Breastfeeding in the early days is such a special and important time for both you and your baby – but it can also be a time of worry. It helps to remember that all babies are programmed to breastfeed and with a little bit of guidance most will comfortably and easily find their way to the breast. Ciara Butler, IBCLC, vice president of the Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland, gives some expert advice for newborn breastfeeding during the first few days.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed your baby – it’s convenient, free, and creates a strong bond between you and your new baby.
Advice on Newborn Breastfeeding
Skin-to-Skin Contact is Important
When your baby is born, try to avoid separation where possible – sometimes in a hospital setting this is difficult, but you can ask your midwife to put your baby skin-to-skin after s/he is born. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least 1 hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin immediately after birth.
Skin-to-skin has multiple benefits for you and your baby:
- It calms and relaxes both you and your baby
- It regulates your baby’s heart rate, temperature and breathing
- It stimulates your baby’s digestion and feeding behaviour
- And protects your baby from infection by allowing friendly bacteria from your skin to colonise his/hers.
Skin-to-skin goes way beyond the delivery room. It is something that can be used throughout your breastfeeding experience, and is especially helpful in the early days to stimulate a sleepy baby to feed.
How Often Should I Feed My Baby?
Newborn babies need very frequent feedings. There are a few reasons for this – the first of which is that they have very small tummies.
- Day 1: Your baby’s tummy is the size of a small marble and can hold approx 5-7ml per feed.
- Day 3: Your baby’s tummy is the size of a walnut and can hold approx 20-25ml per feed.
- Day 7: Your baby’s tummy is the size of an egg and can hold 30-60ml per feed.
The other important reason for frequent feeds is that the more your baby feeds, the more milk you will produce. It is important your baby has at least 8-10 feeds in a 24-hour period to allow for adequate growth and milk production; some babies will feed even more frequently than this and anything from every 1-3 hours is normal.
How Will I Know My Newborn is Hungry?
Recognising your baby’s feeding cues is very helpful for your newborn breastfeeding experience, and crying is a late feeding cue. Trying to latch a crying baby can be difficult and stressful; try to offer the breast when your baby is calm.
Early feeding cues for newborns include:
1. Hand to mouth
2. Lip smacking
4. Arm and leg cycling
Any Tips for Latching My Baby?
Trying to get to grips with latching your baby correctly onto to the breast can sometimes be a challenge for new mums.
- Getting into a comfortable, supported position is always a good place to start. Laid-back positions are very beneficial and stimulate all of your baby’s feeding reflexes (biological nurturing).
- When latching your baby to the breast try and ensure a deep latch. This will prevent sore nipples and help your baby to transfer milk effectively.
- Breastfeeding should not be painful. Some mothers will feel some discomfort when their baby latches initially, but if this pain continues for 30 seconds or more you should take your baby off and re-latch.
How Long Should My Baby Feed For?
There is no time limit on each feed. Let your baby decide how long s/he wants to feed on each breast. Every baby is different – some will always feed from both breasts and others will feed from one at each feed.
You will soon get to know your own baby’s needs. It is normal for newborns to cluster feed in the evening, anytime from 6 or 7pm. If you are prepared for this, it can make things easier.
Night feeds are always a challenge, but are very important for your baby’s growing needs and your milk supply. Night feeding is very normal newborn behaviour, so keeping your baby close to your bed can make it easier.
Is My Baby Getting Enough Milk?
Most new mums are concerned if their baby is getting enough milk. Usually what goes in must come out!
Therefore your baby’s wet and dirty nappies are a good indicator of milk transfer. By about day 5-6, you should expect 3-4 yellow seedy poos and 6 wet nappies.
If you are concerned about your baby’s needs, ask for help. You can contact your public health nurse, La Leche League, Cuidiu or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
Websites for Breastfeeding Help
ALC Ireland www.alcireland.ie
La Leche League Ireland www.lalecheleagueireland.com
Friends of Breastfeeding www.friendsofbreastfeeding.ie
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What was your experience of newborn breastfeeding? Leave your comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!