In observance of National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, pediatrician Kate Land, MD, shares tips for how to get through the first few days of nursing a newborn.
Let’s face it: The first hours and days of breastfeeding can be rough. You know it’s the healthiest, best choice for both you and your baby, but you’re likely exhausted after delivery, and any small setbacks can feel overwhelming. I get that. I’ve been there!
Things didn’t go well when I tried to breastfeed my first baby. I saw a lactation consultant in the hospital, and with her there it all seemed so easy — position, latch, suck. But when I got home, my baby just didn’t seem interested in latching. I couldn’t get comfortable or figure out how to hold him the right way. I felt like a failure and just sat there crying.
Luckily, I was able to find some time with a lactation consultant again. Here’s what she shared with me and what I now try to impart with new moms I meet in my practice.
Breastfeeding Gets Easier With Time.
Remember that you and your baby are still learning. Every time you nurse, your body gets signals to make more milk. You and your baby are a team that’s naturally built for success! We expect babies to lose some weight in the first week of life, but they’ll start gaining soon. We’ll let you know if they’re getting enough milk after weighing them at each appointment.
We recommend holding your baby skin to skin, and they’ll let you know when they’re ready to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is more than food to the baby, it’s comfort and security, too. Skin-to-skin contact lets them smell, touch, and get to know you. Watch for cues that they’re ready to try to feed again: lip licking, rooting, or putting their hand to their mouth.
Cluster Feeding Is Normal.
Frequent nursing is your baby’s way of increasing your milk supply. While this can be tiring, hang in there. Aim to feed 10 or more times per 24 hours — but not on any schedule yet. This averages to every 2 to 3 hours, but often occurs in spurts of feeding and then sleep time. Most babies go from sleepy and hard to wake on the first day, to wanting to feed all the time on the 2nd or 3rd day (usually at night).
I know this is hard, which leads me to my next very important point.
Don’t Forget About Mom!
Try to sit back and let your family take care of you, the housework, and chores — you’re busy growing a baby and healing! Rest, eat, and drink enough fluids to keep your urine clear. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink.
If you have questions, know that it’s normal to need support for breastfeeding. Kaiser Permanente’s call center advice nurses are available 24-7. Moms can get a video, phone, or office appointment quickly.
I want moms to feel supported every step of the way to meet their own breastfeeding goals — whether that is exclusive breastfeeding for the first year of a baby’s life or any amount of breastfeeding that the mother chooses. The goal is for both baby and mom to thrive.