Breastfeeding is the most natural and healthy feeding you can give your baby. The first hour(s) after birth skin-to-skin contact helps the baby to find its way to the breast. Most baby’s try to find the breast on its own as every baby has a natural reflex to drink.
It’s good to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding before the birth. Knowing what to expect should help you feel as confident as possible when you’ve just given birth and want to breastfeed your baby.
Your baby will be happier if you keep them near you and feed them whenever they’re hungry. This will help your body to produce plenty of milk.
Skin-to-skin contact is good at any time. It will help to comfort you and your baby over the first few days and weeks as you get to know each other.
Every pregnant woman makes milk for her baby, which is ready and available at birth. This milk is called colostrum and is sometimes a yellow colour. It’s very concentrated, so your baby will only need a small amount at each feed (approximately a teaspoonful).
Your baby may want to feed quite frequently, perhaps every hour. But they will begin to have longer feeds less often when your milk comes in, in a few days. Your breasts will feel heavier, tensed and warm, this is called “stuwing” and is a sign the milk production is increasing. It will last a few days an can be quit uncomfortable. The kraamzorg will give you advice how to deal with it.
The more you breastfeed the more milk you’ll produce. The time between feeds will vary, and you and your baby will settle into a pattern, which may change from time to time. It takes about two weeks for you and your baby to have a sort of balanced demand and supply of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a skill that needs to be learnt, and it can take time and practice to get the hang of it. There are lots of different positions for breastfeeding.
Checklist for a good position:
- Are you comfortable? It’s worth getting comfortable before a feed. Remember when you feed to relax your shoulders and arms.
- Are your baby’s head and body in a straight line? If not, your baby might not be able to swallow easily.
- Are you holding your baby close to you, facing your breast? Support their neck, shoulders and back. They should be able to tilt their head back and swallow easily, and shouldn’t have to reach out to feed.
- Is your baby’s nose opposite your nipple? Your baby needs to get a big mouthful of breast from beneath the nipple. Placing your baby with their nose level with your nipple will encourage them to open their mouth wide and attach to the breast well.
- Hold your baby close to you with their nose level with the nipple.
- Wait until your baby opens their mouth really wide with the tongue down. You can encourage them to do this by gently stroking their top lip.
- Bring your baby on to your breast.
- Your baby will tilt their head back and come to your breast chin first. They should take a large mouthful of breast. Your nipple should go towards the roof of their mouth.
Between the second and fifth day after giving birth, it’s normal for your breasts to become larger, heavier, and a little sore as they begin producing greater quantities of milk. Some of the fullness is due to extra blood and lymph fluids in the breast tissue. This fullness usually eases within the first two to three weeks after delivery and your breasts should feel softer, even when your milk supply is plentiful.
But if your breasts feel hard, swollen, throbbing, lumpy, uncomfortably full, or painful, you are likely engorged. The swelling may extend all the way to your armpit and you may even run a low fever.
Some tips to reduce engorgement:
- Nurse frequently – between eight and 12 times a day after the first 24 hours. (You should offer the breast frequently during the first day as well, but the baby may not nurse eight times.) Look for your baby’s hunger cues. Keeping your baby snuggled with her skin against your skin helps encourage her to breastfeed. Wake your baby if more than three hours go by from the start of one feeding session to the start of the next.
- Let your baby finish nursing on one breast before switching to other. This will typically take between ten and 20 minutes. Your baby may not nurse on the other side. If she doesn’t, just start on that breast next time.
- Just before nursing, place a warm compress on your breasts for a few minutes to get the milk flowing. You could also take a quick warm shower. Don’t apply heat for more than three minutes, since too much warmth can increase swelling and make it harder for the milk to come out. If you’re engorged to the point that milk isn’t coming out, don’t use warm compresses.
- While your baby is nursing, gently massage the breast he’s on. This encourages the milk to flow and will help relieve some of the tightness and discomfort.
- appears content and satisfied after most feeds,
- is gaining weight at the end of the first week,
- has an increasing amount of wet nappies and his stools changes into yellow at the end of the first week after birth, your baby shows all signs of getting enough milk.
Are you worried if (s)he is growing well enough after the first week? At the practice we have a digital scale you can always use.