Sucks Life for All 1

How to Breastfeed Your Newborn: What to Expect in the First Week

The first week with your baby is exciting, but it can also be challenging - especially if you've never breastfed before. Read our breastfeeding tips for a successful start to breastfeeding

It may well be that your life is upside down after the birth - you get to know your newborn and at the same time recover from the birth. Your feelings may be completely confused (especially between the second and fifth day after the birth when there are many women with "milk spilled"1 and "Baby Blues" caught twice)2. In addition, there is often the expectation - and the pressure - to get back on your feet quickly and to be a great mother in general. The best thing you can do this week is just enjoying your baby and focusing on breastfeeding.

When should I start breastfeeding my newborn?

It is best to start your baby in the first hour after birth. By grasping the nipple and sucking rhythmically, it begins to activate the cells in your breast, which stimulates milk production.1 The first hour after the birth is not called the “magic hour” for nothing!

“Ideally, your baby will be placed on your chest as soon as it is born so that it can reach your breasts itself. Maybe it drinks, maybe not; but give him the opportunity, ”advises Cathy Garbin, an internationally recognized lactation consultant.

"Support their body and let your baby try to find their way to your breast and grasp the nipple - you can watch videos online of babies" crawling up "their breasts (often referred to as" breast crawls "). If your baby doesn't put the nipple in their mouth on their own, the healthcare professional can help you with this. They usually have a lot of experience helping mothers with proper positioning. A self-determined positioning of the baby, with the mother in a half-reclined nursing position, is a good starting point. "

So don't worry about weighing or dressing the baby during this very special first hour; at least you can wait until after the first breastfeeding. Enjoy relaxed cuddling and lots of skin contact with your baby. As a result, you both release oxytocin - the "happiness hormone" - which decisively stimulates the flow of your foremilk, the colostrum.3

"As soon as the midwives were certain that our son was healthy, they gave us time to get to know each other as a family - just me, my husband and our baby." It was a bit chaotic, emotional, and utterly overwhelming, and our baby suckled in this very special hour that we spent together, twice on the breast, ”remembers Ellie, mother of two, from Great Britain.

Did you know that breastfeeding your baby will help you recover from birth? Oxytocin also ensures that your uterus contracts. In the first few hours after the birth, this will help expel the placenta naturally and it will reduce blood loss.4

What if the birth doesn't go according to plan?

If you gave birth by caesarean section or there were other complications, you may still be able to have skin contact with your baby and breastfeed for the first few hours.

“If you cannot hold your baby yourself, the best alternative is to have skin contact with your partner. This will keep your baby warm and feel safe and loved until you are ready, ”says Cathy.

If your baby is unable to breastfeed, start expressing milk frequently early on until he or she is able to feed on your own breast. “While breastfeeding right after the birth is a good start for both mother and baby, it's no drama if it doesn't work right away,” says Cathy. "It is much more important to stimulate your milk production so that you can breastfeed later if necessary."

You can hand stroke your breasts and use the hospital breast pump to stimulate your milk production from the start.5 The valuable colostrum that you gain can then be used by your baby. This is especially important if your baby was born prematurely or is doing badly because your breast milk offers so many wonderful health benefits.

It is by no means fundamentally impossible to breastfeed if your baby is born prematurely or if there are complications that initially make it impossible for him to feed from your breast. “I have met many, very many mothers whose babies did not breastfeed at all in the first six weeks because they were born too early or there were other difficulties, and they all later managed to breastfeed successfully "Says Cathy.

Is my baby catching the nipple correctly?

That your baby grasps the nipple correctly is very important for a successful start to the lactation period,6 because how it grips the nipple determines how well it can drink and, accordingly, how it grows and thrives. If it doesn't catch the nipple properly, it can lead to sore or cracked nipples. You should therefore never be afraid to have a medical professional check how your baby grasps the nipple while breastfeeding, even if you have already been told that everything is fine and that there is no obvious problem - especially if you are still in at the maternity hospital or in the birthing center.

"Every time I breastfed in the hospital, I called a midwife so she could check whether my baby was putting the nipple correctly in her mouth," says Emma, ​​mother of two from Australia. “A couple of times I thought I had done everything right, but it hurt and the midwife helped me remove my baby from my chest and put it back on again. That gave me the confidence to make it at home alone. "

Point your nipple toward your baby's palate as you insert it. As a result, it captures not only the nipple but also part of the areola. It not only sucks on your nipple, but also on some breast tissue, making it easier to drink.6

"If the baby is suckling while breastfeeding, it should feel comfortable and like a gentle pull, but not be painful," says Cathy. “Your baby's mouth will be wide open. His lower lip may be turned outward and his upper lip is gently wrapping your chest. You can tell by his body language whether he is lying comfortably. Since she will not be drinking large amounts of milk at this early stage, you will not see her swallow much, although she sucks heavily and often wants to breastfeed. "

How often should a newborn be breastfed?

The frequency and duration of breastfeeding can vary widely in the first week. “The first 24 hours are very different from baby to baby. Some babies sleep late - giving birth makes you tired! - and some often breastfeed, ”says Cathy. “For many mothers, this unpredictability is very confusing. Since everyone gives you different advice, it's important to realize that every mother and baby is unique. "

“Colostrum is thicker than mature breast milk and is produced in smaller quantities, but it is full of healthy ingredients. While drinking your colostrum, your baby can practice swallowing, sucking and breathing before your milk pours in in large quantities, ”explains Cathy.

If your milk pours in between the second and fourth days, your baby will likely drink eight to twelve times (sometimes more often!) Every 24 hours, including at night.7 These first few feeds can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to 45 minutes to an hour, as your baby has yet to develop the muscles and coordination to suckle efficiently.

"At the beginning babies suckle very intensely - often more intensely than you had imagined - and for most new mothers this is a bit of a shock at first," says Cathy. "They hardly have time to go to the toilet, shower or one Bite to eat. For most of us, this comes as a complete surprise. "

This is exactly how Camilla, mother of one child, from Australia experienced it: "During the first week, Frankie lay against my chest for 30 minutes to an hour every two hours, day and night," she says. "My partner and I were both constantly exhausted!"

Do I need a breastfeeding plan for a newborn?

The good news is that this frequent breastfeeding will stimulate and build your milk production.7 So the more your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you will produce. Therefore, you shouldn't worry about a breastfeeding plan for your baby, as it could limit their opportunities to breastfeed. Just focus on breastfeeding your baby when he shows signs of hunger,8 such as:

  • It wakes up from sleep
  • It opens its eyes
  • It turns its head when it feels something on its cheek
  • It sticks out its tongue
  • There are cooing noises
  • It licks its lips
  • It tries to eat its hand
  • It gets whining
  • It starts to whine
  • It screams

Screaming is a late sign of hunger, so always offer the breast to your baby when in doubt. It can be more difficult to breastfeed your baby when they are already crying, especially at this early stage when both of you are learning to breastfeed. The older it gets, the faster and less often it is likely to drink, and overall breastfeeding will become easier.

Does breastfeeding hurt?

You may have been told that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the reality is that many mothers find it uncomfortable in the first few days. This is not surprising when you consider that your nipples are not used to your baby's heavy and frequent sucking.

“The first few days can be uncomfortable as your body and baby need to get used to breastfeeding. If your baby stays too long and doesn't catch the nipple properly, the result is similar to wearing new, unbroken shoes, ”says Cathy. “Like your feet, your nipples can get sore. Since prevention is better than cure, you should contact a doctor, midwife or lactation consultant if the pain persists after the first few days. "

Mariah, mother of one child, from Canada, agrees: “Although my son didn't seem to have any trouble putting on, my nipples became sore while breastfeeding and everything hurt. Eventually, it turned out that his tongue was too short and we received excellent support in our municipal breastfeeding clinic to diagnose and correct the problem. "

You may also have temporary cramps that feel like period pains (known as post-pains) for the first few days after breastfeeding, especially if it is not your first baby. This is because the oxytocin released from breastfeeding helps your uterus contract further as it begins to shrink back to its original size.4

When your milk pours in, your breasts will usually feel full and firm, and will certainly be larger than they were before. In some women, the breasts become very swollen, hard and tender - this is called breast swelling.10 Breastfeeding the baby frequently can help relieve the pressure. Our article on breast swelling has more self-help tips.

How many wet and dirty diapers will my newborn baby produce?

What goes in at the top has to come out again at the bottom! Colostrum has a laxative effect to make it easier for your baby to pass their first bowel movements, the elimination of meconium, the so-called child spitting. It can look a bit strange because it's black and sticky like tar.11 But don't worry, their diapers won't always look like this - a nursing baby's dirty diapers usually have a harmless, slightly sweet odor.

Here you can find out how many dirty diapers you can expect when and what their contents should look like:

day one

  • Number: one or more
  • Color: greenish black
  • Texture: sticky and tarry

Day two

  • Number: two or more
  • Color: dark greenish brown
  • Texture: less sticky

Day three

  • Number: two or more
  • Color: greenish brown to brownish yellow
  • Texture: no longer sticky

Day four to a month

  • Number: two or more
  • Color: yellow (they should be yellow by the evening of day four at the latest)
  • Texture: grainy, mushy (like English or American mustard with mixed mustard seeds). Loose and watery.

Your baby's urine should be light yellow. On average, a newborn will urinate once a day - up to about day three, then it should produce around three wet diapers a day and from day five around five or more wet diapers a day. The diapers should also get heavier and heavier for the first few days.11

Is my baby getting enough breast milk?

Since you are only getting small amounts of breast milk to begin with, you may be concerned that it won't be enough for your newborn to feed. However, if you are breastfeeding on demand, you should be producing as much milk as your baby needs right now. If you want to keep track of things, you can compare the number of dirty and wet diapers your baby has with the number given above. If the number doesn't roughly match this pattern, ask a doctor.

“In the first three to four weeks, most babies do nothing other than breastfeed and sleep. If your baby is restless and wants to be breastfed all the time, you can ask a healthcare professional for advice, ”says Cathy.

Your baby may vomit milk-colored liquid after breastfeeding, but don't worry. However, if their vomit has something orange, red, green, brown, or black in it, or is vomiting in a gush, see a healthcare professional. The same applies if your baby has a high temperature, blood in the stool, a sunken fontanel (the soft spot on his head), or if he has not returned to birth weight after two weeks.11

However, if none of this is the case and your baby is following their growth curve, they will get enough milk. You will both soon get used to breastfeeding and develop a more regular breastfeeding rhythm.

You can find out what happens next in your breastfeeding period in Breastfeeding in the first month: What to expect.