If you are expecting a new baby, you’ve likely been busy decorating the nursery, Googling what to expect during labor and delivery, and shopping in the baby aisle of your favorite store. But have you prepared for feeding your baby?
Breastfeeding IS natural, but it takes some time to learn. The first weeks can be very challenging, and you’ll be at your highest risk to stop before you had planned. Luckily, there are things you can do before your baby arrives to make the early weeks of breastfeeding a whole lot less stressful and so much more enjoyable.
Surrounding yourself with people who support your decision to breastfeed can be very helpful during the first few weeks when you are still building your confidence.
If any friends or family members have breastfed, they can be a great source of guidance and information when you have questions.
Mother-to-mother support can be invaluable as there will be days you will need some encouragement! Research local mother-to-mother breastfeeding support groups and mom and baby groups in your area. There are also many breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. Online support groups are great during the lonely feeding hours in the middle of the night.
Caring for a new baby is a time consuming job! You will be breastfeeding for at least 10 hours a day. You (or your partner) will spend another hour and a half each day changing diapers. Those 2 duties alone total almost 12 hours! (And you haven’t yet had a shower, eaten or slept.) You will not have time to accomplish everything on your list; your most important job will be to breastfeed and take care of your baby.
Most new families get overwhelmed with company. The type of company you will need in the first few weeks are the ones that will help with tasks, allowing you and your partner to focus on the baby and on getting rest. Think about a family member or friend you could ask to help with housework, do some laundry, make a meal or walk your dog. Be sure to be specific about how you would like them to help.
Think about your baby’s environment right now. Your womb is at the perfect constant temperature. Your baby is continuously fed through the umbilical cord. Your baby feels secure and tightly enclosed.
Now, imagine how your baby will feel at birth. He will be suddenly removed from this safe secure place. The lights are bright. There are loud noises. Your baby will experience cold and hunger for the very first time.
This is why skin-to-skin snuggling is important.
Your bare chest is the warm, secure place where baby can return to the sound of your heartbeat. If your baby is cold, your body automatically warms up. If your baby is too warm, your body cools down. This keeps your baby at the perfect temperature!
This may sound warm and fuzzy, but there is actual research behind the idea of skin to skin. The World Health Organization, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that babies be placed on your chest immediately after birth and left there for at least one hour, uninterrupted.
Talk to your healthcare provider about this research and add it to your birth plan.
The process of breastfeeding goes through some huge changes in the first three days after birth. Knowing what is normal can help you to feel more confident.
Immediately following birth, babies have a quiet, alert stage. They will be awake and be interested in feeding.
After this alert period, they go into a deep recovery sleep, generally lasting about 24 hours. Your baby may need gentle reminders to feed during this sleepy time. Try unwrapping or undressing, changing the diaper, or gently stroking baby’s face and back.
When babies reach 24 hours of age, everything changes. They are suddenly more awake and want to feed very often. This can be a bit stressful. Baby wants to feed often and mom’s breasts are soft. Does this mean I don’t have enough milk? No. This frequent feeding is normal!
Your breasts may be soft, but they have colostrum. Colostrum is packed with nutrients and germ fighting properties. It is produced in small quantities, perfect for your baby’s small tummy size. Frequent feeding and skin-to-skin contact will signal your body to start making a larger volume of milk.
Around the third day after your birth, your breasts will start to get heavier. Your milk will begin to change from the golden color of colostrum to a white color. Your baby will continue to feed often - 10, 12, 14, 16 times or more in each 24 hours period. Feeding often and ‘on demand’ will help to ensure a happier baby.
Breastfeeding a newborn is a time consuming task! Many partners feel frustrated. They would like to give their partner a break, but they aren’t sure how to help. There are many ways partners can make breastfeeding easier. In fact, research shows that their support is key in ensuring breastfeeding success!
Two practical things your partner can do is to to take charge of the diapering and the burping. This will be a huge time saver for you, allowing a few minutes to grab a shower or a snack.
Probably the most important thing you and your partner can do right now is to learn some of the basics about breastfeeding and how to prepare prenatally. Many families tell us that knowing the importance of breastfeeding helped them to hang in when times were tough.
Breastfeeding may be challenging at the beginning, but if you prepare now, you will soon find it's the simplest way to feed your baby. Your milk will always be ready for baby at just the right temperature, giving you more time to simply cuddle and enjoy your newborn.
Best wishes for this exciting time in your life!