Breastfeeding 101: Surviving the Hospital & Newborn Days

Breastfeeding may be natural, but it's not always easy, and with bad information running rampant, sometimes it can be really hard to know what's true and what is going to end up being more damaging than helpful.

If you're pregnant or soon will be, check out Breastfeeding 101: What You Need to Know Before the Birth. Now we move onto what to know about nursing immediately after birth and in those precious first few days.


Quick note: These apply to situations where mom and baby are healthy. If you have extenuating circumstances, contact a La Leche League Leader as soon as possible for customized help.

Your birth can make a difference. If you had an epidural, baby can be a little drowsy at first. If you had a c-section, demand that no sugar-water or formula be fed to baby -- that YOU are to be baby's first food, and within the first hour, barring any complications.

Nurse as soon as you can. Baby is uniquely alert in that first hour post-birth, and they are designed to go straight from umbilical cord nutrition to your breast. In fact, placed on the mom's belly, babies can get to and latch onto your breast themselves. The goo all over them smells very similar to your breasts as well, which is nature's way of helping baby find the source of food. If you wait too long, you miss this alert stage and baby will go to sleep, and then it can be more difficult to feed baby when baby is incredibly hungry and frustrated later.

Colostrum is all a baby needs. If you try to hand-express and only get out a drop or nothing, that's okay. Babies have marble-sized tummies for the first week. They can't even drink an ounce at once, so don't worry about supply. As long as baby is peeing 6-8 times a day by 3 days old, and pooping as well, it's generally okay. Call the LLL if you're not sure. Sometimes a diaper is wet, but it can be hard to tell. If you're worried baby's not peeing, try pouring one ounce of liquid on a diaper to see how little that really is.

Keep baby with you. A lot of hospitals are ditching nurseries now, and it's for the best -- newborns can nurse over 12-14 times a day. Don't assume that because baby nursed for 40 minutes, took a break for 15, and wants to nurse again that that means you're not making enough -- your baby was just on a 24/7 food supply! It takes time to get used to going a little bit between feedings. There are cultures that don't put infants down, even once, in the first few months. You don't have to go to that extreme, but you will be with baby pretty much 24/7, other than the time it takes to pee or shower.

Don't bring your boob to the baby, but bring the baby to the boob. If you are uncomfortable, your baby is too. Get yourself propped up with pillows or whatever you need on your lap until the baby is at the boob. You're going to be sitting like that for awhile -- don't make it any more difficult than it needs to be.

Perfect the latch-on. Some babies are naturals, and some need some help. Forget the nose touching your boob, but the chin should. The nipple should also aim at the roof of the baby's mouth, NOT centered. As this Kellymom animation shows, you're not putting baby straight on, so much as angling them. Try the "C-Hold" where you cup your breast with your hand, thumb on the top close to the nipple, and push down just a little so your nipple angles up a little. It can help you get it in the baby's mouth correctly.

Don't watch the clock. The old idea that a baby should nurse for 10-15 minutes at each breast is just wrong. Think more along the lines of one breast per FEEDING, and that can be 10-40 minutes. If baby pops off and seems to want more, then you can go to the other breast, but don't prematurely remove baby because of a clock.

Pain doesn't always mean you're doing it wrong, and it will go away. I'm sure you've heard "If it hurts, it's wrong" but take it from me, someone who is going on 45 months of nursing between her two kids -- sometimes it does hurt even when everything is perfect. If you've worked on everything everyone has told you and it still hurts, practice some of those relaxing birthing techniques try to get through it. It WILL get better. Try to let your nipples air-dry, use an ointment, be gentle, and avoid soaps which can be drying.

Don't overthink it. The biggest problem women face is self-doubt. If you think your baby might not be getting enough, nurse more. Send your husband out to rent you movies, grab your favorite take-out, and rub your feet, but keep nursing. Even if letting dad give one bottle sounds heavenly, it can interfere with 2-3 breastfeeding sessions and actually cause problems even if you didn't have any to start. Have him help and support you in any other way you need, even doing everything BUT the feedings. Your job is baby. Period. Any expectations beyond that can add to your stress, so ditch everything else you might have had planned. You just brought a brand-new life into the world -- that life needs you.

More to come on this topic -- the next steps after the newborn days! Stay tuned and if you have any questions, just ask below. I'll get them answered!

What was most helpful for your breastfeeding success in the newborn days?


Image via MelanieLouise/CafeMom

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