The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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As part of our series of live Facebook chats with our favorite breastfeeding experts in celebration of Breastfeeding Awarness Month, we chatted with certified lactation consultant, Elena Vogel. She answered your questions about what’s in store for you and your newborn in those first 48 hours of nursing—and how to make sure breastfeeding gets off on the right, er, breast, for both you and your baby.
While there are many important steps in creating a successful breastfeeding experience, here are five valuable tips from Elena to help get off to a great start. And a summary of your questions from our facebook expert day discussion.
Skin to skin
As much as you can in the first few days, lay baby on your chest, tummy to tummy, undressed down to the diaper. When baby is skin to skin, he’ll cue to breastfeed more often. Additionally, when your baby is close, you’ll notice that he’s cueing and be able to help him latch before he begins to cry. It’s easier for both mom and baby to latch well, when baby is calm.
It’s a good thing if your baby wants to eat, “all of the time”
A baby who nurses very frequently in the first few days (ie: more than 8 times in 24 hours) will do a great job of bringing in a copious milk supply, will not lose excessive amounts of weight, and is less likely to have issues with jaundice. Don’t hesitate to latch your baby whenever she seems interested (ie: sticking out her tongue, putting her hands in his mouth, chewing on the swaddle blanket, or wanting to suck) even if she just ate.
The more you breastfeed, the faster your milk will come in, and frequent feeds in the first days will help you make more milk in the months to come. It can feel exhausting to nurse so frequently, but it is worth it: you will have plenty of milk and a thriving baby.
A good latch
While it’s common to have some nipple tenderness in the first few days, your nipples should not get damaged. A good latch is what creates comfortable breastfeeding for both mom and baby. If the baby is latched on poorly (just on the nipple, without areola in his mouth too), it will most definitely hurt. Further, when a baby is latched well, he will be able to remove colostrum from the breast much more easily than if he has a poor latch. If it hurts when baby is sucking, get help with your latch, right away! Watch our video with Corky Harvery from The Pump Station for our step-by-step guide fitpregnancy.com/latchvideo.
Keep your baby awake while nursing
Babies are often very sleepy eaters in the first few days. It’s so comfortable for them to nuzzle in close to mom, and drift off. If baby latches, does a few sucks and falls asleep, she won’t be doing her job of drinking colostrum, and your breasts won’t be told to make milk. In turn, milk comes in later, baby loses too much weight and may become fussier or sleepier. So, it’s important to keep baby awake and encourage her to keep sucking and swallowing (looks like big jaw movement). Rub her head or feet, raise her arm, firmly massage her back; keep her going!
If things aren’t going well in the first few days (baby has lost 10% of his birth weight, is very sleepy or very fussy while feeding, or your nipples are very sore), seek out help from a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) as soon as possible. Problems are easier to fix if dealt with early, and more difficult to resolve when left for even a couple of days more.
Eleana answered your questions on our facebook fan page. Below a summary of all your real breastfeeding questions plus, real advice from Elena.
Facebook Expert Day Discussion
Q: Will I need to pump during the first few days or week? What are the best bottles to use with a natural feeling nipple? Can I use any brand of bottles regardless of the breast pump brand? Is there a way to know I am successfully lactating before the first feeding?
Elena Vogel: If all is going well, there shouldn't be any need to pump or bottle feed in the first 3-4 weeks. It's recommended to just breastfeed during that time to help establish your supply and help baby latch on properly. If your breasts grew during pregnancy, then milk should come in normally once the baby is born. The way you know that things are going well in the first week are:
1) Poops and pees
2) That baby isn't losing excessive amounts of weight (up to 10% of birth weight is lost and that is normal
3) Baby is latching and sucking and you can hear swallows. Around day 3-4 you will be aware that your breasts feel heavier and fuller, and baby is swallowing more frequently and pooping and peeing more. Those are all signs that it is working.