Breastfeeding after Birth - Tips for a Smooth Start
Updated: Jun 14, 2022
If you have a baby on the way and are planning to breastfeed, it’s important to start strong to ensure long-term success. Donna Sinnott, IBCLC (affectionately known as “Boob Donna”), knows the stumbling blocks that breastfeeding moms often face out of the gate and understands intimately how to overcome them. Read on for some of Donna’s catchy, resourceful tips to make breastfeeding a positive experience for both you and your baby, starting from birth.
Instead of focusing on a far-off target like six months or a full year, set your sights on getting to the two-week mark after your baby’s delivery. By setting manageable, bite-sized goals, it’ll be easier to handle the transition to breastfeeding and new motherhood. Once you’ve overcome any feeding challenges and you’ve made it to two weeks, you can expand your goal to two months. Beyond that, you should feel proud of your accomplishment and capable of continuing your breastfeeding bond as long as you’d like.
“Any breastmilk for any period of time in the first 365 days is fabulous.”
The Magic Hour
Out of over 5,000 mammal species, the human baby is the most immature at birth and the least neurologically and physically developed. This is why immediately after childbirth, a newborn is placed on the mother’s chest above her heart, where the food and love is. The first hour after birth is referred to as the “magic hour”. As long as you are both medically stable, you should aim for immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Keeping your baby on your chest for this quiet “magic hour” stabilizes your baby’s breathing, temperature, and blood sugars and triggers in-born feeding reflexes.
Growing the Tiny Tank
Because a newborn’s stomach is so tiny (5-7ml at birth) and human milk is low in fat and protein compared to other mammals, frequent feedings are going to be necessary. In the first few days, try to breastfeed your baby for roughly 10-30 minutes on each side for practice, though at this point your baby won’t need much. In the first week, your goal should be to breastfeed at least eight times (every 2-3 hours) in a 24-hour period. As you fill up your baby’s tiny tank, it gradually grows and will be able to go for longer stretches between feedings.
Managing Supply and Demand
The first milk you produce, called colostrum, is a thick, yellow syrup that smells and tastes like your own amniotic fluid. Colostrum changes from teaspoons to ounces of mature milk around 72-96 hours postpartum. A drained breast produces more milk, whereas a full breast slows down production. Breastfeeding involves a natural balance of supply and demand dictated by your baby. If you have enough milk demand today, you’ll have enough supply for tomorrow.
Dinner Required, Dessert Optional
For each feeding, think of one breast as dinner and the other breast as an optional dessert. Some babies might breastfeed for 10-15 min, release one side, and want dessert from the other side, whereas other babies will be satisfied drinking from one side and saving the other for the next feeding. Either way, by the end of a 24-hour period, your baby will be getting a full day’s meal.
The Tip of the Nip on the Top of the Lip
Infants have an inborn trio of feeding reflexes. When they’re hungry and touch something resembling a food source, they will open their mouth wide, stick out their tongue over the gum line, and suck in, maintaining a latch. To achieve an effective latch, line up your baby’s nose with your nipple, tickle your baby’s lip with your nipple, and then wait for your baby’s wide mouth to latch (onto the nipple and areola). Donna helps new moms remember this with the mantra: “Put the tip of the nip on the top of the lip”.
See It - Hear It - Feel It
If your baby has successfully latched, you should be able to see it, hear it, and feel it. Make sure your baby’s bottom lip is "juicy" and you can feel the suction. Especially in the first few days of breastfeeding, it might be helpful to have another person (e.g. dad, grandmother, or staff nurse) check on your baby’s position. By the fourth or fifth day postpartum, you should hear loud swallows as your baby gulps down ounces of milk. If instead you hear smacking or clicking noises, this means that your baby’s mouth isn’t open wide enough for a consistent latch. If you don’t see/hear/feel a good latch or you experience discomfort lasting beyond a minute or two, try pressing on your baby’s chin. This triggers a reflex in babies to unlock their jaw and pop their tongue out. You can then adjust and re-latch, or as Donna calls it, do a "Peek and Tweak".
Tracking Pees and Poops
Keeping track of your baby’s diapers can help ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrition. In the first 24 hours, your baby should produce at least one pee and one poop. By day two, your baby’s output should increase to two pees and two poops...and so on until day five, by which point you should be seeing at least five wet and five soiled diapers. Most babies lose up to 10% of their body weight because they poop out more than their tiny bellies can hold, but they should be back to their birth weight by day 14.
One of the most common reasons for moms to give up on breastfeeding is that they’re not making enough milk, or they have the perception that they’re not making enough. If you’re feeling unsure of your milk production, one solution is to keep track of what’s coming out of your baby in the first week. As poop leaves your baby’s body, it should change colors over the course of the first week - from sticky black tar, to shades of brown, to shades of green, to shades of yellow. In addition to monitoring your baby’s diapers and weight gain, work on building up a steady supply of milk by feeding your baby regularly.
To review, remember these tips to set you and your baby up for breastfeeding success:
Set short-term goals.
Feed early and often starting with the "magic hour".
The first breast is dinner; the second side is dessert (optional).
Put the tip of the nip on the top of the lip.
Aim for 10-30 min per side the first few days.
Feed at least 8 times every 24 hours (every 2-3 hours).
See it. Hear it. Feel it.
Keep track of diaper output.
With Warmth and Wellness,
Your EmmaWell Team