It is important to know that it can take time for you to get in the groove when it comes to feeding. After all, this is a new experience for both you and your little one. During your stay at the hospital or birthing centre, you will have access to support in the form of midwives and lactation consultants. Be sure to reach out to them at any time if you feel you need support in establishing feeding – the earlier the better.
If your baby and you are both well after the birth process, your baby will be placed on you as soon as possible for some skin-on-skin time. While they may not latch on straight away, your baby’s sucking instincts are at their strongest and they will spend time nuzzling at your breast and trying to latch onto your nipple.
The midwives will often wait for this to occur before measuring and weighing your baby. These early stages of feeding can also help with the delivery of your placenta.
Colostrum is the precursor for breastmilk and has amazing properties for protecting and nourishing your baby in those first days of life. During the days before your milk comes in, your breasts may not feel very full and you might think that your baby isn’t getting enough. However, rest assured that their stomachs are tiny and this ‘liquid gold’ is quite concentrated. As your breasts aren’t as full during this time, it can help to make establishing a latch easier for your little one.
Establishing your milk
During the first few days, it is important to feed as frequently as possible to help your milk supply come in. Many babies will feed up to 12 times within 24 hours – which will mean that feeding will be ‘around the clock’.
Night two is generally the hardest and your baby may be awake a lot. This is perfectly normal newborn behaviour (as difficult as it may be) but they are actually helping you to produce milk! The more you feed, the sooner your milk will come in. Remember that this won’t last forever and once your milk is established, the time between feeds will extend.
It is important to spend the first few days getting to know your newborn and their cues for hunger. This can often look like wriggling around, sucking movements, hands to mouth or rapid eye movements. It is best not to wait until they are crying before feeding, as this is a late hunger cue and will make it harder to settle them for feeding.
*If you have a baby who is in special care or are separated from them following birth, the hospital-grade pumps will help to stimulate and maintain your milk supply. You should speak with your midwife or obstetrician for advice specific to you.