The first breastfeeding can be a stressful time for the new mother, particularly if its your first baby (as mine was). There is so much happening. You have barely registered that the painful labour is now over, you are excited about the baby, family is usually clustered close to see the baby and wish you well…. Well meaning relatives want to “help” you….
I was lucky to give birth at night so that I had time to rest before the visitors started flooding in. A friend delivered in the late afternoon, and the visitors were in her room before she returned from delivering.
All things considered, it is a rude shock to discover that babies don’t instantly feed absolutely “correctly” and the maternal instinct (if present after the ordeal – sets in later for some) doesn’t extend to knowledge about breastfeeding.
Here are some things you can do to make life easier for yourself and the newborn. Please note that these are based on personal experience and yours may vary:
- Kick everyone who doesn’t belong in the feeding plan out of the room. This is one lucky time in your life when no one will think you are anti-social for doing that. It could even extend to the husband if he is the type to hover over your shoulder anxiously. The only two people required are you and the baby – everyone else can go.
- Ensure that the room is warm enough for you and the baby or keep a blanket handy. The one on your bed will do fine.
- Strip from the waist up. I can’t stress this enough. Its “logical” that nothing except the breast needs bared, but my experience was that I didn’t need the fidgeting and fumbling with clothes in addition to the fidgeting and fumbling with baby that was inevitable.
- Take a moment to calm down. There is no wrong way to do this at this stage as long as milk enters mouth. Blessedly, the newborn doesn’t depend much on milk at this stage as it has glucose and fat reserves that get him well through the first day. Also blessedly, you will likely have a few drops of colostrum that can be expressed from your breast, so its not like you’ll be managing a fire hose. You can get those few drops into baby anyhow. So chill and enjoy!
- Calm baby, change diapers, etc. Get a warm, dry cuddly baby ready for a meal. Most people recommend that you strip the baby to diaper as well to ensure he stays awake. Others would recommend swaddling since that takes care of unpredictable limbs that could challenge your unproven “fielding” skills. My experience was that the baby was wide awake with no intentions of sleep at this feed. However, skin to skin feels good for both of you. Still, there is so much going on, and figuring out baby to nipple is going to be a big challenge, so fair enough if you want to take the limbs out of the dexterity equation. Whatever appeals to you.
- Bring baby to breast and get nipple into mouth. Do it however it works as long as baby’s neck is supported and you move entire baby (not just head) to fit mouth to nipple. Worry about posture later. This is about the time when a spare pair of hands would come handy. So if your husband (or boyfriend, friend, sister, relative…. if there is someone you’ve kept in the room to assist you) is the useful type, he could help get the nipple into the baby’s mouth when in range. Believe me, as excessively personal as it sounds, all the other stuff is best done by your hands.
- Baby will open immediately and suckle. That’s one thing that works as advertised. Correct latch and positioning and all is described all over the net, so I don’t repeat it here. Anyway, my experience was that it can’t be learnt from reading. What works is whatever gets milk into mouth, manages safety and doesn’t hurt me. The pillows for the baby to breast campout mission are unnecessary at this stage (for me). There isn’t enough milk for baby to be doing this enough for me to tire of holding this miracle to my breast. More so, it takes a whole load of fidgeting to get to a place where things work, which is impossible to predict and prepare pillows in place for and once you manage it, the last thing you want is to move to adjust pillows and risk having to start over. Don’t even think of pillows until your milk comes in. Something to lean against is plenty.
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t all go how its supposed to. I kept pressing on the nipple and when the milk beaded out, brought baby to it to lick it off. Baby used to latch on briefly. Lather, rinse, repeat. Slowly, you will automatically figure out how you can hold the baby so he stays on longer.
- Remember, you have stripped, so don’t worry about any drips of the sticky stuff. Just wipe off with wet towel when done.
- Express all the colostrum you can into baby’s mouth. For these first few days, the “feeding” of breastfeeding is more active than the “suckling”, since it takes some getting used to for both of you. This means that you are doing it all correctly even if you are expressing every drop the baby gets into his mouth. Eventuall practice and laziness will collaborate to get you there, as your milk increases and you try to get the baby to suckle more effectively, since you can already see that expressing will only go so far.
- Done. Cuddle baby and celebrate these first quiet hours before the poo and pee parade runs you over.