Breastfeeding your Newborn
There are so many questions that pass through a mothers mind when she brings her newborn home from the hospital and begins the journey of breastfeeding. How long should baby be feeding on each side? What should a newborns schedule look like? How often should my infant be eating? How can I tell if the baby is actually getting any food? WHY IS BABY CRYING?!
I’ve now been through breastfeeding 2 newborns. The struggles were very similar from one to the next. The biggest difference was with baby #2was that I knew what to expect. I knew what would one day pass. I knew what was a more serious issue and needed attention. It made my mama anxiety calm and the process much easier.
So in an effort to help any first time mamas through this unique but challenging phase of mamahood, I’ve complied some of what I believe to be my most useful tips for breastfeeding itty bitty babes.
One of the biggest helps has been having a proper breastfeeding station. Read through this post first then follow the link to the post I wrote on how to do this (at the bottom in the resources). It includes this awesome baby tracker!
Infant feeding schedule
How often should an infant be eating? In babies earliest days, they will be eating 10-12 times per day, meaning every 2-2.5 hours. As baby gets older, you will want to really try to set a good feeding schedule, but in those first two weeks, aim to feed on demand.
Feeding on demand means feeding as soon as you see a hunger cue. Hunger cues include rooting (rubbing mouth around your breast or skin), sucking on fists, sticking out tongue.
If newborn is asleep, wake them every two hours to feed. More below on how to actually KEEP them awake for a feeding. I continue to wake baby every 2 hours until I get the ok from our pediatrician to let them sleep until their wake up hungry.
For more details on how to tell is your baby is getting enough milk, see the resource guide below for an entire blog post I wrote on the topic!
The Power of Proper Latch
Latch refers to the way your babies mouth is connecting with your nipple. A common misconception may be that baby needs to simply suck on the nipple, almost like you would suck on a straw. However, baby needs to have a much large amount of the nipple are in his or her mouth.
A proper latch includes having a majority of the areola in the baby’s mouth. The best illustration I have found online is from kellymom.com. You can read more about proper latch techniques on their website, which is listed in the resource section of the bottom of this post.
One of the 5 things you should do in the first 24 hours of your babies life to promote breastfeeding success is to speak with a lactation consultant. They are usually on staff during the day at all hospitals. They will be able to walk you through the latching process and help you get a good visual for what babies mouth should look like while feeding and how it should feel.
Having a poor latch can lead to a lot of breastfeeding difficulties, including sore nipples (more on that below).
Nipple pain Relief
With Nora being in the NICU, I got a TON of one on one attention from their specialized lactation consultant. I took full advantage of her being there at every visit and picked her brain on just about everything under the breastfeeding sun.
My biggest concern was blistering, bleeding or sore nipples. She explained to me that those issues stemmed from a poor latch. She must have walked me through the process of properly latching a dozen and a half times while we were there. I felt like a pro by the end of our stay. And you know what…. I STILL got sore nipples.
When I told the nurse of my tenderness she explained that the tissue in the nipple is experiencing something it never has before and it will take some time to adjust to the new job it is doing.
There are many products out there designed to help soothe the pains that come from breastfeeding. Here are a few of my favorites:
Medela Hydrogel Pads
The hospital gave me a folder filled with a ton of breastfeeding information and support material. In there were two of these Hydropad things. I had never heard of them before but it was the first thing the lactation consultant suggested I use. and what a GAME CHANGER they were. I ended up ordering a pack of them from Amazon from my hospital bed.
These pads almost look like the pasties you would wear with a backless top, except they are clean and filled with tons of goodness for your nipples. You peel off the backing and run the gel under water and let it sit for a few minutes before placing it on your nipples. When you go to feed baby, remove and rinse the area with water BEFORE feeding.
I would simply place the plastic backing back on and repeat the water process when I was ready to use them again. One gel pad can be reused for up to 24 hours!
As you can obviously see, there’s a lot to focus on while feeding baby. On top of all of that, you actually have to securely hold the baby.
There are a number of different breastfeeding positions you can use while feeding baby. Your selected position may change over time as baby grows and as you become more acquainted with nursing. Select the position that works best for you and baby.
In my personal experience, I liked using the football hold (middle photo) in the earliest days. I found it very helpful to have the hand closest to baby’s head free in order to maneuver it for the perfect latch.
Once baby and I got a little bit of a better grasp with feeding, I would switch to cradle hole (left photo).
Photo Source: RaisingChildren.net.au
There are a ton of great products to help with this task of positioning baby to feed.
There’s a few reasons I like this support pillow so much better. First of all, the snap around my back made it so much easier to move around. I could snap on the pillow THEN bend down and pick up baby, walk to my chair, sit down and Bam!… I’m already ready to go.
With the boppy, I had to sit down with baby, bend down to get the pillow and get myself situated with just one hand because the other was occupied holding baby. It was a very ungraceful process.
I also love how much larger and firm the pillow surface is for baby. The roundness of the boppy just doesn’t provide as great of support.
I also loved the little pocket on the front of the My Breast Friend. I always kept a burp cloth stashed in there for easy access.
It’s a strange topic to write about, but it was a big deal. I hate to admit it, but I was completely clueless that baby gas was such a common issue for newborns!
There are so many causes of baby gas. Baby can swallow air while crying, something in the mothers diet can cause gas, even certain breastfeeding positions can cause baby to bloat.
New mom’ need to be prepared to recognize it and fight it.
If you have just finished feeding baby and they become fussy within the following hour, chances are, they have gas.
Babies will also pull their legs upward when facing gas pains.
I have an entire blog post dedicated to fighting baby gas. You can read it here!
Baby gas usually resolves itself around 3-5 months. In the mean time, ensure you are always burping your baby after feeding to minimize air getting into the intestine.
If you have serious concerns about it, talk to your babies doctor.
Keeping Baby Awake during Feedings
One of the biggest struggles I faced with Nora was keeping her awake while nursing. While the view of her snuggled up close and fast asleep was cute as could be, I knew it meant that she was not getting a full feeding and would need to eat again in just half an hour or so.
Every baby is different and may or may not react to a stimulus to keep them awake. Here are a few of my favorite go-to methods that have worked well:
- Undressing baby
- Playing with baby’s hands and feet
- Using a baby wipe to gently wipe his or her head or tummy
- Blowing on baby’s hair
- Moving baby away from the breast for a few minutes to position where they are not so snug. (I would place my legs together and lay Nora on my thighs for just a minute or two. The change in comfort would usually stir her back awake)
Make a commitment and get support
I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have helped me through my breastfeeding journey. From my mom to lactation consultants, my husband, other mom bloggers… there is such an amazing amount of support out there for new mamas. Reach out when help is needed or when you just need to talk through your frustrations.
Happy nursing, mama!