As you are preparing for the birth of your new baby, you are no doubt feeling excited and maybe even slightly anxious. New roles and maybe even a complete lifestyle change lie ahead and this is a big moment in your life.
Anticipating the needs of another human being, completely dependent on you for everything is no little task.
The first few days after a baby is born are often the most confusing for most new mums.
Successfully breastfeeding your baby may be an important concern for you and, although a perfectly natural act, most women today experience a challenge at some stage or another. Being prepared for these challenges and realising that they are just that will reduce the stress you are feeling and help you to have solutions ready.
Here is a useful checklist of what to expect in the early days after your baby is born.
Early days breastfeeding checklist
Once your baby is born, try to breastfeed as soon as you can after delivery, ideally in the labour ward. You and your baby (and your partner) will be in a euphoric state. Partly due to the new baby nestled in your arms and partly to the actions of the hormones that help you deal with the stress and pain of childbirth.
This is an excellent time to experience that first beautiful feed. It will also help with the delivery of the placenta, as your uterus will contract as you feed. This contraction helps to push the placenta out (which is known as the third stage of labour). It will also help in the production of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production.
At this stage your baby will receive the all-important colostrum, which is a thick, creamy substance that is very high in antibodies, carbohydrates and proteins. Even if you only feed your baby colostrum, you are giving him or her the blessing of a power pack, designed to perfectly nourish and protect your baby from infection.
Let your baby suckle as much as he or she wants to in these early hours and ensure you ask someone to check you are using the correct feeding positions (baby held close to you and attached to the nipple by taking a large area of the areola behind the nipple into its mouth as well as the nipple).
Sore and painful nipples are usually the result of incorrect technique and with some help; even a cracked nipple can soon recover with a change of position or technique.
As you feed you may feel a little tingle in your breast. Some women find this a little painful at times. It is the “let down” a sign that the breast milk is flowing and it is usually only momentary. Some mothers also experience abdominal pain at this time. This is the uterus contracting and an important part of the healing process; preventing excessive bleeding and assisting the stomach muscles to return to their pre pregnancy state.
The milk usually “comes in” around day 3 or 4 and this can be an emotional time. It is also the time of the “3rd day blues.” You may find your breasts feeling very full and possibly lumpy and uncomfortable. Wear a good nursing bra with pads and if you feel engorged, have a warm shower, place a cold fresh cabbage leaf over your breasts and generally look after your emotional needs a little over these days. You need to rest and take care of yourself without feeling guilty.
The breast milk will appear to be thinner and less creamy and your baby may take a day or two to cope with the faster flow of milk. If your baby seems unsettled, try to wind him or her a little between sides and change feeding position a little so that your baby has to suck “uphill” and this will help slow down the flow.
If your milk doesn’t come in on or around day three or four don’t worry. It is controlled by hormones and the change varies between each mother. Remember your baby is receiving colostrum and receiving all the nutrients he needs. Your milk will “come in” whether you feed your baby or not.
Babies lose approximately 10 per cent of their birth weight in the week after birth, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Try not to supplementary feed unless absolutely necessary. Your baby needs to learn to suckle on your breasts.
It will all come together in time
If you are struggling with feeding or finding things a little overwhelming, talk to a Breastfeeding Counsellor and accept all the help that is offered by family and friends during these early days. Remember, it can take up to 6 weeks before you feel everything is coming together. Try to relax and enjoy this time with your new baby.
This article was written by Carol Groves: Carol trained and worked as a nurse and midwife in Australia and overseas, many years ago before having children. Later she trained and worked as a breastfeeding counsellor with Nursing Mothers (now Breastfeeding Australia). Today she is preparing to be a Doula (Childbirth and Peri natal Support Person) and Mother’s Helper.
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