Forget about your images of postpartum hospital bliss. You won’t unpack that beautiful bathrobe. You won’t put on makeup for your first family photos. You won’t brush your hair. And that blue and white hospital gown, oh why bother changing? You are wiped out.
But here’s one thing you will be focused on — feeding your baby. If you plan on breastfeeding, it’s important to get things off to an early start. Right from the beginning, immediately after birth, a baby can learn how to latch on to breastfeed, and this is crucial for developing your milk supply. For those early days of feedings, your body will produce colostrum, a nutrient and antibody rich milk that is thick and slightly colored. A few days later, breast milk that is thinner, and more white, “will come in.”
So what can you do to get things going? Here are some tips:
1. Feed the baby within the first hour after birth. Research has shown that newborns will actually seek out their mother’s breast, immediately after birth. It’s called the breast crawl. With skin to skin contact, a baby will actually squirm its way up the mother’s stomach to find her nipple. Watch this pretty cool video.
2. Tell the doctors and nurses that you want to breastfeed. Write it into your birth plan. Put a note on the baby’s bassinet saying, “My mom is breastfeeding me. Please don’t give me a bottle of formula. And if I’m hungry, wake her up.”
3. Keep your baby in your room. It might be tempting to send her to the nursery so you can recover. But if she’s with you, you’ll be able to pick her up and start feeding as soon as she shows any signs of hunger: making noises, moving her mouth, whimpering and of course, full on crying. If she’s down the hall in the nursery, you’ll be dependent on a nurse coming to find you.
4. Feed your baby on demand. That means as soon as she shows any sign of hunger. Typically, you don’t want to go more than two or three hours without a feeding, so wake the baby if she’s still sleeping. And you count the hours based on when the last feeding started, not when it ended.
5. Ask to see a lactation consultant and go to a breastfeeding class. In other words, get some guidance as soon as possible. You will want to learn how to make sure the baby is latching on properly, as well as different positions for nursing. There’s the cradle hold, the cross cradle, the football hold and the side-lying hold. If you have twins, you’ll need some extra guidance.
Finally, if things get off to a rocky start… maybe the baby or you have health issues to manage… maybe you have to use a bottle of formula… maybe the baby won’t latch on… don’t despair. Talk to a lactation consultant who can help you get things on track.
And of course, once you’re home you can put on that beautiful nursing gown and bathrobe. And yes, wash your hair.