Breastfeeding success depends on several stages:
Stage 1: Baby’s Debut and Hospital Stay
Stage 2: Building milk supply until 3 weeks: Boot camp
Stage 3: Maintaining milk supply until 6 months
This post tackles the first point: Baby’s debut and hospital stay.This stage is essential to get the right latch and initiate breastfeeding. To succeed, there are 2 steps to take.
Step 1: Put your baby on the breast as soon as possible.
This differs in each birth experience. As soon as possible might mean seconds for one woman or hours for another. What matters is, bring the baby and put him on your chest as soon as physically possible.
In an ideal situation you would ask the staff to bring you your baby as soon as he/she is born. The staff should pat-dry your baby and then immediately put your baby on your body with a hat and socks and gloves on, and cover both of you up with a blanket. Your baby should be allowed to stay on your body until your baby breastfeeds the first time on his/her own. In the meantime they can observe the baby, take the apgar score, and do any necessary procedures while the baby is on you. Weighing the baby and showering the baby can wait for 2 hours, till after the success of the first feeding.
You might be wondering how your baby will learn to breastfeed on his/her own? Your baby should naturally smell the breast and see the aerola and slowly start to look for the breast and latch without any intervention.
The baby may even crawl a bit towards the breast if put on your abdomen. This is referred to as the “baby crawl”. See for yourself in the below video.
This whole process is called skin-to-skin contact (SSC) and is now recommended by most health agencies around the world such as WHO and it is supposed to be standard routine procedure in baby friendly hospitals.
Even if you choose not to breast feed at all, or if either of you have a medical condition that prevents successful breastfeeding, continue to do skin to skin for at least 1 hour post birth as it has many benefits for the baby irrelevant of breastfeeding. You can also ask your partner to do skin to skin with your baby if you cannot.
Read: Can we do skin to skin in Lebanon?
What if you couldn’t do skin to skin within the first hour?
Even with 0 skin to skin you can still continue to successfully breastfeed, just like I, and thousands of women were still able to do so. Just do skin to skin as soon as it is permissible and breastfeed as soon as you can.
The benefits of skin to skin contact remain very strong, will still have the same benefits and will improve milk supply even if your baby does not initiate his first feeding successfully.
After the initial skin to skin many babies will latch naturally. Many will not. The latch can be tricky sometimes, however it should not be a problem if the baby did not receive a bottle or pacifier which will help avoid any nipple confusion. It is very important that you get it right for a breezy breastfeeding journey.
Check out the guidelines for correct latching. Hopefully there is a lactation consultant or nurse to help you get off to the right start.
Step 2: After the initial latch, breastfeed on demand.
Feed your baby when you feel he/she is hungry. As moms don’t like to hear this. On demand should mean every 1.5/2 hours sometimes less. Yes, less. And yes, it’s normal.
It will help if you do rooming in (keeping your baby with you all the time) with your baby instead of sending the baby to the nursery. Rooming in allows you to read your baby’s cues and breastfeed at the earliest signs, improving chances of breastfeeding success. I know, you’re tired and you’re sleepy and you want to rest, but don’t think that sending the baby to the nursery will get you more sleep. Research has shown that mommies who send their babies to the nursery do NOT sleep better.
I would personally really encourage you to room in especially if you’ve had a difficult birth because it will help you come to terms with your delivery and improve bonding with your baby.
Starting the day of birth, your body will secrete colostrum , it is a thick sticky fluid that will provide the complete nutrition for your baby for the next few days. You will produce it in tiny amounts between 2-10 ml ( or equivalent 1.5-2 tsp). Do NOT be alarmed. Your baby’s stomach is the size of a chickpea and does not fit more than this tiny amount per feeding.
Colostrum is more than enough for your baby. Not only is it enough, but it is literally magic food. According to Colostrum and it’s benefits: A review “[c]olostrum is the most potent natural immune booster known to science.” It is rich with antibodies and immune factors that provide unequivocal immunity protection for your baby. It is rich with polyamines which protect the lining of the stomach from any proteins that may cause infections or allergies. It will colonize your intestines with positive bacteria and provides your baby with protection against jaundice. It will also act like a laxative to propel baby poop out of your baby’s body.
Your baby will never have the chance to receive this large amount of pure nutrition magic potion again. Colostrum rocks, period. Do not doubt it for a second. If your baby passes dark brown sticky stools, it is a healthy indicator that colostrum is doing its magic.
WHAT IF THE BABY DOES NOT LATCH DURING THE FIRST DAY?
Continue to do skin to skin and encourage your baby to breastfeed. If however this does not work, pump or preferably hand express every 2-3 hours the small colostrum droplets and feed them to your baby by dropper or cup. It is very important not to feed your baby through a bottle or give the baby any artificial nipples such as a pacifier as it will cause nipple confusion. Sucking on the breast and sucking on a bottle are completely different. Once the baby has sucked on a bottle or pacifier, latching on the mother’s nipple will become an even harder process (AAP recommends that you put off artificial nipples until the baby is at least 3 weeks old and breast feeding has been well established).
Note: If your baby does not latch on the second day as well, continue to pump and give your baby the colostrum in a syringe, spoon, or cup. According to ABM (academy of breast feeding medicine) “the majority of breastfed infants do not require supplementation.”
Keep doing those tiny feedings while you are at the hospital. In regards to other matters, I hope you have a wonderful recovery at the hospital. My piece of advice, limit visitors, ask hubby to do so ;), it will give you time to unwind and recover and bond with your baby. Take advantage of all the help you can get, and please allow family or staff to help you change your baby’s diapers and clothes (especially if you had a C-section and your movement is limited).
I will repeat it again, even if your baby is barely feeding from you, as long as you are feeding on demand, colostrum is more than enough.
You might also find helpful: How to have the perfect breastfeeding experience in Lebanon?
For any questions about breastfeeding, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book an appointment in Lebanon or Dubai.