Written by Jana Angeles
There are so many emotions after the first few days of childbirth. You’re nervous, scared, excited and thrilled to be able to take care of your little human. For most of us, it’s a new journey that we’re about to embark on and we’re not sure how things will pan out; all we know is, it’s easy to feel misguided at times, especially in these trying moments of adulthood. Our children will challenge us to be the best parents we can be, but ultimately, we have to remember that we aren’t perfect.
The first week of parenting is something we’ll remember for a while and everything will feel new and unfamiliar. For mothers, breastfeeding is one of the first few things they do as new parents. Breastfeeding allows them to nurture their children and feel close to them from skin-to-skin contact. What we don’t realise is, it’s a crucial time for us to allow bonding to start with our babies and being able to feed them is an experience like no other. Yes, it’ll be painful at times but seeing that small face and carrying that bundle of joy will warm your heart in so many ways.
We sometimes set expectations for ourselves when it comes to the first few weeks, but remember that all mothers may not be able to breastfeed due to personal circumstances beyond their control. Here are some of the things you need to know about breastfeeding during the first week:
The first feeds
In most cases, most mothers would have experienced breastfeeding straight after birth. A newborn immediately seeks out the mother’s breast if skin-to-skin contact has occurred when they’re born. It helps to know that breastfeeding your newborn helps your uterus get back into its original shape and normally the delivery of the placenta is what triggers the breast milk to come in.
You’ll expect the milk to come within 2-3 days. Prior to this, your baby will be getting their nutrients from the colostrum. Colostrum is a sticky, yellow-like substance that your baby consumes before breast milk. Think of this as an opportunity to practice attachment and positioning for breastfeeding.
However, for some mothers this may not be the case. It isn’t too late to keep encouraging skin-to-skin contact with you and your partner. It does help encourage breastfeeding slowly but surely!
Knowing when your baby is hungry
There are a few signs to look out for when your baby is hungry. It’ll become instinctive once you get the hang of breastfeeding, but in the first week or so, it’ll be a learning curve you’ll have to undertake with your bub. Don’t wait to breastfeed when they are wailing in tears – you’ll have to calm them down first before giving your breast. Ensure that they are calm and collected when you attempt to start breastfeeding again.
Some signs to look out for are:
- Their mouth is open
- They are moving more
- Making sucking noises or sucking on their fist/fingers
- Turning their head to the side as if their looking for your breast
In addition, it’s normal to be feeding your newborn 8-12 feeds in 24 hours and some can last up until an hour. Your body will automatically know how much milk to produce when the feeds become frequent and consistent. Though this can seem overwhelming and demanding for new mothers, remember that this is only short-term. Keep yourself hydrated and get plenty of rest when you can.
The correct latch technique
If you have any concerns about having the correct latch technique when breastfeeding, be sure to consult with your midwives and lactation consultants when you’re at the hospital or during home visits. Using the incorrect technique could lead to painful, cracked nipples and this may cause your baby to receive a seldom supply of breastmilk.
Here are the signs you should look out for when your baby is well-attached for breastfeeding:
- Your baby’s chin and the tip of their nose is touching the breast
- They are close to your body and are facing you
- Their lips are curled outwards
- When they are attaching, their mouth is open-wide
If your baby is still not latching properly, attempt to take them off your breast and try again. If still unsuccessful, be sure to seek proper advice and tips from your midwives and lactation consultants so they can provide helpful guidelines when it comes to breastfeeding techniques.
- Having latch issues during breastfeeding can cause the breasts to become painful due to the extra friction. You can take paracetamol 40 minutes prior to your next feed so the effects of the medication will kick in.
- Avoid washing your nipples with soap as this can cause irritation.
- If breastfeeding has become too painful for you, another alternative is to express milk from a breast pump. Do this until your breasts are completely healed.
Concerns about supply
- If your baby is constantly wetting their nappies, you are on the right track when it comes to breastfeeding as they are getting enough nutrients during their feeds.
- Watch your baby show signs of hunger instead of keeping watch of the clock!
- If your breasts have stopped swelling and you’re feeling energised, this usually means you are producing the right amount of breastmilk.
- If your baby isn’t putting on weight or not wetting their nappies enough, talk with your local health professional and share your concerns.
Conflicting advice and having zero confidence
- It’s overwhelming receiving advice from different sources. The best way is to talk to midwives, lactation consultants or friends who have breastfed.
- Be well-informed and do your own research.
- Don’t feel like you should be swayed into breastfeeding, especially if your body cannot handle the physical demands of it.
- Be polite when people share their own judgements of what you’re doing. They’re entitled to their own opinion but do your best to keep calm even if you don’t support their own views.
- Remember that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. There are alternative arrangements to feeding. Do not feel guilty about not being able to. Nobody is perfect. Surround yourself with positive people and never let the negativity of others bring you down.