation consultant by profession, I am not your lactation consultant. This article is for informational and educational purposes only, does not constitute healthcare advice and does not establish any kind of client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information. Please consult your healthcare provider before attempting to use any of this information.